After pioneering the pointer telegraph in 1847, Werner von Siemens dispatched his younger siblings to develop his patents internationally. Siemens Brothers & Co of London would go on to manufacture and install telegraph links across the British Empire, and by 1872 would become involved in an improbable project: an overland telegraph line stretching across the middle of Australia.
The South Australian Government would ultimately take on project management and commercial risk for the ambitious project, under the leadership of Postmaster General and Superintendent of Telegraphs, Charles Todd.
Siemens Bros & Co would supply 36,000 porcelain insulators for the telegraph lines, with Todd's party reliant upon camels and drivers to transport materials across the dry interior—as pioneered by Siemens Bros & Co on the installation of the London to Calcutta line in the decade prior.
With the overland sections of the line joined, it was Todd himself who on August 22, 1872 would tap out the first message using a portable relay set at a remote camp. Nine months behind schedule, the 2,700-kilometre Overland Telegraph Line and its 11 repeater stations cost the then princely sum of ₤479,175—more than AU$104 million in today's money!
Today, the Adelaide to Darwin Overland Telegraph Line is recognised as one of the great engineering achievements of 19th century Australia, and is credited with opening up telegraph communication from Australia to the world.
The Overland Telegraph had facilitated communication across mainland Australia, but what about Tasmania? Between the island and the mainland stretches the Bass Strait, a body of water that formed a 240-kilometre-long barrier preventing the direct and efficient dissemination of information.
All this would change in 1909, when Siemens' cable-laying ship the CS Faraday completed two new undersea telegraph cables under the Strait, finally linking Tasmania's capital city of Hobart with Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin and the world.
Siemens would return to the depths of the Bass Strait in 1936 with the opening of the region's first undersea telephone voice link, with a coaxial cable connecting the Victorian coastal town of Apollo Bay with Stanley on Tasmania's north-west coast—a world record distance at the time!
"Good evening, and welcome to television"
Television was brought into service just as the 1956 Summer Olympics would put Melbourne on the global stage. For locals who couldn't make it to the big events, black and white pictures were beamed directly into their sitting rooms for the first time—powered, of course, by Siemens transmitters.
It would be another decade before the initial range of valve-powered television receivers were superceded by transistor sets, with Siemens finally breaking through into the component supply market in 1968. That same year, engineers would complete a record-breaking coaxial route from Port Hedland to Perth via Carnarvon, a length of over 1900 kilometres! Carrying 1200 voice channels and a single television channel, it was this coaxial route that carried live footage of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon to viewers across Western Australia.
Positioned as pioneers in the television industry, Siemens would be selected for the initial order of colour television transmitters in 1973, with more and more Australians seeing pictures in colour for the first time throughout the rest of the decade.
Addressing the megatrends
From the year 2000, the world started to enter a new era of change: an era where Siemens started to help the world address the megatrends of demographic change, climate change, urbanisation and globalization.
In the first two decades of the 21st century, the transition to a more renewable energy future began to receive strong attention, as did the move towards intelligent infrastructure that is more automated and more digitalized. In 2014, the Snowtown II wind farm commenced generation as the first Australian onshore wind project for Siemens, today providing clean, emission-free power for 180,000 South Australian homes. Siemens' growing eMobility portfolio (pictured left) provides electric vehicle charging solutions to cities including Sydney, Brisbane, Auckland and Christchurch.
Siemens has been and continues to be at the forefront of transforming what has become the everyday.
Transforming the Everyday for 150 Years
From manufacturing to smart buildings, energy to food and beverages, Siemens technology continues to empower companies of all sizes to transform the everyday.
As we celebrate 150 years in Australia and New Zealand, step beyond the everyday and win an immersive technology experience - there's a new prize each month in 2022.