The centenary of the UK’s first automatic telephone exchange will be marked by a three-day celebration beginning on Friday 18 May at the Avoncroft Museum, home of the National Telephone Kiosk Collection.
The Strowger system used electro-mechanical switches which obviated the requirement for a switchboard operator. It first went into use in a public exchange in Epsom on 18 May 1912. This exchange was designed to serve 500 subscribers, and opened with around 350 connected.
Ten years later the Strowger system was adopted as the standard for all UK automatic exchanges; at its peak deployment in the 1980s there were over 13 million telephone users connected to Strowger telephone exchanges, with the last one not closing until June 1995.
“The introduction of automatic switching transformed the communications infrastructure in the UK,” explains Andrew Hurley, lead Kiosk Collection volunteer at Avoncroft Museum. “For the Open Day we have prepared special displays, exhibits, and challenges for families and technology enthusiasts alike, showing the technology itself, and the end output.”
Avoncroft Museum (near Bromsgrove, Worcestershire) is a 15-acre open-air site of historic buildings. The Kiosk Collection opened in 1994, with the support of BT’s Connected Earth heritage initiative, and contains examples of all BT kiosks from the first standard kiosk, the 1921 K1, to the latest kiosk KX100Plus, and several K6s - the iconic Red Telephone Box. The Museum is open from 10.30am to 5.00pm during the Strowger Centenary Event (18-20 May 2012).