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Ericofon History

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This is a brief history of the Ericofon, mostly involving the US market.
For a more in depth look at the history of the Ericofon, go to the Reading Room.

The Ericofon, made by the L M Ericsson Company of Sweden, is perhaps one of the biggest steps forward in telephone design. World War II had produced a number of new materials. From Plastics to lightweight ferromagnetic materials, the door was opened for a new era in telephone development.

proto2.jpg (19913 bytes) In the late 1940s, Ericsson put together a design team, headed up by H G (Gosta) Thames, to come up with a new design for the telephone. The main purpose was to make the phone small, lightweight, and easy to use. After several prototypes, a design was settled upon and that one that went into production for the next 2 decades.

 

1954 marked the beginning of production for the Ericofon. Originally it was intended for institutional use. They found their biggest customers were hospitals. Imagine laying in a hospital bed, trying to reach over to a desk phone to dial. The one piece design of the Ericofon seemed to be "just what the doctor ordered".

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The Ericofon was produced for the European and Australian markets, with home use sales starting in 1956. Ericsson was unable to penetrate the American market with any success because of Bell Telephone's monopoly stranglehold on the telecommunications market. They absolutely refused to have these "foreign phones" go into use on their circuits. A lot of hype and propaganda  concerning fears of damage to the system and such were used.

After much wrangling, Ma Bell relented and allowed limited institutional use of the Ericofon, but still charging phone rent as though they had provided the phone (each phone in your home was rented from Bell during this era, you didn't own your own phone). Ma Bell felt so threatened by this one-piece phone design that they started research on their own version. This is what gave birth to the Trimline phone many years later.

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Initially, Ericsson offered the Ericofon in 18 colors  in the North American market, selling the phones through North Electric (a telephone builder in Ohio), in which they had part ownership. These phones featured an optional "Electronic Tone Signal" (later known as the "Ericotone") for a ringer. When home sales of the Ericofon began to explode in the American market (sales exceeding capacity by 500%), Ericsson increased their holdings in North Electric to become the principal shareholder. Then around 1961 they transferred manufacture of the Ericofon for the American market to North Electric. At this time, North Electric narrowed the offering of colors from 18 to 8, probably in an effort to eliminate unpopular colors. They also replaced the "Princess Pink" with "Petal Pink". This move was most likely made to avoid confusion with the now popular Western Electric offering "Princess phone".

Shortly before the transfer of manufacturing to America, around 1960, Ericsson had made a design modification to the Ericofon to accommodate a new molding method making a one piece shell instead of a two piece shell. This caused the phone to be a bit shorter and putting more of an angle to the receiver end. These are commonly referred to as "old case" or "new case" phones. This is why the American made Ericofons have the illusion of being shorter than the Swedish Ericofons.

Sometime about 1967, Ericsson introduced the first version of the pushbutton Ericofon that used TouchTone dialing.  These models (60A) are very hard to find because there was a poorly designed plastic part in the hook-switch mechanism that broke easily when the phone is dropped on a hard surface.

In 1972, North Electric discontinued the Ericofon line and sold the remaining parts and equipment to a telephone refurbishing company named CEAC. They continued production for a short time before ceasing business.

Meanwhile, back in Sweden, Carl-Arne Breger was busy designing a new Ericofon for Ericsson to celebrate the company's 100th Anniversary in 1976. Some skeptics suggest this was also an attempt to revive the Ericofon. The now squared off, modernized unit was dubbed the "Ericofon 700". It met with limited success and never did make it to the American market.

CLICK HERE for a history of ericofon.com

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