The first telegraph line in Australia was built between Melbourne and Williamstown. It opened on 3 March 1854, by 1861 there are 110 telegraph stations operating along the Eastern States. In 1877 the Perth to Adelaide telegraph line opens.
Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone. By 1878 the first long-distance call trials are conducted in Australia at a range of 400km. The first telephone exchanges open in Melbourne and Brisbane by 1880.
The first public telephone is placed at Sydney's General Post Office. By 1900, there are 30,000 operating telephone services, but no central authority to run and maintain them.
All communication services – postal, telegraph and telephone – are placed under the Postmaster General's Department (PMG). Phone services continue to expand, but Telegraph is still the communications medium of choice. The Sydney to Melbourne trunk telephone line opens in 1907, making inter-city chat a reality.
Telephone connections flourish with trunk lines extended between Melbourne and Adelaide. The outbreak of the First World War sees responsibility for wireless communications pass briefly from the PMG to the Navy, but this is flipped back to the PMG by 1920.
Trunk lines extend out between Sydney and Brisbane in 1922 and between Melbourne and Perth by 1930. By 1925, the first three-channel telephone carrier systems are in place, allowing multiple calls to be run along a single wire.
The longest -- at that time -- submarine cable between the mainland and Tasmania, enables communication services for the Apple isle. By the end of the decade, Darwin would be the only capital city not connected to the rest of the PMG's telecoms network.
As global communications become more important, the Commonwealth Government establishes the Overseas Telecommunications Commission to provide telecoms services between Australia and the rest of the world. By 1948 it's possible to phone ships at sea, and a radio telephone service links Australia and Antarctica.
Temporary services between Australia and Finland are installed for the Helsinki Olympic games. It's the 1956 Melbourne Olympics that kick start new innovations, as more telecommunication flow into and out of the Games than ever before. The introduction of the automatic TRESS (Teleprinter Reperforator Exchange Switching System) signals the end for morse transmission of messages.
On 13 December the last Morse code telegram message is sent. In 1964 the first coaxial cable links Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. It allows for thousands of simultaneous calls and TV retransmissions. The first satellite broadcasts take place in 1966 and 1967. By 1969 Australia is part of a process that allows viewers to watch the first man on the moon.
The Postmaster General's Department is split into the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission, trading as Telecom. The new body provides international direct dialing (IDD) by 1976 to an initial 13 countries. By 1980, use of IDD grows 800 per cent. The first push button phones go on sale in 1978, slowly replacing their rotary predecessors.
Telecom offers its very first mobile phone in the form of a car phone. Computerisation defines telecommunications in the 1980s, with Telecom setting up its first computerised exchange in Victoria in 1981. In 1988 the first electronic White Pages are introduced.
Telecom merges with the Overseas Telecommunications Corporation and changes its name to Telstra, firstly overseas in 1993 and domestically in 1995. The internet becomes a core part of our business, with BigPond launching in 1996, along with our high-speed cable internet service in the same year. 1997 sees Telstra shares listed on the ASX for the first time.
Optical fibres are installed into the domestic network. High Definition TV (HDTV) and multi-media equipment becomes cost-effective for domestic use. 2004: BigPond Movies and BigPond Music are launched. 2007: The age of the smartphone begins.
View more historical equipment and archives at a Telstra Museum. Our collection, accumulated over more than 50 years, contains items developed and used across Australia as part of the Postmaster-General's (PMG) Department, Telecom and Telstra. To find your local Telstra Museum, visit the contact us page.