From AKE to AXE
The development of the AKE system proved to be very important for the development of the AXE system. One example was the design principle of modular software by which the switch's existing monolithic computer program was divided into several different modules, each with its own data. There was no time to implement this principle, however, given the tight time plan established for the extensive AKE project in Rotterdam, where the switch was controlled by one enormous computer program and a large number of processors.
Another proposal was to design the software using a high-level language. Ericsson had created the high-level language Eriplex for this purpose which was specially designed for telephone stations, but once again it was not ready in time for the Rotterdam switch.
Another important factor in the development of AXE was that Ericsson in 1969 had submitted a bid to supply an AKE switch to the Australian PTT, which was a loyal Ericsson customer. When the customer had requested bids for a large transit station for international calls, Ericsson was very optimistic about its chances to win the order. This would constitute an excellent reference project that would support the development of a new automated AKE telephone switch. It was therefore a hard blow when the Australian PTT in September 1969 announced that ITT's Metaconta switch had been selected over the AKE system. This set-back became an important factor in the development of Ellemtel and what would become the AXE project.
At the same time as Ellemtel began to develop the AXE system, Ericsson was studying the feasibility of designing an AKE switch for local stations. In 1971, a proposal was presented based on existing technology that according to the estimates would be less expensive than AXE. This switch was a direct competitor to AXE and resulted in a fierce battle over the AXE project. At the center of conflict was the extra cost in the AXE system of SEK 100 million for the development of a dedicated microprocessor.
Televerket, the Swedish PTT, supported the AXE proposal, and after considerable internal turmoil, Ericsson's management decided in May 1972 not to pursue the AKE proposal but instead to devote all resources to AXE. The was the death-blow for the AKE system's further development. The AKE 12 and 13 continued to be sold for transit switches up until the late 1970s, but as of 1973, Ericsson began trying to convince its customers to change their AKE orders to AXE. As of 1980, the AXE system also took over the remaining AKE market.
Author: Mats Fridlund
One of the places where you can read more about AKE (Swedish) is at the Arboga Elektronikhistoriska Förening.