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Mouthpiece of a wall telephone, Johnson's transmitter (Sheffield) Tasker, John

John Tasker was responsible for opening the first telephone exchange in Sheffield.

Tasker's main business was actually boot and shoe making, which involved him with the rubber and leather industry. He later added an engineering department, which patented an armour plate grinding machine that at one point was responsible for making all the armour plating on the navy's ships.

'Adaptability' was his motto, and he turned his hand to almost anything from the invention of a bouncy ball to a way of mending galoshes using India rubber. His involvement with rubber opened his eyes to electricity via wire insulation, and he was particularly intrigued by the phone, once Graham Bell's invention arrived in England. This prompted him to open Sheffield's first telephone exchange with just 12 subscribers, using the Williams sliding spring-peg switchboard.

The telephone was just one element in Tasker's appetite for all things electric. He also helped build Sheffield's first power station and electricity supply network.

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...