1969

The General Post Office ceased to be a Government Department on 1 October and was established as a public corporation under the Post Office Act of this year.

The idea of converting the Post Office into a nationalised industry had first been raised as early as 1932 when a publication by Lord Wolmer entitled 'Post Office Reform' made references to the subject. There was at the time widespread criticism of the existing organisation of the Post Office and one proposed improvement was that the Post Office, as a large commercial undertaking, should be run along the lines of a business concern rather than an ordinary government department. A committee under the chairmanship of Lord Bridgeman was set up, also in 1932, to investigate these criticisms.

In the event it was not until 1965, following a Labour victory in the parliamentary election of the previous year, that Postmaster-General Anthony Wedgewood-Benn put into motion the process that finally culminated in the creation of the Post Office as a public corporation. After much study and deliberation the Post Office Act, 1969, was passed and this laid down the structure of the new organisation, the Corporation being split into two divisions - Posts and Telecommunications - which thus became distinct businesses for the first time. Under the Act, the Post Office had the exclusive privilege of running telecommunications systems with limited powers to authorise others to run such systems.

A second aerial at the Post Office Satellite Communications Station, Goonhilly Downs, was completed. The station could now communicate simultaneously with satellites over the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In July, Goonhilly was the European terminal for the television coverage of Man's first steps on the moon at the time of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

The first standard cordless switchboard was opened at Croydon following trials at Thanet (1956), Middlesbrough (1959) and Stafford (1961).

The Financial Times Industrial Ordinary Share Index was introduced on the Telephone Information Service.

INTELSAT communications satellites were launched and stationed over the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The first cable television installation in the UK was introduced, in Washington New Town, Tyne and Wear.

1970

The world's first phone books produced by a fully integrated computer printing process were completed for the Post Office in January.

The International Subscriber Trunk Dialling service was extended to allow London subscribers to dial New York numbers - the world's first major Inter-Continental subscriber dialling service. The cost was 10s per minute.

The 100th electronic telephone exchange (TXE2) was opened at Bawtry near Doncaster, Yorks.

The first TXK1 electromechanical crossbar exchange (Plessey 5005 system) in London was opened at Upminster, Essex on 3 December. This replaced London Telecommunications Region's last manual exchange.

The first modern common control PABX was opened for the National Omnibus Company.

Tape Callmaker, a repertory dialler device, was brought into service.

The first public demonstration of a waveguide digital transmission system was held.

The first of the modern four-wire gateway international exchanges in Britain was opened at Wood Street in London using Plessey 5005 crossbar equipment. The rapid growth in international traffic necessitated other centres being opened, resulting in the opening of Mondial House in London.

Telephone No. 746 was introduced, a modern instrument using coloured plastics together with lightweight components and incorporating a balanced armature receiver.

Business News Summary telephone information service was introduced.

The TAT 5 transatlantic telephone cable was laid between Green Hill, Rhode Island, USA and St. Hilaire-de-Riez, France. It was retired in 1993 after 23 years of service.

1971

Transatlantic dialling was extended. Six British cities (Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester) were able to dial direct to the whole of the mainland of the USA by dialling 0101 followed by the USA area code and local number.

Confravision, the world's first public bothway television system giving conference facilities to groups of people in different cities, was made available by the Post Office at its studios in Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, London and Manchester.

In July the Post Office announced the development of the 1+1 subscribers carrier system by means of which two subscribers could speak simultaneously on one line.

The last Director exchange converted to STD (Ilford Central).

The first TXK2 exchange was opened at Nutfield Ridge, Surrey.

The first TXK3 exchange was opened at North Cheam, Surrey. The first production TXK3 exchange was opened at Liberton, Edinburgh.

The introduction of decimal coinage resulted in a fundamental change in the design of the payphone coinbox mechanism. Built to take up to three different duodecimal coins in the value ratio 1:2:4 it now had to be modified to a 1:2:5 value ratio.

The Viewdata (Prestel) idea was conceived by Sam Fedida at the Post Office Research Laboratories at Dollis Hill, London.

The Dataplex 1 service (FDM) was introduced.

The first direct submarine cable link was laid between the UK and Spain.

Gardening and Bedtime Story Services were introduced as an addition to the range of recorded information services provided by Post Office Telecommunications.

Transit Network opened with the connection of Kingsbridge, Wolverhampton and Worcester.

1972

The world's first phone books produced by a fully integrated computer printing process were completed for the Post Office in January.

The International Subscriber Trunk Dialling service was extended to allow London subscribers to dial New York numbers - the world's first major Inter-Continental subscriber dialling service. The cost was 10s per minute.

The 100th electronic telephone exchange (TXE2) was opened at Bawtry near Doncaster, Yorks.

The first TXK1 electromechanical crossbar exchange (Plessey 5005 system) in London was opened at Upminster, Essex on 3 December. This replaced London Telecommunications Region's last manual exchange.

The first modern common control PABX was opened for the National Omnibus Company.

Tape Callmaker, a repertory dialler device, was brought into service.

The first public demonstration of a waveguide digital transmission system was held.

The first of the modern four-wire gateway international exchanges in Britain was opened at Wood Street in London using Plessey 5005 crossbar equipment. The rapid growth in international traffic necessitated other centres being opened, resulting in the opening of Mondial House in London.

Telephone No. 746 was introduced, a modern instrument using coloured plastics together with lightweight components and incorporating a balanced armature receiver.

A Business News Summary telephone information service was introduced.

The TAT 5 transatlantic telephone cable was laid between Green Hill, Rhode Island, USA and St. Hilaire-de-Riez, France. It was retired in 1993 after 23 years of service.

A third aerial was completed at the Post Office Satellite Communications Station at Goonhilly Downs, making the station the largest in Europe and the first in the world to operate simultaneous commercial services through three satellites.

The ten millionth telephone exchange line was installed in the United Kingdom.

The Keyphone was market trialled in nine areas of the country. Some 3,000 instruments were involved in the trial.

The first e-mail program was developed by Bolt, Beranek & Newman.

1973

The world's first experimental international Confravision (video conference) link was set up by the Post Office between London and Sydney, Australia.

The Post Office telecommunications monopoly in the Channel Islands ended on 1 January with the transfer of responsibility for running such services to the States of Guernsey (covering Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm and Brechou) and Jersey.

The Post Office adapted the hovercraft principle to move pre-packed containers of submarine cable weighing up to 70 tons at its new Southampton cableship depot.

The first mobile electronic exchange was brought into service.

The last London Telecommunications Region exchange to be converted went STD at Nazeing, Essex.

The last Siemens 16 exchange was withdrawn from service on 17 January at Portslade, Sussex.

1974

The world's first commercial International Confravision service was opened between the United Kingdom and Sweden.

International Subscriber Trunk Dialling (ISD) was extended to additional countries including New Zealand and Australia on 1 December, making UK subscribers the first in the world able to dial the Antipodes directly.

A new transatlantic telephone cable (CANTAT 2) was completed between Widemouth, Britain and Halifax, Novia Scotia, Canada.

1975

Two new cableships, the Monarch (No. 5) and the Iris (No. 3) were launched - the first in the world to be designed for rapid cable loading using the 'pan loading' system developed by the Post Office.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II opened the new Post Office Research Centre at Martlesham Heath near Ipswich, Suffolk - the most advanced centre for telecommunications research in Europe. Now the home of BT Laboratories, and known as Adastral Park from 1999, the Martlesham facility replaced the previous research station at Dollis Hill, North London.

1976

The centenary of the telephone was celebrated on 10 March 1976. A hundred years previously Alexander Graham Bell had heralded a new era in communication with the words, "Mr Watson, come here, I want you" (see 1876 entry). To commemorate the event, the Post Office issued a set of four special stamps in values of 8.5p, 10p, 11p and 13p. All four stamps, designed by Philip Sharland, highlighted the importance of the telephone to the community and featured its use in an every day situation. The 8.5p stamp showed a mother at home making a social or domestic call; the 10p showed a policeman dealing with an emergency call and on the 11p stamp a district nurse taking a social welfare call was depicted. An industrialist at work appeared on the 13p stamp.

Britain's first commercially produced electronic telephone exchange, the TXE4, was opened at the Rectory Exchange at Sutton Coldfield near Birmingham. They were manufactured for public service in exchanges handling 3,000 to 40,000 lines to gradually replace the existing Strowger and crossbar electromechanical exchanges.

During the 1980s and 1990s the TXE and TXK families of electronic and electromechanical exchanges were gradually replaced with System X and System Y digital exchanges in a £20 billion investment programme. The last TXE2 exchanges (Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, Llandovery, Wales and Ramsbury, England) were closed on 23 June 1995. The last TXK crossbar exchange, at Droitwich, was withdrawn in 1994.

The UK network became totally digital on 11 March 1998 with the closure of the last electronic TXE4 exchanges at Leigh-on-Sea and Selby and their conversion to System Y (AXE 10) and System X respectively.

The Post Office opened the world's largest international exchange at Stag Lane, Edgware.

The last manual exchange in the United Kingdom at Portree in the Isle of Skye closed. The UK telephone system was now fully automatic.

Trans-Horizon Radio, using the Troposphere, was inaugurated to provide telephone links between North Sea oil platforms and the mainland.

The first trial was held of the proposed Post Office viewdata development.

Telephone No.764 Mk 2 (the Keyphone) was introduced. The Keyphone was now generally available to subscribers following market trials in 1972 and even earlier trials as far back as 1963. The most striking and original feature of this new telephone was the keypad instead of the conventional dial. With the rapid expansion of subscriber dialling of trunk and international calls, longer telephone numbers had to be used. Keying these numbers was an easier operation than dialling in the traditional manner. Microelectronic circuitry beneath the keypad stored the numbers and transmitted them to the exchange at the normal speed.

The TAT 6 transatlantic telephone cable was laid between Green Hill, Rhode Island, USA and St. Hilaire-de-Riez, France. It was retired in 1994 after 18 years of service.

1977

The Carter Committee, in one of a series of reports commissioned by the Government on public corporations, recommended a further separation of the postal and telecommunications services of the Post Office, and for their relocation under two individual corporations. The findings contained in this report led to the introduction of the British Telecommunications Act, 1981 and the creation of British Telecom as a public corporation in its own right.

radiopaging service was opened in London in January. This followed a successful four year trial in the Thames Valley, covering an area of 800 square miles and serving over 2,000 people. The London system covered the Greater London area which today is encompassed by the M25 motorway. The working hub of the system was the London radiopaging centre in Faringdon where staff dealt with orders. By July the service had more than 3,000 users.

An experimental packet switching service (EPSS) was introduced for transmitting computer data as a commercial service

1978

The first optical cable system in Europe to form part of the public telephone network was installed between the Post Office Research Centre at Martlesham and Ipswich telephone exchange. Optical cables contain glass fibres along which telecommunications signals can be transmitted as pulses of light rather than electricity as in earlier copper cables.

After a design study in which British Post Office staff participated, the Orbital Test Satellite of the European Space Agency (of which Britain was a member) was launched from Cape Canaveral. Its purpose was to test the feasibility of satellite communication between the countries of Europe.

A fourth aerial was completed at the Post Office Satellite Communications Station at Goonhilly for use with the Oribital Test Satellite.

The Post Office opened its second satellite communications station at Madley, Hereford.

One of the world's largest all-electronic telex exchanges, and the first in Britain to use Stored Programme Computer control (SPC), was brought into service in London.

Plans were made to update the payphone system by exploiting the benefits of electronic technology. It was decided that the new system would be based on the pre-payment approach with the refund of unused coins where appropriate.

1979

The International launch of the System X digital exchange was held at Telecom 79 in Geneva.

The STD system, commenced in 1958, was completed to allow direct dialling between all UK subscribers.

The first electronic, microprocessor-controlled payphone, the 'Blue Payphone' was introduced. A later version, Blue Payphone 2, was introduced in 1983

A digital telephone exchange was opened for trial in Glenkindie, Aberdeenshire, making Glenkindie subscribers the first to be connected directly to a digital exchange.

An evaluation model UXD 5 digital telephone exchange was opened for trial in Glenkindie, Aberdeenshire, making Glenkindie subscribers the first to be connected directly to a digital exchange. This was the first digital public exchange introduced into the UK network.

The introduction of UXD 5's into the network brought rural customers digital Network Services ahead of their counterparts living in more rural areas.

The UXD 5 rollout enabled the business to establish remote working practices in advance of NOU's, thus reducing the overall cost of ownership while providing customers with an improved quality of service.

UXD 5 was enhanced over the years, so that by 1998 it was able to carry an acceptable range of digital facilities, such as Call Waiting, 3 Way Calling; Call Diversion, Call Barring and fully itemised billing. During 1998 further digital services were added, including Calling Line Identity, Caller Return (1471) and single stage indirect access. ISDN 2e was also rolled out to UXD 5 exchanges during 1998.

Prestel, the world's first public viewdata service, was opened in London in September.

The Post Office launched a facsimile service, Fonofax.

A new international organisation, INMARSAT, was created this year to be responsible for the formation of a global maritime communications system. BT remained a major participant, and an aerial operating to the INMARSAT system came into service at Goonhilly during 1983. Originally set up to provide marine communications, it subsequently expanded into the delivery of data to mobile phones and laptop computers.

In April 1999, - by this time an 86-strong co-operative - INMARSAT became a privatised company. Henceforward, the organisation would be run by a 14-member board of directors, on which BT would be represented as the second largest investor. This was the first time that a privatisation involving an inter-governmental organisation had taken place. At the time of its privatisation, INMARSAT - short for International Marine Satellite - owned nine satellites and had 107,000 international subscribers. It had annual sales of $378 million in 1996, making a profit of more than $60 million, and was growing at more than 30 per cent a year.

1980

A distinguishing name was given to the telecommunications business of the Post Office - British Telecom - following a Government decision to separate the major Post Office operations. Sir Keith Joseph, Industry Secretary, had announced in the House of Commons in July the Government's intentions to restructure the Post Office and relax the monopoly over terminal equipment and value-added services. However, British Telecom remained part of the Post Office until the following year.

The first of the British-designed processor-controlled digital switching systems designated 'System X' was installed in Baynard House, London. It was a tandem junction unit which switched telephone calls between around 40 exchanges. It was brought into service on 1 July and formally inaugurated in September. The development of 'System X' exchanges was the linchpin of the policy to modernise the existing network by replacing analogue plant with digital switching centres interconnected with digital transmission links. It enabled an increased variety of facilities and services to be made available to the telecommunications user, resulting in ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) and ISDN 2 .

The Public Data Packet Switching Service (PSS), a nationwide data network which switches information in the form of individually addressed 'packets' of data, was introduced. PSS proved particularly cost-effective where data transmission was of the intermittent or of the transaction type - for example, point-of-sale terminals, credit verification, communicating word processor or accessing databases both in the UK and overseas. It opened for full commercial operation on 20 August the following year.

The Post Office Tower public restaurant was permanently closed from 14 June for security reasons.

The Prestel service was expanded in October to give greater access nationwide. The Prestel network afforded 62 per cent of telephone subscribers local telephone access to Prestel.

The world's first purpose-designed optical fibre submarine cable, a five nautical mile test loop, was laid in Loch Fyne, Scotland in January.

The first operational optical fibre link in Great Britain went into service between Brownhills and Walsall in the West Midlands, a distance of 9 km..

Two new international telephone exchanges - Mondial and Thames - were opened in London.

The Herald, the first of British Telecom's microprocessor controlled key button systems was introduced in November of this year.

Euronet/Diane, the EEC based information retrieval system, was inaugurated.