Did you know
Scotland and its people have long pioneered communications innovation. Necessity being the mother of invention, the vagaries of our terrain, weather and remoteness have played their part in the development of networks, products and services!
- The first solar powered telephone was on the island of Soay, off Skye, and the first wind-powered exchange on the island of Rhum.
- Scotland was the trial area for BT Retail's consumer offering, BT Answer, the free answering service which can be accessed without charge by calling 1571.
- Caller Display, a digital service to identify callers, was tested in Elgin and piloted in Perth and Edinburgh.
- The first small rural digital exchanges in the UK were pioneered in Scotland, while mini broadband technologies for small exchanges were tried out in the Highlands.
- Broadband beamed into homes by satellite was tested by BT in Scotland. The £120 million rollout of DSL broadband subsequently overtook a commercial offering.
- In 1992, a payphone at Cockburnspath in East Lothian became the first in the UK to be powered by the latest, high-efficiency, solar panels.
- The village of Sandhaven near Fraserburgh dialed up its fifteen minutes of fame when its payphone became the first in the UK to be lit by wind and solar power.
- Britain's first public telephone exchange opened at 36 Coleman Street, London in 1879. It was followed shortly after by the first two in Scotland, in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
- In 1885, Glasgow and Edinburgh were connected by telephone for the first time ever. Within two years Edinburgh had 421 telephone subscribers, but the Glasgow patois is to the fore, with 1321 subscribers on-line in the Dear, Green Place.
- Now, more than 30 million telephone calls are made across BT’s Scottish network every day.
- In 1889, Almond B. Strowger, a funeral parlour proprietor of Kansas City, patented an automatic telephone system having apparently discovered that his local telephone operator was diverting his business calls to another undertaker… who just happened to be her husband! Although Strowger’s extraordinary experiments involve the use of brass collar studs and matches, his switching system proved to be extremely popular and was adopted in 1922 as the standard for all automatic telephone exchanges in the UK. The Strowger remained a vital part of the UK network until as late as 1995, when the last one was decommissioned at Crawford in Lanarkshire and time-based charging was introduced.
- The first telephone link between Scotland and England was established in 1892 between Glasgow and London.
- Alexander Graham Bell is remembered for the telephone but the fields in which he operated were much wider. He showed fishermen how to produce fresh water from sea water using a sloping pane of glass to save lives of people lost at sea, he worked on kites that could lift men and his invention of a wheel-shaped kite was a precursor to the helicopter. Bell also designed a floating concrete dock - the same design was used during the 1944 Normandy landings.
Alexander Graham Bell is laid to rest in Cape Breton Island at his estate Beinn Breagh - Gaelic for "beautiful mountain".
- The 999 emergency service was established in Scotland in 1938. Experts chose 999 rather than 111 for technical reasons. In pre-optical fibre days telegraph wires rubbed together in the wind and transmitted the equivalent of a 111 call.
- Today, more than two million 999 calls are made by Scots each year.