Telefonen - En Design Historia
Many thanks to Inger Hedén in Sweden for his
efforts in translating this for the web site.
This translation is from a new book in Sweden on
the history of telephone design in Sweden. This section of the book deals with the
developement of the Ericofon.
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The work of finding the optimally suitable design for Ericssons coming
one-piece telephone is intense during the spring of 1941. The aim is a standing model with
the dialling parts placed underneath the apparatus. Ralph Lysell does paper sketches and
tries versions in three dimensions in plastelina. Sketches saved from this period
shows a rather spontaneity way of working, as opposed to todays very systematically
industrial design process.
selections among the clay models, two wooden versions are made, with only small
differences, in Ericssons wood modelling shop. One is upgraded to prototype, equipped with
among other things a dialling mechanism and cord, which comes out at the back of the
apparatus. In the middle of the dialling piece is a small round metal sphere, which cuts
the call when depressed (as the phone is placed on a surface). This model is further
developed and results in a second wooden prototype, which is painted black and equipped
with a decorative edge in polished metal around its base. According to picture texts this
test model is equipped with an American finger dialling in the autumn of 1941 and is
sent to USA the year after. It is called TeM 48435. (This model is 20,9 cm high, the
foot is about 8,8 x 11,5 cm ).
documents are handed in in July 1941, at the same time as the first prototype is
personally tested in practical use by the top director of the LME factory . In a
letter to the manager of the phone department he expresses great satisfaction with the
outcome. The model has such significant advantages, he claims, that it, aside from
its news value, probable low pricing etc etc might constitute the design line which
future telephones might well follow. The sales executive wants it in production as
soon as possible, both as an internal home apparatus and connected to telephone exchanges.
is to be speeded up, according to the above letter, since reports hint that Siemens are
developing similar models. Since the directors want LM to be the first to start sales, a
special work group is to be formed for carrying on this project, besides other
routine tasks. Hugo Blomberg by this time has gone to America in order
to take part of/study the technical developments there, so it is suggested that Ralph
Lysell works together with a three man team from the construction department. That group
is to put down the electro acoustical, constructive and production technical demands and
other circumstances pertaining to the new model.
outward design is by this time considered as good as fixed, only small adjustments of
details remain. A good design should have a good name says the last sentence
in the letter, and gives the suggestion that the apparatus should be named
Erifon. This shows the high expectations of the management for this
development and the suggestion is positively received by Hans Blomberg. It now becomes the
unofficial work name throughout the whole LME organization.
progresses slowly, however. It is primarily a question of lacking the competent personnel
to do this work during the war years almost everybody at Ericsson has to work
developing material for the armed forces of Sweden. The few available for civilian
production are mainly employed to go on developing the standard bakelite apparatus.
Blombergs continuing absence in America is also a relevant factor in the slow progress.
Sporadic messages are exchanged but what happens in Sweden at LM during 1943 - 45 is
mainly unknown to Blomberg, and the mail is very slow way of discussing seriously all the
technical details. Letters and reports can take several months to cross the Atlantic in
those days. Meanwhile, the engineer Hans Creapelen continues work on his
Unifon, the other LME development projects.
description of the Unifon project , i e the lying down model, and is probably
just as interesting to a telephone-fan, but I choose here not to go into any details. If
wished for please let me know! Suffice it to say that the competition between the
ideas are sharpened, and everybody at the factory expresses opinions and suggestions. Both
the developing designs are considered to be combined table an wall-apparatuses at this
stage. The Unifon was trade mark registered in April 1944 and patented as regards the
re-switching arrangements. As a curiosity can be mentioned the fact that the Unifon
prototype was painted matt green (wooden model) and was eventually brought to the USA by
Jan Kreapelin (he was promoted chief executive of the New York LM office in 1945 and nine
years later became head of LM:s new North Electric Manufacturing Co in Galion, Ohio.
The prototype Unifon reappears forty years later, in 1987, and is now a museum piece at
Ericsson goes for the stand-up concept
As a one-piece
telephone the Unifon in the design of Ralph Lysell is more original than the Erifon. There
are, for example, no real forebears to point at or liken. This goes for quite some of
Kreapelens and his staffs genial and farseeing technical innovations. Even so, it
is the stand-up Erifon that finally goes into production. There can be no doubt about the
fact that this is because of expectations in the American market, where the stand-up
concept even in the forties is highly present in everybodys mind. There is at LME a
strong wish to become recognized as a provider for the American telephone companies of the
so-called independent market. This is despite the fact that the Bell company in 1950
according to statistics collected by the Swedish Tele-company covers more than 80 % of
that market. There are, however, another 6.000 telephone companies in that large country
and together they have in their nets over 7 million telephones, more than what then
existed in France and Great Britain together. (Incidentally, also more than the number of
inhabitants in Sweden at the time...)
an ergonomically thought-through model of the Erofon from spring of 1950 that looks more
or less exactly as the production model. It was drawn (illustrated) by Dan Sidney.
Ralph Lysell still sketches versions in the summer of 1949. Reports are received from Hans
Blomberg in America that the production of American phones has come almost to a
standstill and that the need for new pieces are met to a great extent by repairing
the old ones. He thinks that in this situation the Erifon should have great possibilities
to replace the candle - light- type of phones that are still in use while
retaining the old wall-covering with its induction-roll, ringer etc. He thinks this
modernization will be considerably cheaper than installing a whole new apparatus.
colleague Sven Ture Ĺberg, sales chief for the USA market, he has already suggested a
name for the Erifon in English and initiated an advertising campaign. In order to separate
it very clearly from the more common hand-set apparatuses, it should be named
Standset, and be supported by hard selling campaigning. He writes: The
telephone has outgrown the cradle and now stands on its own feet. (This is not
any sort of pun in Swedish, so Hans Blomberg is sure to have written that in English
alternatively it is a later invention?). At more than one occasion Blomberg
stretches the importance of acting quickly so as to be ready to start production at the
end of the war. But the Erifon project goes idling while awaiting the future fate of the
has had to diversify its national production so much during the war years that only about
a third of it is in the telephone range by 1945. A lot of that in turn is devoted to
developing the so called coordinate-choosing system for automatic exchange stations and
the 1947 upgraded model of the companys standard bakelite telephone.
moved back to Sweden 1946 and became chief engineer for a new department of development,
which meant a drawback for the Unifonpeople, especially as Kreapelen is busy in the USA.
Not until 1949 is the final and definite choosing made and the Erifon is again seriously
considered. This is done under the leadership of Gösta Thames. Ralph Lysell is by this
time busy running his own design company in Oslo, and is contacted for consultations.
He comes to
Stockholm in order to, as he says play in the clay-heap with Gösta
Thames and his colleagues. A lot of work remains but some sketches show that work in order
to eliminate the specific look of telephonespeaker is considered important at
this stage. This is achieved simply by abstaining from the traditional round shape and
instead cut it at an angle at the slightly bent, enlarged handhold part. A new
considerably slimmer hearing/listening construction is conceived that enables the slim
shape striven for.
Thames does not do any drawing work, and after ergonometrically working through the design
with Ericssons renowned model woodworkers a somewhat more rounded foot is shaped, together
with a load carrying thumb grip and a shape for the holder part that fits the shape of
ear, as well as hand. The Erofon begins to take on its very specific character. A visit
during the spring of 1950 from Bell laboratories to LM in Stockholm boosts the confidence
of the group. There is now a blue painted wooden prototype that has an impact as an idea
and starts speculations as to when it will get into production. Before the end of that
meeting with the Bell people, the first order is received.
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