BPO Ambassador Telephone

Ambassador was the marketing name for the BPO’s NGT or New Generation Telephone (in the same way as IXT or Inexpensive Telephone developed by GEC, Plessey and TMC  became the Statesman and the NET or New Electronic telephone by STC became the Viscount).  Described (in 1979) as the BPO’s standard telephone for the 1980s, the Ambassador ‘exploited to the full all the design advantages of push-button dialling’, making it the ‘most attractive telephone ever produced in Britain’.  That said - dial versions were also made.

It was  introduced in 1981 as the multi-function phone of the 1980s, a role it was never destined to achieve.  It was the first UK telephone designed for the plug-and-socket connection which soon began to replace the wired-in (hard-wired) connection of previous telephones.  This multi-function concept was laudable and the Ambassador was the last telephone designed by the BPO to be universal with the capability to ‘mix and match’ components for different purposes. A high level of effort went into its design to make it easy to use and maintain, also flexible in operation, and this was in fact its downfall.  The telephone was over-complicated and far too expensive to deploy in large quantities.  A simplified version, the Statesman, was a great success, however and was technically one of the best telephones ever supplied to customers in the UK.

The Ambassador was the first (and last) BPO telephone to introduce permanent or ‘casual’ wall mounting, using a moulded bracket screwed to the wall.  The idea was that ‘casually-mounted telephones could remain on the wall bracket or be carried to a table.  Another novelty was  specially designed recess in the left hand side of the telephone made it easy to carry about, whilst an information panel included in a flip-up tray that carried the number label on top made it easy for users to record frequently dialled numbers.  The Ambassador  was also the first BPO telephone designed from the outset with a plug-ended cord (which could enter the instrument either at the side or the rear); all previous telephones were normally supplied for hard-wired installation (although they could be supplied with plugs (Plug 420) for Plan 4A installations).  Because the UK standard telephone plug had not yet been invented, early models of the Ambassador telephone were fitted with American Western Electric (RJ-11) plugs crimped on with a metal O-ring.

Manufactured by: GEC, Plessey, STC, TMC.

Colours: Beige, pale grey and chrome yellowExperimental versions included red and brown.  Cords were normally in Light Grey.

Variants: Basic table sets.  Extension Plan version.  Key System version capable of being expended to take five lines and 10 extensions.  Facility version (wide bodied model designed to accommodate special and non-standard facilities such as waiting amplifiers, numeric displays, customers’ private meters and repertory callmakers.  All but the last-mentioned were designed for table or wall mounting, and for MF push-button or dial operation.  All but the dial telephone carried four additional buttons, one marked R for recall and the other three unconfigured.

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Dial-type Ambassador telephone No. 8100 in experimental red colour, 1981. MF press-button Ambassador telephone No. 8300 in standard yellow colour, 1981.
Wide-bodied Facility version, allowing attachment of waiting amplifiers, numeric displays, customers; private meters and repertory callmakers. Extension Plan version.


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Last revised: April 24, 2021