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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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Page 243

A little more than three years later, the 4th of September 1953, the first “Ericofon” is standing on the table at the photographer for the first of innumerable shots. The white apparatus is made out of “test-units” i e the first pieces made from the new die, produced for measuring and approval. The road here has been long and wearisome. Partly new components have been created, the cover has been adjusted and the apparatus has been thoroughly tested in advanced acoustic laboratories and in mechanical long time tests. The sales department has had their say, final drawings have been made as well as dies and tools for production.

 That the new telephone is to be form-sprayed is something that seems to have been agreed on early on. The ABS-plastic is developed at exactly the right time and is to have been used already for the first small test series in 1954. At the earliest during this year, the name of the phone is changed to “Ericofon”. The attempts to register the trade mark Erifon has not succeeded, among other reasons because it is thought that the name does not differ enough from the Ediphone, long since the registered name of Ericssons dictating machine.

 The goal of the new one-piece telephone during the whole time of the project has been that it must not weigh more than the standard earpiece of the bakelite phones. This is achieved with a margin. The Ericofon weighs in at 400 gram, which means it is 20 % lighter than the bakelite piece. In order to achieve this the easily dismantled plastic cover is affixed to a chassis made of an aluminium alloy and the ringer is placed in a separate wall box.

 1956 is the year the production really gets going after the main responsibility for the Ericofon DBJ 500 (Swedish designation) is moved to the LME factory in Karlskrona. By then the sales are exploding and after six months the production capacity is filled to 500 %, in spite of almost no marketing work. The plastic details are form-sprayed at AB Alpha in Sundbyberg (a suburb to Stockholm)  (AB means Ltd Company in Swedish) at first made up of two mirrored halves that are sent to Karlskrona to be glued together and final assembly. After that a further series of holes are drilled for the microphone.

 To meet the demands in 1960, production is simplified by getting the means of being able to form spray the Ericofon in one piece only. According to Gösta Thames this means that the grip must be made more bent. To increase sending capacity, the grip is also shortened. A little later the Ericofon is equipped with a thicker telephone lid (earpiece). The reason for this is that the microphone then is placed further from the mouth, which is both more comfortable and more hygienic. The Ericofon is manufactured until 1982 at the Karlskrona factory, all in all 2,510,000 units, including detailed sets for foreign assembly. Only about 20 % of the production reaches the Swedish domestic market.

 Picture texts, extract: When reports from various telephone company evaluations reaches Ericsson towards the end of the 50’s the Ericofon is changed and improved. When the cover is moulded as one piece, the height is reduced from 23,3 cm to 21 cm. Mainly women employees are engaged in Karlskrona, something that is appreciated in the dominantly Navy town.

 By the Ericofon colours are introduced for the first time in the Swedish net. The Ericofon is however not approved of in the original construction until 1957, when it is accepted as a side-piece. 1959  it has been equipped with a socket and a jacket/plug and new construction for ringer and is finally approved of as a full and worthy member of the Swedish State Tele monopoly equipment. Up until the Tele people were formally bombarded with applications to allow it to be connected in the homes of mostly architects and managers.

 The Tele authorities in Sweden were very cautious and everything moved at a snails pace. As a security measure at the time of the introduction of the Ericofon, a consumers research was made by questioning  and handing out Ericofons to 1,000 customers. Practically all of these wanted to exchange their old black bakelite phone at the end of the test period for a Cobra. Colour preferences were very clear as well and consistent with a larger research that AT&T had just completed for the Bell equipment. In this 40 % of the customers wanted an ivory white telephone, whereas the Swedes wanted white in 80 % of the cases.  The more even spread of the American tests were to influence the choice of colour range in Sweden as well.-

 The Americans could get the Ericofon in 18 colours, but the Swedes only in five. These latter are also the standard colour range for Ericsson outside of Sweden . Altogether the American Ericofon specialist Richard Rose estimates that this remarkable phone has been produced in about 30 colours at Ericssons factories all over the world.

 The design of the Ericofon does not look like anything earlier seen in telephone ranges. It is best characterized by Hans Blomberg in the comprehensive presentation in Ericsson Review 1956: “Out of the powerful foot piece the slender Ericofon grip shoots upwards, as if listening and ready for action”. It is probably this kind of quotation that have caused the Swedes to nickname the phone The Cobra  (KOBRAN).               Page 247

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