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The Commercial Cable Company, more recently

The Company






Cable connections




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Bob Abrams helpfully explains the history of the company in latter years:
CCC began operations in 1884 in the UK. It operated as a independent telegraph/lease line company under the terms of a 15 year licence issued by the British Post Office. This was one of several such licences given to American owned Telegraph companies in the UK. These licences had a five year cessation notice period. They where re-issued without problems until the early 1980's.

ITT bought CCC in 1927, their first purchase in the UK.
[They continued to trade as the Commercial Cable Company in the UK and elsewhere, although for corporate purposes they preferred to regard it as part of the American Cable and Radio Corporation - another ITT acquisition.]

Mrs Thatcher's Government gave CCC and the others a five year notice to cease operations (Although not officially stated, the Government intended to privatize British Telecom, who had taken over the PO's role in telegraphs). The Government/BT wanted the opposition out of the way (My view !). After a long lobbying campaign, CCC managed to obtain one of the new 'Value Added Licences' which in some part replaced the loss of its messaging services. After the closeout of telegram services in the UK, it could still offer 'store and forward Telex/FAX' messaging services to UK business.

It also developed its own range of message switching computers. These were sold in some quantity to City of London blue chip organisations. CCC continued to operate in the UK up to 1988 when ITT Corporation decided to sell off its ITT Worldcom division, of which CCC was the European hub. At the same time, a group of USA business men bought the old Western Union Domestic company and immediately also purchased ITT Worldcom. Within two years they asset stripped (My view !) these companies, selling off their divisions piecemeal. CCC ceased business altogether in the UK in 1988. It was swallowed by Western Union.
To see some example cablegrams from 1925 click here (from Bill McLaughlin).
Reminiscences from Chris Knight, who worked for CC after the cables were abandoned but not before the "cable working" practices had died.
Training in how to type correctly for the cable circuits and telex positions took place in the CCC Training school under the direction of 'Nobby' Clark. From memory it was a case of getting a rhythm going first so that you typed at the same speed (usually very slowly to start with) but to keep the same pace going. This progressed (without looking at the keys - 'Nobby' used to have pieces of card over the keyboard so that we couldn't cheat) so that the speed increased and, at the same time, you had to make sure that what you were typing was clean with no mistakes. Eventually (after what seemed an eternity but, from memory was no more than 3 months or so as you were also doing your other work as well but I stand to be corrected on the time limit here) you were entered into a test to see if you could pass out of the school to go onto the teleprinters. Once again, from memory, the figures that seem to come back to me are that for the teleprinters you had to type at a speed of approx. 50 words per minutes (wpm) cleanly for 5 mins and to eventually go onto the cable circuits you had to type at a speed of 66 wpm cleanly for more than 5 mins.

During that time you were also taught to learn to read the 5 unit hole tape which was a necessity when you worked in a telegraph office. Many years later I came across some of this tape and was able to pick it up and instantly read it again - I guess it's like riding a bike, you never forget. Also there was a special way of storing this tape if you needed it again a bit later in the shift which involved entwining it round your fingers. It was described by a fellow operator as follows "Clamp the start of the slip between first and second finger of left hand threading it down between the third and fourth fingers, round back of the fourth and up between the thumb and first fingers infinitum". At that point you could put the end of the tape through the loop and then hang it up and even if you held both ends of the tape you could shake it for all your might and it would never loose that loop shape.

Another item that holds memories were the 5 letter code words that CCC used along with various other telegraph companies. There were so many that there was a blue book that CCC used to have which was full of them and they all had different meanings. It was a case of cutting down on space and time which was, obviously, at a premium on cable circuits. Some of them that spring to mind (and their meanings) were RAFSO (2nd request), RATEB (3rd request), UCSEX (give special attn), WAPUC (reply urgently), POMZO (forwarded subject to correction}, WAPEZ (endeavour to get prompt reply), POFIH (correct if nec.) and POMDU (delete 'correction to follow' in service instructions).

Cutting down on time and space was at a premium therefore you found that all operators were conversant with 'Cablese' a language all of its own which was a language similar to text language of the modern day. This gave rise to messages which were not understood by other people but would involve cutting out letters that were not necessary, using code words and abbreviating several words into letters - an example would be "tx fr yr ltr wl c u ltr tnt krs wapuc pofih" - translated this would mean "Thanks for your letter, will see you later tonight. Kind regards. Please reply urgently and correct if necessary". Note that 'ltr' could have two meanings in this example and would be used in conjunction with it's position in the sentence and in what context it was used in thus avoiding mistakes.

One other memory that used to amaze visitors to the Instrument Room was the fact that operators could type at a speed of 66 wpm whilst reading the message in front of them but to also be able to hold a conversation with the operator next to them!
Click on the thumbnails to see CCC documents / items



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