The late 1960s were also dramatic in other respects. During 1968 there were massive student protests around the world; the Soviet army together with troops from other Eastern-bloc countries marched into Czechoslovakia; there were mass demonstrations against the Vietnam War; Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated. The summer of 1969 saw the first landing on the moon followed shortly afterwards by the Woodstock Festival. Richard Nixon had recently been inaugurated as president of the United States, and in Sweden, in the fall, Olof Palme became prime minister after Tage Erlander.
During June 24–27, 1969, the leading lights of the Nordic telecom agencies gathered for the Nordic Telecommunications Conference at Kabelvåg on Lofoten, the 34th such conference since 1917. There were nine participants from Sweden, seven from Norway, six each from Finland and Denmark, and two from Iceland. Outside, the sun shone almost round the clock in a sweltering heat wave, while inside Vågan’s Adult Education College, 30 men were taking part in intensive discussions in an informal, relaxed atmosphere.
Arranging this conference in Kabelvåg of all places might seem illogical. First the participants had to get to Bodø on the Norwegian mainland. This in itself was relatively simple thanks to a newly established air connection with Oslo. But then it took six hours by boat before they could reach Svolvær, the “capital” of Lofoten, next to Kabelvåg.
But apart from a desire to learn about different Nordic environments, there was a technical reason as well: Lofoten’s position as a pioneering area for radio and telecommunications. As has been mentioned, the first fixed radiotelegraphy link started operating here as early as 1906. One excursion for the conference participants took them to the radio station in the fishing village of Hemmingsvær, the communications node on Lofoten for the entire century.
In the 1960s, the “Fishermen’s Radio” had developed into the most important means of communication in Norwegian waters. As Thomas Røjmyr at the Lofoten Museum says: “In the sea around Lofoten, you could count thousands of fishing boats that kept in touch with each other and the ports using shortwave radio. A popular form of entertainment was to listen to the fishermen’s radio and keep track of the rivalry between the different fishing crews. Greetings were also sent to family and friends. Different codes were developed to give information to each other that not everyone would ¬understand.”
Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn