Harry S Wragge (1985 - Dec 1992)

Harry Wragge

Mr. Harry Wragge was promoted to the position of Director, Research, following the retirement of Mr Ed Sandbach in January 1985. Harry's previous office was that of Assistant Director in the Business Development Directorate at Headquarters, a post which he held for about two years. However, Harry was no stranger to the Laboratories, having spent most of his professional career as a member of the staff of the Laboratories from 1955 to 1981.

Harry joined the Research Laboratories of the then Postmaster General's (PMG) Department in 1955 after completing a 5 year Departmental Cadetship during which he obtained the degrees of Bachelor of Electrical Engineering (First Class Honours) and Master of Engineering Science (Honours) from Melbourne University.

In 1956, Mr. Wragge was promoted to the position Divisional Engineer (later classified Engineer Class 3) in charge of the VF Transmission, Switching and Signalling Division of the Laboratories; he occupied this position until 1963. In this period, he was concerned with the first applications of transistors in network systems and equipment, including the development of an experimental, all-electronic PABX: about 1960. Harry led the development of the Laboratories' research activities in the switching and signalling field until 1979, earning successive promotions up to Assistant Director-General, Switching and Signalling, in 1972. When Telecom Australia was formed in 1975, Harry continued this work in the re-named office of Assistant Director, Switching and Signalling. This era saw a significant growth in research and experimental development on switching and signalling topics in the Laboratories, and as a result, an increase in Telecom's participation in the activities of relevant CCITT Study Groups.

Notable achievements of this period under Harry's leadership include the development of an experimental, all-electronic, stored program controlled (SPC) tandem exchange which utilised digital techniques to integrate switching and transmission (IST) functions. This experimental development was a notable "first" for Australia and was among the first in the world. This SPC/IST exchange provided a test bed for early studies and the development of expertise within PMG/Telecom in the fields of SPC techniques, digital switching and transmission techniques and the emerging logic/memory device technologies. Studies of processor loading and exchange traffic capacity were performed with the aid of this "test bed", and this work enabled Australia to join in international trials of the CCITT No 6 Common Channel Signalling System in the early 1970s. Following laboratory trials, the IST tandem exchange was placed on field trial, in August 1974, in service in the Melbourne telephone network, using PCM transmission systems for network interfacing. The exchange successfully and reliably carried live traffic for the 4-year period of the trial and also provided a basis for further investigations of remotely controlled switching stages and of exchange management and maintenance practices relevant to the new SPC control techniques. The knowledge gained during this era assisted Telecom's planning studies which were ultimately expressed in the decision to move from crossbar exchange technology to SPC digital technology in the latter half of the 1970s. Research studies on the new topic of data switching techniques followed on as a natural extension of the work on telephone switching, developed under Mr. Wragge's leadership.

In July 1979, following a re-organisation of the Laboratories, Harry moved to anew field of customer-services-oriented research, taking up the office of Assistant Director in charge of the newly established Customer Systems and Facilities Branch. In this position, Harry led the development of an extended programme of research activity into new types of services, which were becoming realisable with new technologies. This work anticipated the demands which were emerging from the needs of business for computer-based services, and which would impact strongly on Telecom's planning studies and future actions to implement the integrated services digital network (ISDN) concept in Australia. This work engaged the attention of both engineers and applied scientists, and also of social scientists, reflecting the growing concern of Telecom to ascertain the social and business needs of its customers in a future of service diversification and multi-service networks.

Throughout his period as a member of Laboratories' staff, Harry has been involved in the activities of the CCITT. In particular, from 1976 to 1980, he was Vice- Chairman of the CCITT Study Group which was concerned with the development of standards for digital networks.

In November 1981, Harry was seconded to assist the Director, Business Development, in the presentation of Telecom Australia's case to the Inquiry commissioned by the Government (better known as the Davidson Inquiry) into Telecommunications in Australia. In May 1985, following the publication of the Inquiry Report and the clarification of Telecom's role by the Government, Mr Wragge was promoted to the position of an Assistant Director in the Business Development Directorate, where he was concerned with strategic business studies and the formulation of Telecom's strategies relating to the interconnection of private networks, industry relationships and charging principles.

Throughout his professional career, Mr Wragge was an active member of the Institution of Engineers (Australia) and of the Telecommunication Society of Australia. He was chairman of the Institution's National Committee on Electronics and Communications from 1976 to 1979 and a member of the Board of the Institution's College of Electrical Engineering from 1969 to 1978. Harry has not only contributed papers to the publications of the Telecommunication Society but also served as a foundation member of the Editorial Board of Australian Telecommunication Research from 1968 to 1982. Harry's personal interests included sailing and also yachting administration. He was Commodore of the Frankston Yacht Club from 1978 to 1981 and was Junior Vice-President of the Victorian Yachting Council.

Harry was admitted to membership of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day honours of 1989. In the citation accompanying the award of this honour, reference was made to Harry's eminent contributions to the service of telecommunications technology during a career spanning four decades, mostly in the Telecom Research Laboratories. In the Clyde Street Mall, in Frankston, this plaque pays tribute to Harry.

Hary died in 2023. See this obituary.

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Last updated: Feb 2020