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Old 24th Aug 2020, 10:49 pm   #1
Hermitcrab
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Default International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

The facility to dial numbers in other countries from the UK was known as ISD (International Subscriber Dialling) at first, then changed to IDD (International Direct Dialling) later on. It was introduced in 1963 from London to Paris, and extended to the rest of France later.

Progress in extending IDD throughout the UK was quite slow. Until 1972 it was only available in the 6 cities with all figure numbers: London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester. In 1972 Leeds and Cardiff got IDD, although as I lived in Leeds at the time I know that many people didn't know that, and many calls must have been made through the international operator which could actually have been dialled direct.

By 1982 everybody in the UK could now dial their own international calls to most countries, and that's something we take for granted these days.

Have you any memories of making international calls before the provision of IDD? And the sudden simplicity of making calls after IDD was introduced from your exchange?
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Old 24th Aug 2020, 11:19 pm   #2
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Default Re: International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

Not personally (we didn't have a phone then, or any overseas relatives), but in the mid -1950's when we were staying at an uncle's for Christmas, he had booked a call to his sister in New York State, and he and my aunt had had to leave the dinner table to go to the phone in the hall when the operator rang to put the call through. I remember them saying that the 3 minute call had cost 4, and had had to be booked well in advance, especially as it was for Christmas day. I think a working man's basic wage was around 10/week in the London area at the time, if he was lucky.

Last edited by emeritus; 24th Aug 2020 at 11:29 pm. Reason: Typos
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Old 25th Aug 2020, 8:43 am   #3
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Default Re: International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

International calls were certainly very expensive and were not generally used for social purposes. Australia was particularly expensive, a place where lots of Brits had relatives, and it was common to send voice messages on 3" reels of tape by air mail. This continued into the cassette era, though by then IDD had arrived and costs had come down somewhat (though calls were still very expensive by today's standards).
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Old 25th Aug 2020, 12:48 pm   #4
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Default Re: International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

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Originally Posted by Hermitcrab View Post
The facility to dial numbers in other countries from the UK was known as ISD (International Subscriber Dialling) at first, then changed to IDD (International Direct Dialling) later on. It was introduced in 1963 from London to Paris, and extended to the rest of France later.

Progress in extending IDD throughout the UK was quite slow. Until 1972 it was only available in the 6 cities with all figure numbers: London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester. In 1972 Leeds and Cardiff got IDD, although as I lived in Leeds at the time I know that many people didn't know that, and many calls must have been made through the international operator which could actually have been dialled direct.

By 1982 everybody in the UK could now dial their own international calls to most countries, and that's something we take for granted these days.
Even by the mid 1970's it wasn't available on all exchanges in the 'Director' areas listed above. Morningside (031 447) & Loanhead (031-440) in the Edinburgh Director Area plus Hightown (051-929) and Kirkby (051-547) in the Liverpool Director Area didn't get IDD until the mid1970's.

The introduction of IDD also presented a problem as in 1963, Paris was still using letters as part of their dialling code in the way that we did in 'Director' areas in the UK. One of their exchanges went by the name of ROQuette which ended up with the addition of the letter 'Q' adjacent to the letter 'O' /zero on UK dials. See picture of an early Tele 706 without the 'Q' .The 1963 London code book tells you to dial '010 33 1 the 'ROO' if your dial hasn't got a 'Q' (see bottom of 'blue page attached)

Here in the North West we also had from the early days of IDD, codes starting with '00' to reach exchanges in the 'Republic of Ireland' but these were later replaced with 010 and the country code for the 'Republic of Ireland' 353 and the Irish area codes in the mid-1980's. For instance Limerick numbers were reached by dialling 0006 followed by the Limerick number but then it changed to 010 353 61. However on CNet, we still dial these old codes for instance 0006 66 reaches 'Craggy Island' well known from Father Ted who can be reached by dialling Craggy Island 32 or Father Jack on 26
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Old 25th Aug 2020, 12:51 pm   #5
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Default Re: International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

In the late 1980's an Australian colleague working in the UK mentioned that he made his calls back home via a cable circuit rather than by satellite to avoid satellite's annoying delay. I don't recall if this involved going via the operator or whether there was a special dialling code. I think the business calls to the US that I dialled myself in the early 1990's must have gone via satellite, as the delay sometimes made conversation awkward when both parties started speaking at the same time after having had to allow time in case the other hadn't finished speaking. By 2000 this problem had gone away, no doubt due to the use of fibre for transatlantic calls.
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Old 25th Aug 2020, 1:19 pm   #6
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Default Re: International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

The instructions were to dial 100 and ask the operator for the international operator. You'd then be connected to the international exchange in London and sometimes wait literally hours for the international operator to answer.

Years later I learned that the international operators were in the habit of sleeping on the night shift or playing cards.
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Old 25th Aug 2020, 2:34 pm   #7
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Default Re: International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

In the 70's I worked for Plessey. Must have been 1972 that I was installing Portman Road in Ipswich, and that exchange had a chart recorder registering circuit occupancy on the international lines to Europe. There were only about six, so the chart paper was narrow, I remember it because it was supplied in perforated sheets, each being printed Izal!

At that time Plessey were installing the international exchanges at Stag Lane and Collindale in London. These were Crossbar, and the Attleborough exchange in Norfolk was used as a test bed to check the various bits of exchange. In so doing it became the first none important exchange in the UK to have international dialling. It was always said this was because Lotus were there, no idea if true. I didn't work on that, being at Wymundham up the road, but I did get the final acceptance on Attleborough, must have been 1975.
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Old 25th Aug 2020, 7:58 pm   #8
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Default Re: International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

The rolls of paper I have from the 1970's have "P.O.Property" stamped on every sheet. Great tracing paper or even sandpaper. I've also got a box of earlier rolls marked "G.P.O. Property" together with the holder with a 'GvR' crest which held it on the wall!

Re Attleborough, it was listed as being a UAX14 (with no 999 service or access to the Speaking Clock !) until end of March 1975 when it is listed as being a K1 crossbar with both those facilities but not shown as having International access until between the end of March 1977 and the end of March 1978.

There were a number of small UAXs listed in South Wales as having IDD by the end of March 1973 and by end of March 1977 there were many UAXs with IDD, some with less than 100 lines such as the UAX13 at Capel Curig near the foot of Snowdon with only 82 lines and the pre-2000 type UAX12 at Luss in the Highlands of Scotland half way up Loch Lomond with 84 lines at a time Attleborough wasn't listed as having IDD. All info from Post Office documents which listed facilities each exchange had at the end of March each year.
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Old 25th Aug 2020, 8:34 pm   #9
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Default Re: International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

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The introduction of IDD also presented a problem as in 1963, Paris was still using letters as part of their dialling code in the way that we did in 'Director' areas in the UK. One of their exchanges went by the name of ROQuette which ended up with the addition of the letter 'Q' adjacent to the letter 'O' /zero on UK dials. See picture of an early Tele 706 without the 'Q' .The 1963 London code book tells you to dial '010 33 1 the 'ROO' if your dial hasn't got a 'Q' (see bottom of 'blue page attached)
I like those footnotes on the page of the code book - for a demonstration of Paris tones dial MINcing Lane 8711. The French ringing tone is quite different from the UK double ring, but I can understand it without needing to listen to a recording first! Then there's the "Continental Directory Enquiry" number of 195 - which is now the number for the Blind and Disabled Directory Enquiries service.
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Old 25th Aug 2020, 8:37 pm   #10
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Default Re: International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

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Here in the North West we also had from the early days of IDD, codes starting with '00' to reach exchanges in the 'Republic of Ireland' but these were later replaced with 010 and the country code for the 'Republic of Ireland' 353 and the Irish area codes in the mid-1980's. For instance Limerick numbers were reached by dialling 0006 followed by the Limerick number but then it changed to 010 353 61.
From what I remember some telephone areas had all the 000x codes for Irish Republic available, and some only had the Dublin code 0001 available
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Old 25th Aug 2020, 8:46 pm   #11
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Default Re: International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

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The instructions were to dial 100 and ask the operator for the international operator. You'd then be connected to the international exchange in London and sometimes wait literally hours for the international operator to answer.

Years later I learned that the international operators were in the habit of sleeping on the night shift or playing cards.
In some telephone areas you used different numbers to directly access the International Operator for different countries, e.g. 107 for North America. You might still have to wait ages for an answer or you sometimes were answered straight away. Later the International Operator code became 155 as it is now, and a second (now discontinued) code of 158 was used in the 1980's for the more obscure destinations.
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Old 25th Aug 2020, 8:50 pm   #12
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Default Re: International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

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From what I remember some telephone areas had all the 000x codes for Irish Republic available, and some only had the Dublin code 0001 available
000X codes were from memory manly from the North West of England (although they were all listed in London's 1980 codebook) as apparently the route was via Chester Trunk exchange which had a link to Dublin Trunk. I'm trying to find a Trunking diagram I've got showing the various routes in the Chester area including the direct trunk connections.
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Old 25th Aug 2020, 9:25 pm   #13
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Default Re: International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

I heard sometimes even when you got through to an international operator, you could be told to try later as all the lines were in use.

In the Second World War lines were only available to certain countries, and you had to have a very good reason to use them!
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Old 25th Aug 2020, 10:29 pm   #14
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Default Re: International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

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I heard sometimes even when you got through to an international operator, you could be told to try later as all the lines were in use.
I think it was usual to book your call in advance, and the operator would call you back later.
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Old 26th Aug 2020, 8:46 am   #15
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Default Re: International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

Is this thread about overseas calls via Rugby or the Dorchester Beam Station / Somerton on HF or about direct connection via undersea cable, or both? Just curious to know if the International Operator put you through to the radio stations directly.

I used to call home (UK) from Masirah island in Oman once a week when I was attached there in 1989, and the delay was horrendous! I think a couple of satellite links were involved. I got quite used to pre-empting the delay but it was very disconcerting at first.
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Old 26th Aug 2020, 9:07 am   #16
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Default Re: International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

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I think it was usual to book your call in advance, and the operator would call you back later.
OK I imagine that would have been useful.

At one time it seemed to be more common to send telegrams abroad rather than call directly.
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Old 26th Aug 2020, 9:08 am   #17
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Default Re: International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

Even national phone calls were expensive in the '50's in fact very few people had phones then.

I remember the Dorchester radio station from when we first moved here, quite a wonder to behold.

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Old 28th Aug 2020, 10:10 am   #18
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Default Re: International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

I recall entering the IDD codes into the Magnetic Drums in Glasgow (0141) in the 1970's. We did it on a Sunday to lessen service impact. The Drum had a Numeric Keypad and the trick was to test a working setup on a Friday. Remember Magnetic Drums were wire ended Valve devices so some degree of tinkering had to be done to get a working setup. The Drum had no permanent readout but rather a plug in box with flashing blue neons in groups of 4 was connected and each digit for any code strobe'd the neons digitally. After new codes were entered every code in the Drum was checked and reading the digital outputs became easy, someone else fact checked the readout's from a master code book. We had nine Drums in total and the heat in the bay was tropical to say the least especially in Summer but in these days we got a heat discomfort allowance. Some Sundays went smoothly others didn't. Must be 45 years ago now but just seems like yesterday. Note: A Magnetic Drum took the codes incoming from Director Exchanges and translated them into the necessary routings to further the call through the network. The "Drum" was exactly that a drum like a tape recorder and tape heads read and wrote to this drum spinning around 3000rpm sized about a foot in diameter and a good few inches in depth. Sperry's supplied these and the ran for donkey's years without stopping. For faulting and generally keeping an eye on a Drum a Solatron CD1400 series scope would be connected and calls could be seen progressing, this how Drums were maintained. Drum Courses at Stone were 10 weeks in total. (4+6)
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Old 29th Aug 2020, 6:02 pm   #19
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Default Re: International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

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Drum Courses at Stone were 10 weeks in total. (4+6)
As in Stone, Staffs? As in Yarnfield? If so my brother has been running training courses there in recent years (for all sorts of stuff including BT package installs as well as openreach fibre stuff), and very local to us.
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Old 29th Aug 2020, 10:04 pm   #20
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Default Re: International Direct Dialling (IDD) provision throughout the UK

I recall reading about a public house in Northern Ireland, but very close to the border, that had a phone in the bar connected to a number in the Irish republic.
The saving in call costs was significant if using this phone to call an Irish number.
If calling from Great Britain, a call to the Irish republic was "international" and very expensive, whereas by use of a phone that was already "in" the republic only a local charge was payable.

The increase in trade was said to be substantial. I presume that the pub also had another telephone with a northern Irish number.
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