Skip to main content
   
Related articles
The news explosion
For hundreds of years, mail coaches and couriers were the typical means of getting dispatches back to newspapers. But from the late 1850s onwards all that changed.

The electric telegraph brought information transmission time down from weeks or days to hours and minutes. The faster flow of news from around the world created a new market for daily newspapers. Feeding these newspapers with much of their news was a new breed of businesses for the telegraph age - the wire agencies.
Family and personal communications
The early telegraph was only really used for business and official messages. Most ordinary people relied chiefly on posted letters to exchange news and views with their friends and families. But telegrams became the channel of last resort for really important and urgent personal news.

The telephone was also slow to make much impact on social and family life - but when it did, the impact was profound.
Law and order
Faster communications aided the fight against crime, making it increasingly difficult for criminals to disappear or to use distance to evade justice.

At the same time, however, it has also allowed them to plan more carefully and has made new types of crime possible.
Wireless and tv
Wireless and television broadcasting helped to create a sense of a more equal society. They also created a sense of shared experience, uniting whole sections of national populations. The General Strike of 1926 saw newspapers off the streets and wireless the only source of news.

The Second World War was the first global conflict to be broadcast, with populations following the course of the war via their radio sets. Propaganda became a weapon of war, fighting to maintain the morale of one's own population - whilst undermining that of the enemy. Later still, television news created dramatic moments in time that were shared by millions.
Television
From the 1950s onwards, television began to unite global populations. For the first time, there was simultaneous proof of landmark events: wars, crises, assassinations, triumphs and tragedies, with the same images shared around the world.

Television also enabled global participation and celebration in world festivals and sporting events. By the end of the 20th century, we felt as if we really were living in a Global Village.
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.

featured story

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...