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.
Page:   
from Telefonen en designhistoria
by Prof. Lasse Brunnström (Design History) HDK; University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Publisher: Atlantis (www.atlantis.bok.se)
ISBN 10:91-7353-109-X, ISBN 13:978-91-7353-109-2
The dream of the one-piece telephone
Siemens & Halske in
Germany are first to produce a one-piece telephone during the latter half of the twenties.
The freedom of design possible with the then new material of bakelite is a deciding
factor. Their patent is from 8 June 1930. (German patent nr 612628). Design originators
are the engineers Otto Weeber and Otto Soldan.
A test series of 500
pieces are produced in black with the rotary dial assembly at the side and a switch hook
underneath to regulate contacts. The ringer is separately placed in a black wall-box. The
construction was tested during four years, but never put into production because its
considered liable to tip over too easily and thus create an accidental line-connection. In
view of its nicknames, i e Hockender Hund (hunching dog) and
Schinkenknochen (the bacon bone), the overall design does not appear to have
been a success either...
L M Ericsson, strangely
enough, does not seem to have known of these developments at a competitor, until at the
earliest in 1939. When at last the facts became known to LME through one of their
young engineers that worked as an exchange trainee at S & H in Germany, it seems to
have triggered off feverish activity. The then chief technical officer at LME, Hugo
Blomberg, personally got involved.
projects are started at LME and run parallel to one another, with the cover names
Unifon and Erifon, respectively. Responsible for these development
projects were Hugo Blomberg himself and the engineer Hans Kraepelien. The latter, who had
just got himself out of Warsaw through the German siege lines and back into Sweden, had
been technical director of the LME works in Warsaw, Poland. He brought with him the
concept of a hanging one-piece telephone that he continued to work on. Blomberg, on the
other hand, visualized a standing, Siemenslike telephone with the dialling mechanism
(A lot of letters
and files exist that give a very good idea of how the reasoning and the discussions
progressed below a short version:).
It all starts in
February 1941 at LME with a request for research into the patent situation. It becomes
clear that there are several British and American patents to do with the creation of a
Unifon, some as old as thirty years... The main problem seems to be how to deal with the
signal device for ringing. However, this problem is neatly eliminated if the unifon,
as Mr Blomberg suggests, should be designed as a table apparatus, by which the signal
device would be housed in a separate box... No hindering patents were found
along these lines, nor concerning a telephone that would stand on its dial mechanism.
Recommendations to go on with a suitable signalling system for the telephone model
Unifon (Kraepelen) as well as for patenting Blombergs table design (Erofon) were given and
The results would
give the directions for designing Ericssons next spectacular telephone model, the
Ericofon, or the so called Cobra. Even if Hugo Blomberg and Hans Kraepelien both are
encouraged to develop their ideas further, it is Blomberg who has an advantage, at least
in the beginning.
This stems not
only from the clearer circumstances regarding the patent situation, but also from the fact
that he is better positioned in the LME organization. Another advantage for Blomberg is
that he early on forms an alliance with a new force within the company, who during the
next years would leave a great impression, the industrial designer Ralph Lysell.
(1907 1987) is signed on in the summer of 1939. It is two months before the
outbreak of war and in Stockholm the move from the central part of town to the southern
suburbs (Midsommarkransen) of LME production, to a new factory has just started. Soon the
company will change strategy in handling design questions as well. For well over forty
years Ericsson has used consultants in architecture, artistical matters and design. But,
as the first large Swedish manufacturing company outside of the traditional design
industry, in 1943 they choose to incorporate design competence into the organization. A
special unit, called Aesthetic design, is placed under the overall company
construction department. Head of this unit is Ralph Lysell, who during recent years has
managed to create for himself a platform within Ericsson by showing a feeling for design
and an ability to create quick conceptions.
Lysell is a man
with American-like élan and go, with a fascination for fast cars and beautiful women. He
is really Rolf Nyberg, but a nearly sixteen year long stay in the USA has made some marks
he has changed his surname to that of his mother as unmarried and made a
onomatopoetic transcription of his Christian name to the more English-sounding Ralph. By
chance, which may be conceived as a thought, he now has the same initials as his great
idol Raymond Loewy, the American megastar in the design field.
In America the
artistically talented Lysell has got himself a training as Mechanical Engineer
and learnt how to handle ink-spray gun and plastelina, two important tools for visualizing
when working in the new trade of industrial design. Not much is known about his time in
America, other that that he is supposed to have worked as car designer. One of his design
creations from this period is an advanced and extremely streamlined white sports car which
he likes to refer to when marketing his talents.
Ralph Lysell is a
completely different personality than the former design consultant of LME, Alvar Lenning.
He is extrovert and verbally gifted in contrast to Lennings more careful and intellectual
way of working. The pedagogically smart and somewhat smarmy way of presenting new
products that Lysell uses is something quite new in Swedish experience. Maybe for Europe
too, and is clearly influenced by American practice. It seems to have impressed the
company executives, because Lysell also gets work as well for a daughter company, SRA,
His earnings grow
accordingly and soon his pay is more than somewhat above the LME:s ordinary university
trained civil engineering staff. Lysell thrives and during the early part of the forties
he gives interviews, lectures and trains internal staff in design and colour schemes and
writes long articles in well-known publications. He is a shining representative of modern
design, modern materials and technology. By spring 1945 he leaves LM Ericsson to start his
own business as a designer, which unfortunately only lasted a few years. All said and
done, his biggest impression is his cooperation with Hugo Blomberg in designing the coming
page 226, start of page 227
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