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BT’s science and technology heritage recognised

BT’s research records detailing more than 100 years of cutting-edge technology innovations undertaken by BT scientists and engineers have been successfully nominated to the UK UNESCO Memory of the World Register.

BT’s historic research archives are among just 20 collections to be added to the UK Register, which highlights culturally significant documentary heritage by awarding them with the globally-recognised Memory of the World status.

The following are a few of the ground breaking inventions described in the research records preserved by BT Archives:


  • Transatlantic radio telephone service, 1926
  • The world’s first Speaking Clock, 1936
  • The first hearing aid, The Medresco, available on the NHS, 1948
  • World’s first microwave radio relay transmitters, technology used by the BT Tower, 1950s
  • First transatlantic submarine telephone cable in 1956
  • Computing innovations by Tommy Flowers and the team tha built Colossus , the wartime code-breaking computer including the premium bonds computer ERNIE, 1957
  • First transmissions of television across the Atlantic, 1962
  • World’s first digital exchange in London, 1968
  • Optic fibres – BT’s laboratories at Martlesham developed glass fibre that was pure enough for the technology’s potential to be fully realised, 1970s
  • BT Prestel was a world first and an important precursor to the Internet as a system delivering information stored on remote computers to users on demand over the telephone network, 1979
  • Automatic telephone switching equipment, making calls without the operator, early twentieth century
  • Rugby radio station, the world’s largest radio telegraph transmitter.


The manuscript and later printed reports span from 1878 to 1995 and demonstrate how the UK has played a leading part in the development of electrical engineering and communication technology globally.

The earliest reports, dating from 1878, are manuscript reports on investigations in telegraphy, following the Government’s takeover of UK domestic private telegraph companies in 1870. Other early reports reflect the organisation’s early interest in telephony shortly after its introduction to the UK in 1877.

The breadth of the subject extends much further beyond telegraphy and telephony including radio and satellite communications, lasers and masers, data processing and early computer systems, time measurement systems, early optical character recognition, videoconferencing and video phones, and computer generated synthetic speech.

David Hay, head of heritage and corporate memory, said: “This is a unique record of British scientific endeavour and contribution to developing communications and related technologies and we are delighted and proud that the world’s oldest communications company is recognised as part of the Memory of the World.”


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