History of the Telstra Research Laboratories



Video Clips
Audio Clips
Media Items
Official Staff Photos
Unofficial Staff Photos
Other History Sites
Miscellaneous Items

Sidney Herbert Witt, founder of the Research Laboratories in 1923

Telstra and its predecessors, the PostMaster Generals Department and Telecom Australia, pioneered the provision of many telecommunication services in Australia. Many would not have occurred without the ideas and assistance from staff at the Telstra Research Laboratories. Two notable pioneering efforts are the Digital Radio Concentrator System (DRCS) and the Priority™ One3 system. Both these systems are highlighted in the Introduction to the History of the Telstra Research Laboratories.

A chronological listing of Notable Events and Technical Achievements since the inception of the Research Laboratories in 1923.

Sidney Herbert Witt (1923-1945)
Eric Percival Wright (1945-1953)
Norman James McCay (1953-1960)

Leonard Michael Harris O.B.E. (1960-1964)
Percy Rollo Brett O.B.E. (1964-1975)
Edward F Sandbach (1975-1985)
Harry S Wragge (1985 -Dec 1992)
Ray Liggett (Dec 1992 - Sept 1993)
Bruno Sorrentino (Sept 1993 - Oct 1993)
James Park (Oct 1993 - March 1995)
Noel Teede (March 1995 - June 1995)
Graham Shepherd (June 1995 - Feb 1997)
Hugh Bradlow (Feb 1997 - June 2000)
Paul Kirton (June 2000 - June 2001)
Hugh Bradlow (July 2001 - Dec 2005)

Video Clips
None of the video or audio clips are available on any internet video/audio streaming service such as YouTube because many are long, may be copyright, controversial and the people shown in the clips, or their relatives may get upset. The links below only provide details about the clips.

If you really want to see the clips, a set of 8 DVD size data discs is available at no cost. The discs contain a copy of the internet site “History of the TRL Research Labs” including all the video and audio clips. The discs also contain copies of TRL seminar videos presented in the TRL auditorium in 2001 (15 videos) and 2002 (38 videos). For details on how to obtain the DVD's email me (address is on first page of www.coxhill.com).

Propagation Section (1966 and early 1970's) (8 videos)
Andre Domjan Lecture (1972)
Tomorrow is Now (1973)
Revolt of the Instruments (1973)
Open Days (1973)
1930's Electronic Laboratory (1973)
Training Annex (1974)
Digital Telephony in Australia (1978)
API Children's Christmas Parties (1978)
The Busy Ray (c1979/1980)
Rings Of Fire (1981)
Lightning Research (1983)
Caldermeade Construction (1983)
Engineering Equipment Section (1985)
ISDN Tutorial (1985)
Cockatoo Feeder Damage (1985)
Telecom and You (1986)
Rathdowne St Move (1986) (5 videos)
Hec Ruddell (1987)
The Telecom Report (1988) (8 videos)
Information Age (1989)
Recruitment (1989)
Telecom Today (1989)
Lightning Lab (1990)
Speaking Clock (1990)
Laserlink (1991)
IST Shutdown (1991)
Leap Second (1992)
Blattnerphone (1992)
Videophone (1992)
Antenna Calibrations (1992)
OATS Building Construction (1992)
Caldermeade (1993)
Telstra Song (1994)
Telstra Song & International Vision and Strategy (1994)
Wombat & Cockatoo Damage (1994)
Multimedia Lab (1996)
Human Factors (1997)
Telstra. The Inside Story (1998)
Internet Fridge (1999ish)
Laboratories 75 Year (1999)
Telstra. Getting Ready for the Year 2000 Transition (1999)
Lightning Lab Demonstration (2000)
Telstra Values (2000) (3 videos)
Testing New Technology (2000ish)
BigTV (2001)
Science In Schools project (2001)
Showcase Opening (2001)
TRL Seminars (2001) (15 Videos)
Interactive TV (2001 - 2003) (13 Videos)
TRL Seminars (2002) (38 Videos)
Catalyst featuring Geoff Huston (2002)
Various non-TRL (19??)
Lyrebird (2003)
80th Year Anniversary (2003) (4 videos)
Telstra/Samsung Announcement (2004)
Various TRL (2004) (3 videos)
Various TRL Promotional Videos (2004) (2 videos)
Various TRL (2003/04/05) (6 videos)
Telstra Innovations Promotion (2004)
Customer Focused Design (2004)
TTIP Conference (2004) ((11 Videos)
Telstra Promotion (2004)

Audio Clips
Albert Syler (1975) (why lasers won't work) (8 Mins)
Telstra Song (1994) (8 Mins)
iRadio Transmission #2 (2000) (5 audio tracks 1 Min, 21 Mins, 9 Mins, 10 Mins & 1 Min)
Hugh Bradlow on KissFm (2002) (21 Mins)
Telstra New Wave & Telstra Research Labs Collaboration Pt 1 (2003) (03:53 Mins)
Telstra New Wave & Telstra Research Labs Collaboration Pt 2 (2003) (06:32 Mins)
Hugh Bradlow at National Press Club (2006) (55 Mins)
See also TRL Christmas Carols below.

The Research Laboratories staff and equipment were accommodated in a variety of buildings over the years. From about 1940 to 1988, accommodation was scattered in buildings around the Melbourne Central Business District. In 1988, all Sections of TRL was finally located on one site in Clayton. The History of Laboratories Accommodation over the years is detailed in this section.

The Research Laboratories utilised a variety of Computing devices over the years. A brief History of Laboratories Computing is given in this section.

The Research Laboratories were a prolific source of publications. A brief History of Laboratories Publications is given in this section.
A large collection of non-Research Laboratories publications in PDF format is available for downloading. The collection includes The Telecommunications Journal of Australia, promotional, historical, catalogues, training, installation, and some overseas publications.

Media Items
Media items about TRL.

Official Staff Photos
(click on photo for larger view)
Applied Science Branch (March 1987)
Applied Science Branch (March 1989)
Switched Networks Branch (February 1992)
Telecommunication Science & Technology Branch (March 1995)
Networks Branch (May 1996)
Information Networking Section (June 1996)

Unofficial Staff Photos
Unofficial Staff Photos, Buildings & Equipment

(Permission granted from TelSoc to publish)
Reg Coutts
Rollo Brett
Gavan Rosman
Harry Wragge

Links to other Australian Telecommunication History Sites
Australasian Telephone Collectors Society
Historical Radio Society of Australia
Australian Computer Society
Victorian Telecommunications Museum Inc
Telecommunications and the Digital Economy (TelSoc)
Old Australian Telephones

Photographs and information about the Old Port Kembla Exchange
Photographs related to old Microwave Installations
That Exchange Project (A tribute to the craftsmanship of heritage telecommunications equipment, and an era when telephone exchanges were home to communities of people who spent their lives living and breathing with the equipment, so that the rest of us could be connected)
History of Telephone Communication
Overseas Telecommunications Veterans Association Founded by a group of like-minded veterans with a desire to maintain valuable friendships forged while working in the telecommunications industry

Miscellaneous Items
Memories of TRL Some memories from Rick Coxhill who worked at TRL for 39 years.
A Day in the Life of a Section Head Some stories from Gavan Rosman.
Skeletons in the Cupboard The dark side of TRL.
Tool Kit Numbers
A 1968 list of staff and their Tool Kit Numbers. When a person joined the Laboratories, they were issued with a set of tools with a unique number engraved on the tool. Discontinued in the 1970's.
Chronicles of Trel
Satirical look at events in TRL from 2001 to 2005. Only meaningful to those who worked at TRL since about 1990. The chronicles were supplied to me anonymously.
Keeping in Contact A private Facebook group to keep in contact with xTRLer's.
A tasteless posting to the aus.flame newsgroup in 1991 that nearly got the TRL internet connection cut off and resulted in internal newsgroup censorship.
The Big Walk The story and pictures of three intrepid staff who, on their first day at the new Clayton site in 1978, walked to Clayton from their old building in the Melbourne CBD carrying the old buildings name plate.
The Telecom Australia Research Laboratories Xmas Card
The Scientists Poster No 5 Featuring Albert Syler.
The TRL Christmas Carols In 1991, and for a few years afterwards, a group of TRL staff sang Christmas carols to entertain the staff. Some recordings of the presentations are supplied here.
Copy of a plaque presented to TRL by NASA for technical assistance with the first moon landing
Anecdotes. Anecdotes about TRL from "Alan", who worked in other areas of the PMG/Telecom.
Vale Fred Symons. An address presented by Peter Gerrand at Fred’s funeral.
Research Laboratories Functions and Organisation 1968. Discusses the Role of Professional Officers.
Staff Establishment. 22.04.81.
Internal Telephone Directory. May 1983.
Organisation Chart. 05.06.1990.
Staff Establishment. 31.08.1990.
Internal Telephone Directory March 2000.
Internal Telephone Directory May 2003.
Technicians School Tooronga. General School Rules c1950s
Technician in Training General Information for Trainees 1961
Technician in Training Exam Results. Exam held 15th September 1962
Tools Issued to 1st Year TITs 1963
Appointment as Technician in Training Exam Instructions 1966
List of Successful Technicians in Training 1966
List of Successful Technicians in Training 1967. Handwritten list.
Technician Pay Rates 1967
Technician in Training Career Advertisement 1968
List of Technicians Qualified as Senior Technician
. 21st August 1970
Technology Dispute Discussion Paper. The technology dispute in the 1970s between unions and management was a bitter and protracted affair. This document discusses some of the issues. Don't know where this came from.
A Report on the examination of a Touchfone 12 printed wiring board and component mounting. (1980).
Historical Study of Telecom And Its Antecedents. Some early history of Telecommunications in Tasmania (1981).
History of Telecom Australia Research Laboratories. Early history of the Research Labs (1984)
Bibliography of History of Telecommunications in Australia (1980).
Web Services. Telstra poster (2000?).
PTTA Reference Book (1960). Conditions Of Employment As Contained In Public Service Act, Regulations, General Orders, Public Service Board Instructions And Related Determinations.
Obituary for Jim Fisher It appeared in the Dec 1992 edition of Electronics Australia. Jim was known as the father of TV. He worked in the Research Laboratories for a while.

Closure of TRL
TRL Closes TRL officially closed its operations in December 2005. About 80% of the staff accepted redundancies and the rest obtained positions in other areas of Telstra. Unofficially, the last light was turned off on 7th September 2007. The buildings were demolished a few years later.


·         Rick Coxhill for initiating the concept of documenting TRL History and on-going updates.

·         Paul Howell - for recovering the "Tomorrow is Now" film from the dump master and arranging conversion to MPEG format.

·         Michael Wilkins - for initial MPEG conversions.

·         Katinka Emmer - for site design, initial creation, and on-going updates whilst TRL was active.

·         Joe Briganti - for on-going updates, MPEG conversions and lots of information.

·         PMG, TRL and Telstra staff - for historical material and information relating to computing and accommodation.


Last updated: Oct 2023