Anne Archer

Passing the Call

Keywords: BT Archives, telecommunications, telephone, etiquette

This is an automatically generated transcript. Although it has been checked, please note that some transcription errors may remain.

[00:00:02] Now we can start. The dialing tone is the green light to go ahead.

[00:00:08] Don’t dial before you hear it or you’re likely to get a wrong number. Dial each digit of the number you’re calling in turn. Take the dial right round to the finger stop and then let it go back on its own and don’t dial the next digit until it stops.

[00:00:31] Now, how should you answer the phone?…“Yes, hello, hello?” … Not like that anyway. Of course, the caller may recognize you’re voice but you can’t count on it.…”Is that Jackson’s the Greengrocer’s?”…”Well of course it is!”…’No, no, no. Let’s try it again. Remember when you answer the phone, identify yourself.

[00:00:53] Right? Then here we go. “Good morning, Jackson’s the Greengrocer’s”. That’s better.

[00:01:07] That was an extract from the telephone age film from 1966 explaining the correct way to answer the telephone. More on telephone etiquette shortly. But first of all, welcome to Telepoetics for me Anne Archer. I’m the head of Heritage and Archives at BT. BT is a global communications company and it has a heritage that dates back to 1846. In the Archives, we capture, protect, preserve and promote BT’s heritage and we use it for the benefit of the business, but also for wider customers in the community.

Our history as a company starts in 1846 when the first telegraph company was founded in the UK, called the Electric Telegraph Company. The telegraph was so popular that many other telegraph companies were formed and then the Post Office took over all provision of them by 1870. It was the same story with the telephone. The first company, The Telephone Company was formed in 1878, and other companies soon followed. But by 1912, the Post Office operated the vast majority of telecommunications in Britain, until 1984, when the telecommunication section of the Post Office was privatised to become BT.

We describe our archive collection as the corporate memory of the business. We retain records that have long term historical value. The type of material that we hold in the archive, for example, will be strategic decision-making records such as minutes, or project files.

[00:02:38] those that record what the company decided to do over time. We also have records of past innovations. Just one example being the Electrophone, which was essentially the first media broadcast service – it streamed live music, live theatre, even live sermons down the telephone lines from the 1800s. And it meant that those that couldn’t be there in person could listen in, which seems quite a relevant example today. We also have research reports and technical designs. One example being the telephone installation for Scott’s mission to the Antarctic in 1910. A huge collection of advertising material, war time posters, for example, that encourage the subscriber to telephone less to save the telephone lines for important war work. And then a rich phonebook collection spanning from the very first in 1880 to today. The first one is actually only six pages long and it had no telephone numbers in it. The subscriber would go direct to the operator and then be connected directly to the person that they needed.

BT Archives collaborated with Sarah Jackson on the Crossed Lines project. It’s allowed us to reach audiences that traditionally might not have known about us. Using our collections as inspiration for creative responses and to provide historical context, Sarah has also uncovered gems in the collection that we were unaware of in the process. Correspondence between Sylvia Pankhurst and the Post Office about telephone tapping in the 1930s was a discovery she made, which led to press and media coverage. Our collection touches on many different topics and themes. The telephone, language, communications from afar being just a few. Archives can offer the opportunity to mine seams of information, to follow leads, to discover the factual, the contextual, and sometimes the unusual.

As this is part of the ‘Hello’ section, I’ll end by sharing one written record from our collection. These are printed instructions by the Post Office Telephones section from 1923 and it told you the correct way to ‘pass’ or to make a telephone call. I’ll read an extract from it: “Passing a call. Before passing a call to the exchange the subscriber should wait until he hears the telephonist’s ‘number please?’ and then speaking clearly and distinctly with the lips almost touching the mouthpiece, he should state the number required.

Answering a call. The call should be answered promptly. On taking the receiver, the called subscriber should not say ‘hello’ or ‘who’s that’, but should immediately announce his name. A householder would say: ‘Mr. Thomas Brown speaking’, the maidservant: ‘Mr. Brown’s house’. Mr. Brown, in his office, would say ‘Brown and company, Mr. Thomas Brown speaking’. Finish of conversation. The receiver should be replaced immediately the conversation is finished. Failure to do so may result in serious inconvenience.”

So now you know how to pass a call properly. This has been Anne Archer speaking, replacing my receiver immediately. Thank you.