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The telephone came about as scientists tried to squeeze more out of the telegraph; understanding how to influence sound and send it over greater distances to more and more people.

Although it hasn't really changed much in the last hundred years much adaption was needed to accomodate new devices like fax machines and modems.

How the telephone works
The telephone combined the knowledge of how sound works together with a variable electric signal that could be sent over great distances....
Copper cables
Cables and wires are the unsung heroes or 'facilitators' of the age of telecommunication. In the space of twenty years, cables changed from two mile long wooden troughs containing copper wire in grooves to cables that could be laid underwater across the Atlantic....
Fibre-optic cables
Fibre optic cables are very different from copper ones. They carry light, not electricity, and have no need for a second cable for a 'return path'....
The complexity of a network - telephone or computer - rises dramatically with the number of people connected to it. This was not something that had bothered people until the telephone became widespread, when it suddenly became really important....
Modems and Faxes
One thing that has extended the use of the telephone system is the way that new machines, like computers and faxes, have been connected to the existing network - the cables and exchanges that form the telephone infrastructure....
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...