Futures defined by technology
  • Insights
  • November 2018

Futures defined by technology

This weekend commemorates 100 years since the end of the First World War, where we will remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice to keep our country safe.  Not to detract in any way from the importance of this weekend’s Remembrance Day events, we thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of the emerging technologies of the time that helped our service men and women and ultimately defined our future.

Although it’s hard to believe, the First World War is regularly referred to as the modern war, and whilst a lot of these references will have almost certainly come from the artillery that was being used, communication technology also played a vital role.

BT as we know it today, was called the General Post Office (GPO) back then, which processed a combination of written form communication, such as letters and telegrams. They also handled all the telephone conversations through the use of a telephone exchange – a manually operated telecommunication system that facilitated telephone calls between users via the use of switches.

Although the GPO was a vital component of the First World War, helping to provide a defence against the German revered Zeppelin airship, it was the Second Wold War that saw the GPO and wider technology really influence the outcome of the war.

In fact, when you take a look at some of the earliest computer technology, the 1940’s are about as early as you can go back to see machines that have been developed with a sense of purpose, like solving complex mathematical equations. This era saw the success of two of the first computer driven technology, the Enigma machine and ‘Colossus’.

The Enigma machine, a German designed piece of technology that the British famously used for cracking the German’s encrypted messages, is considered to be one of the most critical pieces of technology that defined the outcome of the war. Not to detract from ‘Colossus’, technology designed by a research telephone engineer and GPO employee, Colossus was the world’s first semi-programmable electronic computer, responsible for deciphering coded messages from German officials. It’s fair to say these machines helped to put technology in the spotlight and almost certainly played an influencing role. 

Technology continues to play a significant role within the armed forces. It keeps vital lines of communication open, Provides the ability to analyse and intercept communications and informs Commanders on the ground dealing with some of the most highly sensitive operations.


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