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The history of telecommunications is dominated by four different kinds of people who pushed forward technological progress, and changed the shape of the industry.

Some, like Graham Bell, were pure inventors only interested in technology for its own sake. The inventors set new benchmarks for what technology could deliver.

Others were primarily development engineers who took those possibilities and turned them into realities, using sound engineering and development skills. In doing so, they also created potential businesses.

That brought in the entrepreneurs. They weren't that interested in the technology but knew a business opportunity when they saw one.

Finally, there were the politicians, driven by ideology and conviction to bring about changes in the national or public interest.
Private enterprise
The telegraph began as a series of separate and private initiatives. The first lines were owned by railway companies and other organisations that sponsored them and by the inventors who developed them.

When the telephone arrived in the 1870s, it developed initially in the same way - as a purely private enterprise - driven only by the desire to grow and make a profit.
fun and games

Can you beat our games? Explode equipment to see what's inside, hear the changing sounds of telecommunications, see how telecommunications designs have changed over time or send an e-postacard.

what's on

The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

audio history

Take a trip down memory lane with extracts of the interviews which have been recorded as part of the Connected Earth oral history programme.

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100 years of automatic switching!
In 1912 the GPO installed Britain's first automatic telephone exchange in Epsom.

Discover the early days of the telephone...