Celebrating 70 years of Telecoms
In the wake of Queen Elizabeth’s grand 4-day Platinum Jubilee celebrations, many of us in the UK and around the world are taking the time to recognise and appreciate the Queen and her 70-year reign. A lot has changed in the world since her coronation in the 1950’s, the telecommunications industry especially. So, we thought what better time to look through some of her other Jubilees, historic milestones, and the evolution of telecommunications throughout her reign.
First coronation to be televised, first use of modems and first computer hard drive.
When Elizabeth Windsor became Elizabeth II in 1952, IBM engineer Reynold Johnson was in the midst of creating the first computer hard drive, each consisting of 50 platters, measuring two feet wide, initially dubbed as ‘Jukeboxes’. The coronation in 1953 was then broadcast and watched by 27 million people and was also the first-ever televised coronation.
By 1954, the US Air Force’s Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, which made use of the first modems, started to set the precedent for computer communications. It was the start of computers beginning to ‘talk to one another’. Interestingly, when these enormous computers and displays were decommissioned years later, Hollywood made use of them as movie props in films, such as Dr. Strangelove.
Image source: Royal.uk
Fibre optic communication, email, and video-conferencing were all first introduced.
Optical Fibre Communication was invented in the early 1960’s at Standard Telecommunication Laboratories in Harlow, Essex. These fibre optic cables now form the backbone of the internet all around the world.
As part of The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Compatible Time-Sharing System, the very first version of what would go on to be known as ’email’ was invented in 1965.
At the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, video conferencing was also first introduced as a commercial solution by AT&T. However, this wasn’t very successful; maybe because a 3-minute call would cost around £200 in today’s money! This was shut down within a few years of service but pioneered a way forward for people to communicate.
Birth of the mobile phone, interconnected networks, and wireless transfers from space to earth.
Motorola made the first mass-produced handheld mobile phone in April 1973 and in 1976, Queen Elizabeth was introduced to ‘the ARPANET’ – a computer network that eventually would go onto become the internet. Elizabeth became the first head of state in the world to send an email during the opening ceremony at the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment research centre in England.
A year later, she embarked on a series of tours around the world to mark the 25th anniversary of her reign. At the same time, NASA was busy launching the Voyager spacecraft to take closeup images of Jupiter (1979-1980), Saturn (1981), Uranus (1986) and Neptune (1989) and relay them back to earth wirelessly using a collection of big radio antennas called the Deep Space Network (DSN).
The decade of big mobile phones, say hello to JA.NET, Apple Mac(intosh) and the start of www – the World Wide Web.
The infamous Apple Macintosh was born in early 1984 and went on to become far more popular than other brands at the time. It was also this year when JA.NET was launched, the world’s fastest computer network at the time, running at a whopping 100Mbps. This was ground-breaking for the 90’s.
Fast forward a year, and the Motorola 8000 X was all the rage. Shaped much like a ‘brick’, the popular mobile came at a price – £2,995 to be precise which would be £9,000 today.
Then in 1989, Tim Bernes-Lee changed the way we’d all communicate forever more and created the World Wide Web. He was later awarded the title ‘Sir Timothy Bernes-Lee Knight Commander’ by Queen Elizabeth in 2004 for his contributions to global communications. By the end of the decade, the UK, USA, Sweden, and 14 more countries were all using the internet.
Wi-Fi, webcams, Windows 95, and dial-up
At the start of the 90’s tech specialists began to work at gigabit speeds, but this wasn’t available commercially for quite a while. In 1991, computer science students at Cambridge University invented the first ever webcam which was used to track and measure the level of coffee left in their coffee pot.
Two years later, access to the internet via a dial-up connection was commercially available, the same year as the Queen’s Ruby Jubilee. Then in 1995, Microsoft launched Windows ’95, a bit of a moment for all PC users.
The term ‘Wi-Fi’ was coined in 1999 by Interbrand to replace the not-so-catchy ‘IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence’, paving the way forward to today’s most popular way to connect mobile devices to the internet.
Before the availability of ADSL, the gap from dial-up modems to full broadband was bridged by ISDN, launched by BT in 1997. With ISDN being affordable, reliable and low latency internet access compared to regular dial-up, it’s no wonder this was such a game-changer within businesses and homes. It also meant you could use the internet and the telephone at the same time which stopped a lot of family feuds within households.
Broadband and mobile takeover.
By the millennium, broadband arrived. The first UK connection via an ADSL line brought a shocking 512KB, just over half a single megabit, which, at this speed, would take over 2 ½ minutes to download a 10MB attachment.
The Queen celebrated her 50 year reign with her Golden Jubilee in 2002 and by early 2005, as Bill Gates received his knighthood, broadband was taking over with more and more people moving to faster internet speeds. The mobile world was also skyrocketing at this point, with Nokia being especially popular. By late 2007, 75% of the population had a mobile phone. And in 2008, Virgin Media rolled out their Fibre network, offering speeds of up to 50Mbps.
Socials, celebrations and speed
While the Queen was setting up her Facebook page in 2010, the British operator Hyperoptic was getting ready to launch their gigabit service in the UK, they were the first to offer speeds up to 1Gbps. Then in 2011, they began supplying high-speed internet into London homes, whilst most other ISPs (internet service providers) were only starting to offer 100Mbps as their fastest broadband product.
Instagram, the photo sharing app, launched in 2010 and was acquired only 2 years later for $41 billion by Facebook. The app rapidly gained popularity worldwide, earning one million registered users in 2 months, and 1 billion users by 2018. Queen Elizabeth shared her first ever Instagram post in 2019.
The following year brought the celebrations of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee, and two years later she sent her first tweet. She became the UK’s longest reigning monarch in 2015 and in 2016 she turned 90 years old. All the while broadband is getting faster and faster, and competition in the industry to offer faster and reliable connectivity increases.
Pandemic, hybrid-working, and her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee
Queen Elizabeth has now become an expert at video conferencing, especially during the pandemic. She met with world leaders and diplomats online, as well as saying hello to her family and grandchildren. Quite a long way from the initial video conference held all those years back in her early days of power.
Technology and communications have come so far since Her Majesty first wore her crown, but sometimes the novelty doesn’t wear off. The Queen reverted to traditional communications over the 4-day long weekend, lighting over 2,200 beacons throughout the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and UK Overseas Territories.
With so much change over the last 7 decades, our Queen has been at the forefront of it, creating an environment where the United Kingdom could grow and develop. At Windsor, we believe change is good and love being part of an ever-changing industry with technological enhancements that help our customers communicate and collaborate with each other easily and enjoyably.
Happy Platinum Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth!