The Ericofon in Australia
Thanks to Bob Mills in Australia for this piece
Bob Mills is also the author of the fantastic book "Collecting the Ericofon"
The Ericofon was introduced into Australia about 1963 and was marketed in
5 colors.....Ivory, Silver Grey, Surf Green, Mushroom and Carnival Red. There were a few
imported for test purposes as early as 1957 but these were not marketed to the public.
Also 50 were made with clear cases for training and promotional purposes but these also
were not marketed to the public. Other than the early pre-1963 test phones, all dial faces
were the same.
The only significant change that occurred during the life of the Ericofon
was the change from 3 conductor cord to 6 conductor. The reason for this is as
follows..... One of the big problems with having 2 or more telephones on the same line in
one house is that when you dial on one, the bells in the others tingle (may also give bad
dial impulses to line particularly on long lines). To overcome this (up until the 1980's)
we had 3 wires between phones in the same house. The third wire connected the bells
together and only left one capacitor in circuit. To modify 3 wire Ericofons this way, you
needed to actually cut component leads within the set and this damage was difficult to
reverse later if the set was to be reused elsewhere. By providing 6 wires in the cord, all
these strange connections could be made in the wall socket by means of straps and you need
not even take the case off the set.
There has been an L. M. Ericsson factory in Australia for many years. This
is located at Broadmeadows, a suburb of Melbourne. The Australian Ericofons were assembled
in this factory having the cases made locally and the chassis imported from Sweden. The
case moulds were only disposed of as recently as 1992.
All public telephone services were provided throughout Australia by one
organisation up until the early 1990s. This organisation was the Engineering Branch of the
Post Office (up until 1975) known as the PMG (PostMaster General's Department). From 1975
this organisation broke away from the Post Office and became known as Telecom Australia
(or Telecom for short). In 1995 Telecom changed its name again to Telstra. Up until 1997,
the organisation was totally Government owned but in the last 3 or 4 years 49% has been
listed on the stock market and the government is mad keen on selling the remaining 51%.
All telephones including Ericofons were RENTED from the PMG, installed by PMG technicians
and maintained by the PMG. It is only in the last 10 or 12 years that you can legally buy
standard types of telephones in shops and connect them to your telephone line. There are
very few Ericofons about now as the PMG took them away and usually destroyed them when
they were no longer required rather than selling them and risking someone connecting them
illegally to a line.
As far as I know the non-dial Ericofon was never available in Australia.
It is possible a few were imported and sold into private internal networks however I have
never seen of heard of this. The only non-dial models I know of are grey in color and are
(or were) used in air traffic control situations at air ports (civil and military). These
instruments do not contain the usual internals but rather a small loud speaker as the
microphone, the normal receiver and a small printed circuit board to allow connection to
the switch contacts.
The situation in New Zealand was similar to Australia in that the Post
Office administered the entire telephone system until the last 10 or 15 years. As I
understand it the Ericofon was available in the same colours as here except the mushroom
was replaced by blue (dark grey-blue). I don't know what names they actually gave to the
colors. New Zealand was one of only 2 countries in the world who had "back to
front" dials (due to the early Western Electric Rotary exchange system in use). That
is the dial numbered 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 rather than 1 to 0 as is usual. Certainly the
chassis were made in Sweden. I suspect the whole phone was made in Sweden but it is just
possible they made the cases here in Australia.
The push button version was never marketed here or in New Zealand nor was