Britains 1st telephone directory is published

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Britains 1st telephone directory is published

The 1st of January 1880 AD

The telephone was a British invention – even if Alexander Graham Bell may have developed the thing in Boston in the USA he was Scottish born and bred and we won’t let our colonial cousins claim that one. The honour of producing the first telephone book – well, actually a single sheet of telephone subscribers – however, did go to the Americans. In 1878 this world first happened in New Haven, Connecticut, home of the first telephone exchange, with a grand total of 50 names in the listing.

Britain’s first directory came out two years later, published by The Telephone Company Limited on January 15 1880. Perversely to modern minds this contained no telephone numbers, only the names and addresses of those who owned telephone appliances. This was nothing to do with safeguarding privacy; rather it reflected the state of phone technology then: callers would contact the exchange to request connection to a particular subscriber. Dialling would come later.

The 1880 document contained just 248 names – including Alexander Graham Bell himself - all located in London , connected via three exchanges. Not a bad ratio, though the service was initially far from perfect, boys being chosen to operate the system, with all the reliability and focus that might have been expected of the breed. Women replaced them fairly quickly.

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