Sunday History Photo / Au

Submitted: Sunday, Mar 20, 2011 at 07:20
ThreadID: 85106 Views:5908 Replies:4 FollowUps:3
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The Postmaster-General's Department (PMG) was created at Federation in 1901 to control all postal (and later, telecommunications) services within Australia. Its minister was the Postmaster-General. In mid-1975 it was disaggregated into the Australian Telecommunications Commission (trading as Telecom Australia) and the Australian Postal Commission (trading as Australia Post). It also controlled radio and television broadcast licensing, which is now controlled by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Telecom Australia changed its name to Telstra in 1995.

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From the earliest days of European settlement in Australia, communication services have been seen as the almost exclusive responsibility of government. For the first decades of British governance no reliable mail service existed on the new continent. Messages, both between the colonies and internationally, were sent primarily by an ad hoc system of favours and paid messengers. It was not until 1821 that the first regular postal service began, initially operating only within New South Wales. Even then there were no truly reliable postal services within the new colonies until 1832, when Tasmania established the first post office as a Government Department. The other colonies quickly followed and soon Australia’s fledgling mail network was entirely run and regulated by government. This began a pattern that was to dominate the communication industry for the next 150 years - almost complete government control of Australia’s communications services.

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The postal service within the colonies grew quickly, thanks mainly to the gold rush of the 1850s. As people flooded into Australia in search of fortune, sizeable townships built up where previously there had been nothing but the occasional squatter’s hut. The sudden increase in population meant a need for more and better communications networks, and post offices began to spring up throughout the country. Soon every major rural centre had a postmaster of its own. These offices became an important part of the social system, providing a link to friends and family. They also provided an important link to the authorities of the colonies, becoming the principal symbol of civil governance in the most isolated areas.
In a country as large and isolated as Australia a communication system that relied on horseback could only go so far. When the telegraph first appeared in Europe in 1844, the young country was quick to adopt the new technology. Morse code was brought to Australia in 1853 by Samuel McGowan, and by 1859 telegraph cables linked Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and even Tasmania. By the mid-1860s all regional centres in the south east of the country were part of a virtually instantaneous communications network owned, maintained and managed by government. The final and most significant breakthrough was made in 1872, when Sturt’s crossing of the Northern Territory enabled the establishment of Australia’s first international telecommunications system, a telegraph link to Asia. This in turn linked Australia to the European and American lines, and Australia finally ended its isolation from the rest of the world.
Leading up to and immediately following World War II, the communications industry worldwide entered a period of extreme activity and technological development. Microwave radio, transistors, the first rockets and even early computers began to make an appearance. True to form, Australia was in the forefront of adopting these new developments. The first television broadcast was made from Sydney in 1956, and just six years later television was available in all capital cities except Darwin. The PMG even began to experiment with data services, sending computerised stock exchange and business information over the telephone system as early as 1964.

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In the meantime, Australia was also developing its international telecommunications networks, taking advantage of all available technology to improve communications links with the rest of the world. The Overseas Telecommunications Commission (OTC) was established in 1946 to oversee Australia’s international telecommunications services and their development towards world standards. It was becoming increasingly clear that traditional ground-based technology was not sufficient to bridge the great distances that separated Australia from the rest of the world. When the first international communications satellite, INTELSAT I, linked North America and Europe in 1965, OTC was already well into negotiations with the United States to launch a similar satellite providing links to the Southern Hemisphere. In 1966 INTELSAT II was launched, providing the first satellite link between Australia and the international telecommunications network. By 1968 the entire Australian telecommunications system was plugged into this network.

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And who remembers the Television viewers Licence.

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Reply By: aussiedingo. (River Rina) - Sunday, Mar 20, 2011 at 09:41

Sunday, Mar 20, 2011 at 09:41
G'day Doug, very interesting story, a bit more trivia, I had the first mobile phone issued by telecom to the public in Feb. 1985 - weighed 14.2kg!! Was 45cm long, 37cm wide & 16cm deep (copy letter enclosed)Image Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be Found
"the only thing constant in my life is change"

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Follow Up By: Dasher Des - Sunday, Mar 20, 2011 at 22:27

Sunday, Mar 20, 2011 at 22:27
I had the model that was pemanantly fixed in the vehicle. I t had a large box that fitted under the seat of my 60series landcruiser. It was wired through a relay into the horn so that when the phone rang, the horn blew. It cost about the same as your "brick" phone and was about $200/month connection fee.
It worked like a treat within about 80k's from the tower. It was limited to about a 1,000 users in each range. I recall my phone number started wit 007 LOL
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Follow Up By: bockstar1 - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 07:41

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 07:41
Yes, how times have changed.

I recall talking with a bloke years ago who used to work as a Real Estate Agent. He had one of these MTSs. He said it was a real treat to offer the phone to a prospective buyer whilst out and about looking at homes.
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Reply By: Shaker - Sunday, Mar 20, 2011 at 11:46

Sunday, Mar 20, 2011 at 11:46
I remember TV licences, most people put their TV aerials in their roof cavity.
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Reply By: Bazooka - Sunday, Mar 20, 2011 at 21:03

Sunday, Mar 20, 2011 at 21:03
Thanks Doug.

The old 'Pigs Meat and Gravy' as my late father and others called it. Not sure of the origin of that term but it is fairly typical Aussie slang.
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Follow Up By: Shaker - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 11:36

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 11:36
Also known as "Pigs Must Grunt"

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Reply By: Member - Steve M1 - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 01:37

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 01:37
Thank you very much Doug, that was very interesting.

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