Ericsson’s 100th anniversary took place in 1976 and was celebrated on a grand scale throughout the entire year. The official anniversary date was May 5, which was Lars Magnus Ericsson’s 130th birthday. In Stockholm, the high point of the celebration was the first week in May, when nearly 300 prominent foreign guests were invited to Sweden. These included ministers of telecommunications and general directors from telecom authorities throughout the world.
For Ericsson, which at this time maintained a low marketing profile and mainly had contacts with public authorities, the 100th anniversary was somewhat of a turning point. It was by far the largest event the company had ever staged.
The anniversary celebrations were regarded within Ericsson as a means of “further strengthening our position as one of the world’s leading telecommunications companies,” as it was expressed in meeting minutes dated May 5, 1975 and signed by Björn Lundvall. The most important anniversary activities were thus focused on those guests who were public officials and customers or potential customers.
The successful anniversary celebrations were the result of meticulous planning on the part of the anniversary general Malte Patricks, a former Ericsson vice president. He had even provided gift suggestions to Ericsson subsidiaries, telecom administrations and others. The gifts provided an elegant setting in the conference area of the D building at Telefonplan and included furniture, tapestries, statues, works of art and other presents from guests from around the world.
To commemorate the occasion, a new version of the highly successful Cobra telephone that included a key pad was produced and given the name Ericofon 700. All invited guests received a gold-plated Ericofon 700, each of which had been adapted technically to the guest’s home country.
Ericsson’s management also had as its goal that the AXE system developed by Ericsson and Televerket, the Swedish PTT, should be completed by 1976, since presenting it to the invited guests would get it off to a flying start. Even though the system was not entirely finished, the goal was achieved. Björn Svedberg held a lecture on the system at the Tellus facility at Telefonplan, and via a direct TV link and large auditorium monitors, the guests were able to witness a demonstration of the first AXE-equipped station in Södertälje by senior engineer John Meurling.
The dominant event during the anniversary week was otherwise an international symposium held at the Stockholm International Fairs in Älvsjö, which was arranged by Ericsson’s retiring technical director Christian Jacobæus. The theme was “Telecommunications in a changing world.” Guest speakers included Televerket’s director general Bertil Bjurel, who talked about building the “broadband” networks of the future, as the magazine Contact expressed it at that time.
Ericsson had succeeded in engaging several prominent international speakers, including Kenneth McKay from Bell Laboratories in the US; which was the world’s largest research and development center in the telecommunications industry. Also attending was the International Telecommunications Union’s general secretary Muhammed Mili, who held a lecture on the work being conducted by the ITU and its 150 member countries.
The L M Ericsson Telecommunications Award, which Ericsson established to promote telecommunications development was awarded for the first time. The recipient was Harold A Rosen who was recognized “for his foresight in proposing, against conventional wisdom, the introduction of geo-stationary satellites and for his scientific and technical contributions to their development, design and operation.” Rosen held a lecture at the Technical Museum, where he then received the prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf.
The King also inaugurated the Lars Magnus Ericsson Memorial Room at the new Telecom Museum by clipping a telephone cable. The room with its sculptures depicting angels talking on the telephone was originally located in the old Ericsson plant at Tulegatan 15 – 19 in Stockholm.
On Wednesday May 5, a simple ceremony was held at Lars Magnus Ericsson’s grave at Botkyrka Church. In the evening, an anniversary banquet was held at Stockholm City Hall for more than 700 customers and symposium participants at which King Carl XVI Gustaf was the guest of honor.
Not only Ericsson as a company, but the telephone itself celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1976, and Ericsson’s guests were invited to an advancing showing of the exhibition “The telephone – 100 years” at the National Museum.
The week concluded with a focus on Ericsson employees. A luncheon was held at the outdoor museum Skansen in Stockholm for more than 1,000 pensioners with at least 25 years of service within the company. On Saturday, 25,000 people visited the Gröna Lund amusement park as part of a special arrangement for Ericsson employees and their families.
Celebrations were also held in other locations throughout Sweden. In Värmland, there was a re-inauguration of Lars Magnus Ericsson’s newly restored family home, which includes a small museum.
All employees and their spouses were invited to an exclusive anniversary dinner. The same dinner was arranged at more than 30 restaurants throughout the country, including the Operakällaren and the Grand Hotel in Stockholm.
Ericsson companies outside Sweden celebrated in various ways. It was important, however, that Ericsson employees outside Sweden received the same benefits as Swedish employees.
Ericsson’s history over 100 years was also published that year in three extensive volumes that were offered to employees for a small sum. In addition, the anniversary film, “Linking People Together,” which received several artistic and critical awards, had its premier.
Author: Katarina Reinius & Mats Wickman