Historical information

Australia's first telephone exchange was opened in Melbourne in August 1880. It was operated by the Melbourne Telephone Exchange Company. Owned by W. H. Masters and T. T. Draper, the Manager of the Company was H. Byron Moore.
This was only two years after the world's first exchange in the United States, and just four years after Bell first spoke on a telephone. The exchange was located in the old Stock Exchange building at 367 Collins Street, a site now occupied by the Commonwealth Bank. In 1884, the operations of the Company, by then known as the Victorian Telephone Exchange Company, had grown considerably and were transferred to Wills Street, Melbourne. Private ownership of this company continued until 1887 when it was bought out by the Victorian Colonial Government. Other colonial governments followed this example.
By 1910, the growth in telephone services made additional accommodation necessary. This could not be provided in the existing building in Wills Street and arrangements were made for a new exchange in Lonsdale Street. Alexander Graham Bell visited Australia in 1910 to advise the Federal Government's Postal Commission.

Telephone exchanges were established in Adelaide with (48 subscribers), Hobart (10 subscribers) and Launceston (35 subscribers).
The first exchange in Western Australia was established in 1887 and located in a small three-room cottage in Wellington Street, Perth with 17 subscribers. The year 1888 marked the opening of the Fremantle exchange in a small room at the rear of the Town Hall. There were nine subscribers.
Australia's first automatic exchange was installed in the GPO in Sydney, in 1911, for internal use. But the first automatic exchange for public use was opened at Geelong in Victoria in the next year July 1912 with 800 subscribers.
Melbourne's first automatic exchange was opened in the suburb of Brighton in 1914; the first public automatic exchange in NSW began operating at Newtown, Sydney in 1915; and Queensland's first was installed at South Brisbane in 1925.
1929 saw the opening of Tasmania's first automatic exchange in Hobart. an automatic telephone service. In June 1977, the manual telephone exchange at Swansea was replaced with an automatic service and made Tasmania the first State in Australia to have a fully automatic network.
The half-century following Federation saw the growth of the automatic operation; a great extension of trunk line services; The automatic telephone contributed greatly to the early popularity of telephones in Australia. It was a quicker and more convenient way of communicating with another person on the same exchange — instead of having to go through tedious processes with the operator. From its introduction, the number of automatic telephones in operation grew to a remarkable extent.
In 1886, the first trunk link of 16 km was connected to the exchanges of Adelaide and Port Adelaide in South Australia.
Then, in 1907, the first inter-capital telephone trunk line was opened between Sydney and Melbourne. It was followed by a line between Melbourne and Adelaide in 1914. Sydney and Brisbane were linked in 1923, and Perth and Adelaide in 1930.
In 1930, the first overseas calls from Australia came possible with the introduction of a radiotelephone service to England, and through there to Europe and America. A similar service opened to New Zealand in the same year.
Initially, trunk channels linked different manual trunk exchanges. It was necessary for a succession of trunk operators to connect the appropriate channels, one after the other until the connection was made. As trunk traffic grew. the system became increasingly unsuitable. More trunk operators had to be employed and so labour costs increased. It was a tedious and slow way of making a long-distance call, and it was sometimes hard to hear, particularly when several exchanges were linked
With technical advances, trunk switching moved from manual operation through a partly automatic phase. Automatic transit switching equipment was used and only a single operator was required to connect a trunk call to a wanted automatic subscriber. Until well beyond the middle of this century, the majority of trunk traffic went through this single telephonist control.
In 1953, the number of telephones in use in Australia passed the one million mark. By then, the need for improvement in the automatic exchanges was becoming well recognised. The need was for a telephone switching system which would do a better job more economically than the conventional step-by-step ex-change. This led to the adoption of the Crossbar system as the standard in automatic telephone exchanges in 1960. The introduction of Crossbar switching was a big step forward in the automation of trunk calls. It substituted automatic switching and charging equipment for the originating trunk operator, and improved the quality of the system radically. Before the introduction of the Crossbar system there were often very long delays in obtaining a booked trunk call, and the quality of sound was often very poor.
With Crossbar, Subscriber Trunk Dialing (STD) became a reality. A trunk call by STD was as easy to make and almost as fast to connect as a local call.


The item was made around the 1940s and used up until the 1970s in manual cord telephone exchanges as a way to time and charge users for trunk calls made over the telecom system of the time.

Physical description

Post Master General dept. - Trunk Call Timer.

Inscriptions & markings

Inscribed PMG, C. of A, 37. Bell chimes at 3 min increments.