Things that know one notices

The area above your lips but below your nose is called the Philtrum. The ends of shoe laces are called Aglets The little flap at the front of the ear is called the Tragus. I like knowing slightly odd facts like those.  There are lots of odd little  things that are around us,we see  them every day but rarely do we  really notice them.

Something that has fascinated me are the green metal boxes on pavements  that are used by B.T. What are they used for, what do they do? why are they there? and probably most interestingly what is inside them?

There was one across the road from where I lived growing up, when I was very young it was where my mum met me on my way home from school so I could cross the busy road safely. It is next to a bus stop where when I was a little older it was where I would wait for busses to go to town on my own, my first taste of freedom. A little older still it is where I would wait for a bus to go to college and work, my first experience of adult life.

I can remember a couple of times  seeing a B.T technician working at the box, sat on a stool maybe with some test equipment and some sort of test telephone,never saw properly inside one but have a vague recollection of lots of wires . It wasn't until I  came to London and have come across ones that have been left open.


GreenBox1 GreenBox2 GreenBox3


None of these are the same, and I don't think they are for the B.T telephones and neither are they how I think the one in my village was. A couple of minutes Googling  for 'Green boxes on the side of the road' soon reveals that they are properly called Primary connection points.  I imagine that to find out exactly what the 3 boxes above are used is a lot more difficult.

When taking the photos I felt slightly naughty, like i was trespassing, looking at secrets without permission. That might seem odd but these boxes are so common but rarely opened to look at.  There are probably all sorts of infrastructure around us that we barely notice but needs to be there and to work if we want our telephones to work, the traffic lights to turn red and green at the correct time, street lights to turn on and all sorts of other equipment to work as expected.

So the next time you see a green or grey or black box don't just pass it by have a think about what it might be for. It might just look a mess of wires inside but there is a good chance it is part of an amazing system that all use and rely on.  There may be hundreds if not thousand of miles of cables connecting to that box. The other ends may go to control rooms or data centres and have people carefully monitoring terminals, to keep these systems running smoothly. Most of the time the systems and infrastructure are hidden but occasionally there is a chance to peek inside.  You are getting chance to look at a hidden world,don't waste it.



One comment

  • tom
    May 5, 2014 - 8:42 pm | Permalink

    I think the generic term is just something like "street cabinet". I think telecoms ones tend to be green or grey and distinctive whilst ones for eg traffic lights are smaller with a peaked top and a sort of... bark like texture on the outside if that makes sense?

    PCP is a particular thing which happens to be what number one is. It's where a huge multicore cable from the exchange gets split into a series of smaller cables but theyre still multicore. Each of these goes to a DP (distribution point) (look for a grey box up the top of a telegraph pole) which is where it splits into an individual pair for each subscriber's house.

    Number 2 looks like something similar but for cable - complete with NTL logo. The memories.

    Number 3 looks like a controller for traffic lights.

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