Collection


Birth of Telecommunication in Sri Lanka.

The first electrical telegraph line in Ceylon was commissioned in January of 1858, the same year that the Ceylon Railway was inaugurated.  The telegraph wire stretched between Colombo and Galle, which was then the island's busiest seaport.  This pioneering effort consisted of a 74-mile long telegraph line stretching between the two town centres,  using the ubiquitous coconut trees in place of telegraph poles The technology used was that of the needle telegraph,  invented by Cooke and Wheatstone.  Despite the difficulties of maintaining the coastal telegraph lines which were exposed to the full force of the monsoon winds,  the authorities pressed ahead with their plans of creating a telegraphic network in the island,  establishing the next section of line between Colombo and Kandy six months later,  in June of 1858.  As documented in Arnold Wright's definitive work,  Twentieth Century Impressions of Ceylon,  other difficulties in maintaining the many miles of wire included “herds of wild elephants roaming the countryside[who]  knocked down posts and broke the wires"

 

International telegraphic links established.  In 1859,  the needle telegraph instrument in use in Ceylon was replaced by the Morse telegraph,  which had been invented in 1838 by American,  Samuel Morse(or rather by his assistant Alfred Vail as later came to light).  The Morse instrument was far easier to operate and was soon adopted as the new standard for telegraphy From 1864 to 1878,  telegraph lines were extended from Kandy through Dambulla to Trincomalee and from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya,  Jaffna,  Badulla,  Batticaloa and Panadura.  The telegraph also provided critical support function for train services,  in the form of railway signalling.  Separate railway and postal telegraph lines were constructed along the railway track from Colombo to Kandy and the original circuit along the cart road dismantled.  The telegraph had an enormous impact on trade,  commerce and government in Ceylon,  speeding up communications from days to minutes and thus increasingly the pace at which business and development took place.  While average citizens generally continued to rely on the postal service to exchange messages, nineteenth century society as a whole was gradually being transformed by the new wonder of instant communication.  In March 1865, Ceylon received its first telegraphic communications from Europe(via India)  and in August,  the first message from North America.  1865 was also the year that the International Telegraph Union the forerunner of the International Telecommunications Union,  was formed.  Representatives of twenty countries gathered in Paris on the 17th of May to adopt the first international conventions and telegraph regulations This is still celebrated as World Telecom Day. 

 

SLT and the National Telecommunications Museum

SLT is an integral part of this proud history and continues to evolve with technology and industry advancements. In order to showcase and share this memorable and transformative journey with the entire nation, SLT decided to convert its iconic Padukka Satellite Station into a museum that will display SLT’s valuable collection of communications items and take its visitors on a transformative journey of Sri Lanka’s telecommunications industry. This was declared open to the public on 17th May 2016.