SIEMENS in Britain and Germany
The story of telecomms manufacturing by Siemens is one that can be condensed only with difficulty, but here goes .
Two brothers of the Siemens family started their electrical business in the mid-19th century, establishing factories in Berlin (Germany) and Woolwich (Britain). Up to the First World War the two companies collaborated closely but the hostilities caused a total separation of the two firms. The British company became Siemens Brothers Ltd and whilst the German company did re-establish operations in Britain after the war, they confined their operations in Britain to making and selling heavy-current devices. German-sourced telecomms equipment was still imported into Britain but by agents, not by either Siemens company. However, an arrangement remained between the wars for mutual design assistance for telecommunications technology.
In the post-war Siemens Brothers was absorbed first into AEI (about 1960) and then into GEC Ltd (in 1968) and the Siemens name disappeared from the UK telecomms scene.
The German companys re-entry into the UK market in the 1980s was achieved through the purchase of a small Luton-based company called Norton Telecom (in a previous incarnation the firm made television games under the name Sportel, whilst Norton's main activity was expoerting British telecomms equipment to Africa). Norton Telecom exploited the liberalisation of the UK customer premises equipment market and began to import PABXs from Germany.
In 1989 the German Siemens company decided it wanted to stake a major claim on the UK telecomms market and bought 40 per cent of GPT. One of the consequences of this was that their own private systems business, started some years earlier by taking over Norton Telecom, was merged with GPT Communication Systems Ltd (originally an ATE subsidiary). New premises were bought, still in Luton, and from this date onwards the new team started to push German-made products far harder than British GPT equipment. This was ill-advised because in most cases the British equipment was better-specified, more innovative and cheaper.
This awkward marriage between GEC and Siemens eventually came to an end, when GEC bought out the Siemens share, allowing Siemens to sell its own products unfettered by the GEC people. Siemens now acknowledges its UK tradition dating back to 1858 and now sponsors the old (English) Siemens Engineering Society.
Siemens in Germany
125 years of the telephone - a story of communications, starring Siemens
Siemens and telephony a story of intertwined fortunes stretching back 125 years. Siemens produced Germany's first instruments, and played a decisive role in the development of the telephone network. Siemens was crucially involved in the introduction of ISDN, and is now one of the pioneers of UMTS technology. From the first lines to communications that span the worldSiemens has been at the forefront from day one.
From 1876 to 2001- A history of the telephone
There is scarcely another invention that has changed people's lives as radically as the telephone. A history that now stretches back 125 years began with the vision of a Scottish teacher of the deaf and dumb: He dreamed of producing a device that would enable people to communicate across great distances. This dreamer with a practical bent was Alexander Graham Bell, who in 1870, emigrated from Scotland to America, where he founded a private school for vocal physiology, but spent almost every free moment performing physics experiments in his laboratory. On February 14, 1876 his dream became reality, and he filed a patent application under the number 174.465, for his telephone.
Berlin's Postmaster General Heinrich Stephan learned of the invention with delight. With admirable commitment, he promoted further development of the new technology. The German capital's first telephone link - no less than two kilometers in length - was inaugurated on October 26, 1877. But the system needed the devices that would permit users to telephone each other, and the company Siemens & Halske were commissioned to produce telephones based on Bell´s original. The firm, founded in 1847, had already made a name for itself with some spectacular telegraph construction projects, and inventions in the field of electrical engineering.
200 telephones a day
Werner Siemens recognized the vast potential of telecommunications. Siemens & Halske were early proponents of mass-production techniques, with 200 telephones emerging from their manufacturing shop every day from November 1877. The company lived up to its reputation as communications technology pioneer.
They invested in the further development of the technology from day one. They set great store by ergonomics, intended to make using the telephone more convenient. They started with the introduction of the hand receiver, followed later on by the scoop-shaped receiver which typified the design for many years. The first equipment had its teething-troubles, of course. The connections were highly sensitive to interference, while the vital "ring" turned out to be problematical. An alarm-clock took on this function, drawing the necessary power from a battery which at the same time supplied the current for the voice signal. The "muscle-powered" hand crank was much used as an alternative here.
"Hallo, exchange here, who would you like to speak to?"
By the end of the 19th century Siemens also developed the necessary network of lines, as well as the actual telephone. A double copper line led from each subscriber to a central exchange, where nimble-fingered operators connected the lines via a so-called "drop switchboard". These switchboards owed their name to the technology employed: Calls were signaled to the operators by the dropping of numbered flaps, which were retained in place by an electromagnet when not in use. If a subscriber wished to end the call, the corresponding flap had to be flipped upwards again by hand.
With the rapidly growing number of connections came increased problems. The initial capacity of the drop switchboards was limited to 50 lines. The more people who wished to make calls, the more switchboards were set up in the exchanges. Connections from one switchboard to another were announced in advance by calling across the room. The frequent consequence was impenetrable confusion, with wrong numbers and subscribers left waiting for connections that were never made.
The mechanization of switching was a major advance: First a hundred, and later several thousand calls could be switched at the same time - without the intervention of an operator. One of the first systems of this kind was made possible by the "two-motion selector"- invented by the American Almon Strowger in 1889. This represented a huge advance: A Strowger selector was able to handle 100 calls automatically. Later came the "group selector", which boosted performance once more by several orders of magnitude.
The telephone network grows
The automation of the German telephone network spurred on the relentless march of the telephone. 1909 saw Siemens playing the leading role in setting up the first fully automated exchange in a major European city, in Munich's Schwabing district. In 1923, Siemens was also behind the world's first fully-automatic long-distance exchange, in the small town of Weilheim, Upper Bavaria. In later years, Siemens developed various dial systems. The technical highlights included the introduction of the noble metal uniselector motor switch in 1954 and the electronically controlled system with magnetic coupling fields in 1955. November 1962 saw the first electronically controlled exchange commence operations with the Deutsche Bundespost in Munich. The mechanical selectors were replaced by the magnetic coupling fields, which also formed the speech path network. The system was developed and manufactured by Siemens. From 1972, all German local networks used fully automatic operation.
Digitization brings a quantum leap
A quantum leap for telephony came at the end of the 70s, with digitization. New services became possible, thanks to the conversion of analog signals into digital codes. ISDN, or "Integrated Services Digital Network" is the magic word here. In 1980, Siemens started series production of the first digital computer-aided dialing system, EWSD. The result was that the transmission capacities of lines and exchanges increased by many orders of magnitude, enabling the parallel transmission of voice and data traffic. Digitization also paved the way for the fax - the transmission of entire documents, in the form of a copy identical to the original.
Alongside terrestrial advances, the telephone companies launched the first telecommunications satellites into earth orbit in 1960. 1969 saw the world's first satellite-based telephone network go into service. The integration of satellites and terrestrial systems enabled overseas calls that were as quick and convenient as those made within a continent's boundaries.
Cordless telephones bring freedom of movement
In the 80s, Siemens developed the first cordless telephones. Advances in other areas of technology expanded the range of functions offered by handsets. These included number memories, displays, hands-free equipment and more sensitive microphones. With increasing prosperity, design became ever more important. The telephone is no longer just a tool, but is becoming a fashion item and an element of interior design.
Onto the Net via the phone
The number-one topic of the new millennium is the internet - the driving force behind the global information society. Via the internet, the telephone and the computer enable multimedia telecommunications. Worldwide data highways are turning the world into a global village. The old copper cables are increasingly being replaced by the much more efficient optical fiber, and alongside this, researchers and engineers are working hard in their laboratories, developing optoelectronic switching technology.
The mobile radio boom
More or less at the same time as the spread of the internet, the last five years have seen a boom in mobile radio that hardly any of the experts had foreseen. Here too, Siemens ranks as a world pioneer. Germany was already one of the technological leaders in the analog A-, B- and C-networks. Siemens played a crucial role in the development of the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) digital standard at the beginning of the 90s. Today, more than 100 million people right across the world make phone calls via the D- and E-networks. Now, cellphones provide access to WAP services - mobile online services. UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications Systems) will usher in the era of third-generation mobile radio. Siemens focuses on the Mobile Business strategy: to be linked to the world via the cellphone, to be able to communicate with others and seek information via the internet. Truly, Bell's vision has at last become reality: The dream of boundless communication.
125 Years of the Telephone and Siemens - An Outline
February 14, 1876
Alexander Graham Bell applies for the first telephone patent in the USA
Werner Siemens begins manufacturing telephones
Electrodynamic telephone from Werner Siemens
First municipal telephone system in Berlin
First dial-up telephone
Wall-mounted coin-operated telephones for one coin only, with pay button for local calls. Coin returned if call could not be made
Electronic pushbutton telephone presented at the Hanover Trade Fair
Data and video telephone for data traffic in PBXs, presented at the Hanover Trade Fair in 1972
Trial optical fiber link starts operating in Berlin
Installation of digital "EWS" (electronic switching system) telephone exchange
Hicom communication system (ISDN standard) presented
First portable suitcase-sized C network telephone from Siemens
Introduction of cordless DECT phones
First Siemens mobile phone with integrated MP3 player: SL45
125 years of the telephone in anecdotes
As the telephone made its rapid progress round the globe, stories were told about it and various rumors and myths put in circulation. But a few (from today's viewpoint) curiosities can also be found.
"It is my heart-felt and all-embracing Christmas wish, sure to be what veryone desires whether poor, rich, admired or despised, that we all get to heaven, a place of everlasting peace and quiet and bliss - except for the nventor of the telephone". That is what Mark Twain wrote in a reader's
letter to the New York Post. And his was a view shared by many.
The switchboard "hello girls" are notorious. But to begin with it was only men who held the then elevated position of telegraph assistant in Germany. Women, it was believed, could not be relied on to maintain "confidentiality of communications"... But then the first women were employed as "telephone assistants" as early as 1887.
Like many technical innovations, the invention of the telephone did not go uncontested. In particular it was the telegraph companies which for a long time used every means to try to halt the "telephone monstrosity".
The telephone became more widely known through the Paris World Exposition of 1881. Business people tried from the very outset to earn money from it with good ideas. From then on there were "theater telephones" and phones for "music on tap". Trumpet solos, poems, dramatic scenes - anything could be heard on the telephone. In Budapest in 1893 even a radio program was available over the telephone. In 1897 the Café Kranzler in Berlin offered telephone subscribers its latest
selection of cakes.
The first Berlin directory of telephone subscribers was given the reverent title of "Book of Names".
The telephone has even been blamed for "Black Friday", the Wall Street crash of 1929. It has been claimed that panic selling would not have been possible but for this fast means of conveying information. It is further claimed that the telephone has contributed to stock market instability ever since.
Adapted from material produced in 2001 by Siemens AG, Corporate Communications, D-80312 Munich, Germany.
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