Phone System History

From Moriston Matters Issue 3, October 1977

Dial 999

It is now fully six months since Glenmoriston, Dalchreichart and Fort Augustus became the last telephone exchanges in Scotland to be linked to the S.T.D. system - seventeen years after the inauguration of the project at Ayr, Greenock and Dundee - thus enabling us to dial calls freely to our families and friends in almost any part of the world, and also to experience the frustrations of the "growing pains" period. However, it is one of the wonders of science that by picking up the receiver and using the correct sequence of numbers we can hear a well-known voice, maybe in Australia or America, and carry on a conversation as if with someone in the same room as ourselves. And indeed the old system was not without its frustrations too. In the days when simply the lifting of the receiver brought the operator to the manual switch-board it was very difficult to impress on at least one young lady that she must not be lifting the receiver just to chatter to Auntie Katie Fullarton in the Post Office. And no doubt the frustration of the engineer summoned to deal with a fault, who found a collection of bits and pieces popped by small fingers into the box that contained the battery cell in the days before electricity came to the Glen, was also considerable! When Glenmoriston Exchange opened in 1939 there were eleven subscribers, when it was converted to automatic working in 1955 there were eighteen. Now there are forty-seven. The programme to link the Highlands and Islands to the S.T.D. system cost £11 million, and although we grumble at the cost of the calls sometimes we must indeed be grateful for the opportunities for communication that we have literally at our finger-tips.