Day 113: Rings a bell

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Telecommunications museum

A RATHER austere brick building facing hectic Sandgate Road at Clayfield is actually full of surprises.

Hiding behind three old weeping figs (I think that’s what they are but either way they are big and beautiful) and a delightful old-fashioned bus stop, the Telstra Museum, founded 1952, is all about Queensland’s telecommunications history.

telecommunications museum
My how phones have changed

Now, before ruling out the idea of museum prowling as though it’s not something we have done in every other capital city in the world, let me assure you that this one is rather special.

It’s quite a trip down memory lane for some of us – remember those old black public phones that had the A and B buttons to push so that your coin either went through to the place the call or slipped back out into a little tray?

old public phone
The old black public phone

Even if you can’t remember them, this is a good chance to see how things happened before the arrival of the smartphone.

public phone
The 1980s model was so sophisticated by comparison

The telecommunication industry has moved so quickly, it’s already fascinating to see a display of mobile phones from the early models that came in shoebox size – not that long ago – to the various handsets since that already look so terribly old-fashioned.

The same goes for telephones, from the old black system that hung on the wall to elegant handsets and those oh-so-modern dial phones (came in ivory, green, black and red when they peaked in fashion) to the exciting advent of push button phones.

telecommunications museum
Entry to the museum

(Those old dials took so long that I often wondered why in an emergency we didn’t dial 111 rather than 000 at the far end of the dial.)

But wind back the clock further and there is morse code, telegrams and telex machines; World War II training apparatus, switchboards and lots of historic photos.

Clayfield telecommunications museum
Marconi in all his glory

For those who never knew or who have all but forgotten, the display of public phones is a cracker as is the story of telegrams and post.

Clayfield telecommunications museum
A tree root strangles the line and ends the call

If you want to get into the technical, there are samples of cable and if you catch a guide he can tell you all about the optical cable and the evolution of cabling.

There is an illustrious bust of Marconi out the front and the entry is a very impressive recreation of an old red public phone box.

There are some great little cafes nearby to round out the trip.

The Telstra Museum is open Wednesdays 9am-2.30pm (or group booking by appointment) and entry is by gold coin donation. See telemuseum.org for more information.

Clayfield telecommunications museum
In the beginning