"Mr Watson, come here, I want to see you." Nine small and seemingly innocuous words spoken by Alexander Graham Bell to his assistant Thomas Watson. . . nine small words which were to spark a revolution in communications and set the world talking. They formed the first articulate sentence ever spoken on a telephone and were transmitted over 100ft of wire in Boston, Massachusetts, on March 10, 1876.
Today the telephone, e-mail and the Internet are an integral part of everyday life in Scotland and it's all thanks to the inventive Scotsman who was born at 16 South Charlotte Street, Edinburgh, on March 3, 1847. Like Archimedes' bath and Newton's apple, Bell's discovery was an historic harbinger to a future not even their great minds could foresee. A future which has seen the metamorphosis of BT from a UK telephone company to a global communications company focused on being the best worldwide communications group.
Today, BT serves customers in more than 170 countries but has never forgotten where its roots lie. In the run up to the new Scottish Parliament, it formed BT Scotland specifically to look after its 1.2 million Scottish customers and ensure they are at the forefront of the fastest-moving and most exciting industry on the planet.
Billions of pounds have been spent in Scotland, creating a digital infrastructure which reaches out from major cities and areas of dense population to hamlets in the remotest Hebridean islands. It's an investment which has shattered the distance barriers which could so easily have left Scotland stranded on the periphery of Europe, far from the growing overseas markets so essential to today's economy. BT Scotland now employs 7,500 people across Scotland, with engineers in every part of the country and large populations in its main offices and contact centres in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Alness and Thurso.
Today the phone is no longer an instrument used just to talk to someone - it's the access to a superhighway which is about to deliver a technological and social revolution vital to the future of Scotland. It's a world featuring super-fast Internet, interactive TV, video on demand in which customers can choose from recorded television programmes, videos and music, shopping on demand, a range of educational programming, home banking and community links. Every home, every school and every business in Scotland will feel the benefits of the information revolution and the way we work, learn and relax will be transformed. BT Scotland intends to be at the forefront of that revolution, helping to shape the lives of the people of Scotland in the exciting years that lie ahead. But how did we get here and what has actually happened in the 123 years since Bell uttered those nine small words and managed to transmit them 100ft down the line to his assistant Mr Watson?
First, we must return to Bell's early years in Scotland. His interest in speech is virtually inevitable, given that both his father and grandfather were speech therapists, helping people with stuttering. As a child he trains his Skye terrier to growl continuously, gently manipulating the dog's mouth and vocal chords to shape the growls into words. Eventually the dog is able to say: "Our ah oo ga-ma-ma," which the young Bell contends is actually: "How are you, grandmother?" Bell moves on from talking terriers to begin his first job, as a music and speech teacher at a school in Elgin, Morayshire. He completes his education at the Universities of Edinburgh and London before emigrating with his family to Canada, following the loss of his two brothers from tuberculosis. Later, he moves to Boston as a teacher of the deaf, and his studies into the artificial reproduction of vowel sounds using electricity and magnetism are ultimately to lead to the development of the telephone.