Hello, is that Edinburgh? It's your Queen calling – and one dialled all by one's self
WHEN she picked up the receiver on this day half-a-century ago, the Queen changed the way the people of the UK communicated with each other.
Sat beside Prince Philip in Bristol's central telephone exchange, surrounded by dignitaries and their wives, with great ceremony she dialled an Edinburgh number and uttered the words: "This is the Queen speaking from Bristol. Good afternoon, my lord provost."
It was the first long-distance phone call in the UK made without the help of an operator.
The call spanned barely 370 miles, but it bridged a gap between two eras, from a time when people used heavy Bakelite telephones equipped with dials instead of buttons and telephone exchanges were staffed by operators who connected long-distance or "trunk" calls by repositioning wires on a board.
Nowadays we make calls and send texts and e-mails to the other side of the world from our mobile phones, barely giving a thought for the massive amount of technology it takes to bounce a signal from our tiny handsets into space and around the globe.
To mark what has been described as a "major milestone" in telecommunications, engineers involved in the historic call will today re-enact it in Bristol. However, while the Queen was forced to rely on just a handset to communicate, they will use the latest video-conferencing technology, to see as well as talk to staff in Edinburgh.
Brian Fox, who had finished his engineering apprenticeship only three months before, stood a few feet from the Queen as she made the historic call.
"It was one of the most important days ever in telecommunications history and a huge amount of work went into making sure the day went without a hitch," he said.
"The walkway from Telephone Avenue was tented and full of flowers and a powder room for the Queen was hastily provided in a converted control room.
"We stood between rows of equipment as close as we could get and watched Her Majesty dial the number. When it was all over and the Queen was leaving, the Duke of Edinburgh remarked, 'You can relax now, chaps; it all works'."
It was many years, however, before the whole of the country could benefit from this leap in communications technology.
Following the first call, the General Post Office spent 35 million on modernising the phone system by rolling out subscriber trunk dialling across the whole of Britain. It was completed in December 1979, allowing direct dialling between all UK subscribers.
David Hay, head of heritage at the BT Group, said: "From those humble beginnings, communications technology has moved on at a rapid pace and we now live in a world with high-speed internet, digital television and mobile telephony, all of which are taken for granted."
the number of telephone operators employed in 1967
the number who staff inquiry call centres in 2008
the year Alexander Graham Bell invented the phone
the year the UK long-distance, or trunk, network was unified under the General Post Office
the number of mobile phones expected to be sold this year
the estimated value of stolen mobile phones for sale online
the number of mobile phones in use in the UK in 2007
the UK population in 2006
the average age at which a child gets a mobile phone in Britain
the number of text messages sent each month in Britain
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Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
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Wind direction: North
Temperature: 11 C to 18 C
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