Bookshelf Sam's Telecomms Documents Repository

Videos, Sound Recordings and Miscellaneous Stuff

ABC Telegraph

Wheatstone ABC Telegraph in action.

An extract from the GPO Film Unit's documentary, The Islanders, (1939), directed by Maurice Harvey. The tiny Post Office on Eriskay is where the islanders transact all their business with the mainland. Young Ian Nicholson works the telegraph machine with amazing speed. The Islanders is in the collection, 'If War Should Come' from the BFI. [Video: GPO Film Unit 0:36]


BRS Teleprinter

BRS Teleprinter Service

British Road Services was the nationalised road transport company founded in 1948 by the post-war Labour government. This is a composite from two films from the British Transport Film Unit. The Long Night Haul (1957), directed by Jimmy Ritchie, was a black and white documentary about the founding of the truck service. The section on the BRS teleprinter network used some of the same shots that appeared in the colour narrative film, They Take the High Road,1960. I've overlaid the commentary from Long Night Haul over the colour footage from High Road. Both films are in the BFI's remastered collection of BTF films. [Video: BTF 2:33]

Fons with telegraph machine

The end of telegrams in Belgium

In an interview on Belgian television, collector, Fons Vandenberghen, talks about the history of telegrams.


Telephone Song

The Fairy of the Phone

The singing operators - sound recording, video and lyrics from a GPO Film Unit short, The Fairy of the Phone [Picture: GPO]


Ethel Cain

The golden Voice of the Telephone

Ethel Cain, also known as Jane Cain, the Golden Voice of the Telephone, and the voice of the first speaking clock, gives advice on diction for telephone operators. This is from an elderly 78 record, so please forgive the sound quality. The files came to me originally in 2005. I spent some time in 2009 re-cleaning them and the quality has improved somewhat. [MP3 format, 4:31, 1728 KB] Picture: AP.

The golden Voice - Part Two

In the second part of her talk, Ethel Cain gives examples of good operating practice. [MP3 format, 4:21, 1660 kB]

Telephone 706 Bell

rung with BPO standard cadence, .4s on .2s off .4s on 2s off. Contains a single ring cycle which when looped should sound like the good old days. [MP3 format, 3s, 22 kB] To download, right click and choose 'save audio as'.
[Version in OGG format]

Hello ma Baby Good Friends are for keeps

Hello Ma' Baby

from 1899. Not necessarily the first song about the telephone, but probably the best known early song. First not an actual recording, but sheet music from the University of Boulder, Colorado collection.814 kB

Now here's a recording of the opening chorus sung by Max Morath as found on the LP issued by the Bell Telephone Company to celebrate the centenary of the telephone in 1976.

The complete LP (right - click for bigger version) is still available from Telephone Lines in Devon. MP3 format: 0:40, 409 kB

A big dial

Instructions for using the dial telephone

A recording issued in the 1920s to assist subscribers in using the new automatic telephone exchange system. It presents recordings of the various call progress tones provided by the network. [MP3 format, 2:55, 1.6 MB]

I had forgotten where this recording came from until Andrew Emmerson reminded me by sending a <You Tube link>. You can see the record in the Information Age Gallery in the Science Museum in London.

Durium record

Automatic telephone Tones

This is a demonstration of telephone tones issued by the Post Office on the Durium label. These records were single sided and made of a flexible plastic material on a carboard backing. This transcription was supplied by a THG member and processed by John Leonard to improve the quality. [MP3 format, 4:39, 3.8 MB]

Eagle-eyed THG members may have spotted a YouTube video where the record is played and discussed by two incredulous gentlemen.

As you will hear the tones are from the early days of automatic telephony.

Kenneth Horne

The sound of living

The genial Kenneth Horne talks about the wonders of the telephone with the voices of:

and gives us some statistics of the United Kingdom telephone network and helpful hints on using the telephone.

Recordings also of HM the Queen making the inaugural call on the Pacific Telephone Cable in December 1963. (Picture: BBC) [MP3 format 6:41 5.8 MB]


The Pleasure Telephone

Edward Seckerson tells the remarkable story of the use of the early telephone to relay live entertainment and news direct to subscribers' homes in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Broadcast on Radio 3 as a Sunday Feature on Sunday 16 May 2010. 44:24
Accompanying description

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