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Telephone history: Telephone Service in Birmingham

Brummie a long time ago

master brummie
Thanks Morturn and Spargone for the reminder of the fox and goose game, I wouldn't have remembered it at all otherwise. That blindspot for games has followed me through life, despite a career in electronics, computers and software. They just pass straight over me. Hey Ho.
Andrew.
 

Spargone

master brummie
From the noise of Strowger to the eerie silence of System X !
Did they do away with ringing machines in System X exchanges? The only sound in a TXE4 exchange was the sound of the switches making and breaking to produce the ringing cadence from those machines. I also recall an electromechanical pendulum clock that had a curious little switch on the pendulum that only operated once in a while so you got used to the 'tick-tock' and then along would come this unexpected click. Goodness knows what that clock was for.
 

Richard Dye

master brummie
Indeed they could be VERY noisy places, a constant and unforgiving clatter, particularly in places like CENtral, in Telephone House. Yes Strowger is correct (Almon Strowger, an undertaker, invented the first automatic telephone exchange in 1889)
Curly, it’s interesting to note the reason that Stowager invented the exchange. As they say “necessity is the sprit on invention “. Stowager was an undertaker and his competitors wife was on the telephone exchange, any calls that came in for him were deferred to her husband. By developing the switch he eliminated this!
 

Morturn

Super Moderator
Staff member
Thanks Morturn and Spargone for the reminder of the fox and goose game, I wouldn't have remembered it at all otherwise. That blindspot for games has followed me through life, despite a career in electronics, computers and software. They just pass straight over me. Hey Ho.
Andrew.
In all fairness its each to their own. I have that type of mind that sees pattens but still cannot manage my timetables. The fox and goose machine did have a patten as did a few of the penny arcade machines in the 60’s. I used to regularly empty a couple of them before getting kicked out. Today they are too sophisticated with solid state programmers.
 

Ecko

New Member
yes eric they are worth a bob or two now but back then we just did not think...

lyn
I worked as an engineer at Rubery manual exchange during its conversion to automatic exchange. I tested the lines as the phones were changed to dialling type( 706 and 746 in think),and I remember seeing quite a few candlestick phones being thrown in a pile into an old room at the back of the exchange. How i too wished I had kept a few of them.!!!
 

Ecko

New Member
I remember Thorpe Street. The Union meetings were held there for a time. But a bit of a distance from Telephone House for a dinner time pint !
Yes , I went to a few union meetings there too. Am I correct in thinking they actually had a bar in there or is my memory failing me?
 

RobT

Acemeccanoman
Does anyone remember the demonstration exchange at the Science Museum in Newhall Street ? A glass fronted cabinet with a dial telephone at each side, where you could dial from one side to the other, and watch the kit inside working. A lot of vertical / horizontal stepping relays (Strowger ?). A real exchange must have been a noisy place. I remember obtaining one of those relays, possibly from Hurst Street, and taking it apart to see how it worked, (but that is just me, happens with lots of my tech stuff even now).
Andrew.
See here for working Strowger exchange & Fox & Goose game in Science Museum in Newhall Street.

 

Spargone

master brummie
What a lot of cable ! I guess this has significantly changed with changing technology.
"It will be noted that each suite commences with a cable turning section (C.T.S.), which, as its name implies, is necessary to turn the switchboard cables from the vertical run through the floor to the horizontal multiple along the switchboard. The C.T.S. is constructed of mahogany panelled to match the rest of the switchboard." from Telephony Vol. 1, J. Atkinson

In a manual telephone exchange wires from every subscriber had to be brought up to the switchboard (the 'multiple'). The wires for a given subscriber appeared at a socket at every third operator's position, ('multiple' appearances) so that by plugging to the left, ahead or the right the operator could reach every number on that exchange to make a call. Only a portion of calling lines appeared at a given operator's position though.

As long as we continue to have 'twisted-pair' copper wires from each subscriber wired back to the exchange there will be equivalent cables somewhere but they won't be going to the operators that remain in the system. They only need to be able to speak to a couple of subscribers and a supervisor and to send and receive signals from the switching system so the switchboard multiple as such is long gone.
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Later in February 1936 the Birmingham Gazette informs…

(the other exchanges may not need operators, but will need maintenance staff !)

B9AA36C1-E9B9-4719-A9DE-675E02C1A95A.jpeg
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Birmingham Daily Gazzette of November 1936. EJ Lansbury, Gen Sec of the National Guild of Telephonists, addresses the 228 members in Birmingham.

AF150DDC-5541-46F3-8F1D-2BDA204BE5B1.jpeg
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Some other info from the 1930s concerning Telephone House…

April 1934 work began on foundations for Telephone House, completed December 1935.

January 1937 Neville Chamberlain officially opened Telephone House. Inside 239 miles of cable on and between switchboards: 631 miles of wire altogether. 5,600,00 soldered joints and 30,000 fuses.

Jan 1937 the first of the new coaxial type cables laid between London and Birmingham to yield 400 speech channels on each two pairs.

July 1937. Birmingham soon to become a television centre. The TV programmes will travel from Alexandra Palace to Birmingham along a 125 mile PO. coaxial cable from London Faraday to Telephone Home Birmingham.
 

Spargone

master brummie
July 1937. Birmingham soon to become a television centre. The TV programmes will travel from Alexandra Palace to Birmingham along a 125 mile PO. coaxial cable from London Faraday to Telephone House Birmingham.
Telephone House was still a TV centre in the 1970s, I could see the TV monitors from 95 Newhall Street. I recall being shown some 'co-ax', it looked like and was the size of gas flue liner with 'spiders' holding the core wire in the centre, (i.e. there was no solid dielectric).
I expect by then the TV signals came up from London using microwave links. Perhaps the co-ax that I was shown just went to Sutton Coldfiend from Telephone House?
 
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