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Old 26th Aug 2018, 4:48 pm   #1
Scott37
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Default Early automatic exchanges UK

I was referred to this forum by someone on a newsgroup, who spoke highly of the expertise here. I hope this question is not off-topic through being about history rather than about any individual piece of equipment.

I have been reading about Director exchanges. My understanding is that to dial any number in the Director area (eg London, Glasgow) it was necessary to dial all seven 'digits' - three letters and four numbers. I can see why this was necessary as the first three digits of the subscriber number could correspond to the three digits (letters) of another exchange. As I understand it then, it was necessary to dial seven 'digits' to call someone in your own exchange.

However, this got me wondering. When the first London automatic exchange was introduced (Holborn?), did you then dial only four digits - and use the operator for all other London numbers - or seven digits in anticipation of the roll-out of the Director system?
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Old 26th Aug 2018, 9:07 pm   #2
OscarFoxtrot
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Default Re: Early automatic exchanges UK

In summary, and from Wikipedia: Director_telephone_system:

Quote:
The three-letter code eg WIMbledon was written in bold capitals if the caller should dial all seven digits. If written merely in capitals eg REGent it indicated that the desired number was on an exchange which had not yet been converted to automatic working, and that the caller should dial only the initial three code digits, and wait to be connected by an operator.

Later some of the remaining manual exchanges were equipped with Coded-Call Indicators (CCI) which displayed the local digits dialled by the caller to the operator, The number would be listed as for an automatic subscriber with the first three letters in bold, and automatic subscribers would dial all seven digits.

If an exchange was outside the Director linked-number area, the exchange name and number was in small type, e.g. Laindon 2263.
I don't think there were any (public) automatic exchanges in the London Director Area before the Director system - the problem was that such a high proportion of calls would be non-own-exchange there would be little benefit in using an automatic exchange until there was a reasonable prospect of having all of London go automatic.
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Old 27th Aug 2018, 12:52 am   #3
Pellseinydd
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Default Re: Early automatic exchanges UK

The first Director exchange in what became the 'London Director Area' was HOLborn which opened on 12th November 1927 and by the end of March 1928 it had 5491 working lines on it.

Next was BIShopsgate which opened on 3rd of March 1928, SLOane on 28th July 1928, BERmondsey on 1 Sep 1928 and so the rollout of Director started in London.

By the end of 1930 there were thirty automatic Director exchanges in the London Telephone District plus Epsom, the only other auto in the District. However it took until well after WW2 for them all to be converted.

It wasn't until 1951 that exchanges within the Director area could dial to other 'Non-Director' exchanges within the local call area such as Epsom !!

There were still fourteen of what were to become Director automatic exchanges which were still manual in the early 1960's after the start of Subscriber Trunk Dialling !

Ian J

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Old 27th Aug 2018, 2:11 pm   #4
OscarFoxtrot
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Default Re: Early automatic exchanges UK

With careful use of search techniques, perusing Hansard can while away a few happy hours, eg

https://hansard.parliament.uk/common...xchangesLondon

and going back to 1902

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Common...phoneExchanges
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Old 27th Aug 2018, 4:04 pm   #5
Pellseinydd
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Default Re: Early automatic exchanges UK

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott37 View Post
<SNIP>

However, this got me wondering. When the first London automatic exchange was introduced (Holborn?), did you then dial only four digits - and use the operator for all other London numbers - or seven digits in anticipation of the roll-out of the Director system?
To answer your last question - Yes - you had to dial all seven digits - see attached instructions from the March 1928 London Telephone Directory by which time there were three 'Director' exchanges in service.

Ian J
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Old 30th Sep 2018, 7:47 pm   #6
Racal Zonal
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Default Re: Early automatic exchanges UK

Scott

This has nothing to do with your original question but may interest you
from an historical and geographical viewpoint (last paragraph)
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Meeccano Mag. Coatbridge.pdf (982.6 KB, 52 views)
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Old 30th Sep 2018, 8:45 pm   #7
Dave Moll
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Default Re: Early automatic exchanges UK

Do you, by any chance, have the continuation (on page 150)?

Although I am familiar with the work of Mr Strowger, the Kansas undertaker, it would be good to able to read what the article has to say about him.
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Mending is better than Ending (cf Brave New World by Aldous Huxley)
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Old 1st Oct 2018, 2:41 pm   #8
Pellseinydd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Racal Zonal View Post
Scott

This has nothing to do with your original question but may interest you
from an historical and geographical viewpoint (last paragraph)
Doesn't see to mention (unless on later pages) that Daniel Sinclair who was the District Engineer for the National Telephone Company's Glasgow District in the 1880's having been a Telegraph engineer previously with the North British Railway. He then moved to London as Engineer-in Chief in 1892 but when the Nat Tel Co were told in 1902 that they to be nationalised in ten years time he left to become General Manager to British Insulated Helsby Cables at their Helsby Works in Cheshire. It was he that persuaded BIHC (formerly Helsby Cables and originally the Telegraph Manufacturing Company founded in 1997) to acquire the UK and Commonwealth rights to the 'Strowger' automatic telephone system. BIHC were still producing telephones and manual switchboards both at Helsby Works and their factory at Edge Lane in Liverpool. BIHC were dabbling in automatic systems by 1909/10 as in the minute book of the Institution of Post Office Electrical Engineers for that time, there is mention of a talk to their Manchester Branch on 'Automatic Telephony' by W Lawson illustrated by slides and that 'through the kindness of Mr Aitken of the British Insulated Coy, a sample Line Switch and Connector were on view'. Early in 1911, the GPO had approached BIHC to provide automatic exchanges for Epsom and another 'Headquarters' PABX. It was at the BIHC Board meeting in early November 1911 that BIHC decided to form a separate company to 'look after' the automatic side of the telephony products and hence 'The Automatic Telephone Manufacturing Company' came into being on the 1st of January 1912 taking over the running of the Edge Lane Works in Liverpool which became known as 'Strowger Works'. But manual telephone switchboards and telephones continued to be produced at Helsby. Dane Sinclair became a Director of BIHC (later BICC) and eventually Chairman of the Company until his death in 1930. When ATM was formed he was appointed Managing Director of ATM in addition to his job as General Manager of BIHC. I used to look after an ancient PAX at the BIHC Helsby works and an old guy who had worked there since 1919 used to come and chat about its history as he had interviewed in about 1921, people who had worked there since early 1887 and he recorded it all word for word! Great to have spoken to folk who went back to the early days of the telephone.
Incidentally, the was an internal automatic system installed by Andrew Carnigie at his Skibo Castle around 1906 and there were said to be other earlier systems but little has been found out about them
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Old 27th Oct 2018, 8:22 pm   #9
midshires
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Default Re: Early automatic exchanges UK

There were three dial telephone systems in Britain before Skibo Castle. Just visit
http://www.britishtelephones.com/his...0INSTALLATIONS
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