The "Cobra" – named by the Swedish people


The "Cobra" was the first telephone to receive a name instead of a type number, although its official designation was the "Ericofon".

- At Ericsson, we never called it the Cobra, says Gösta Thames who managed the project from the late 1940s onwards.

When Ericsson launched its new Ericofon in the mid-1950s it was the first all-in-one telephone in the world. The Ericofon achieved rapid success thanks to its revolutionary design and convenience. Availability in several different colors no doubt contributed to its popularity.

The only feature that failed to catch the public's imagination was the product's name. So people soon began to call it the Cobra, thus enriching the Swedish language with a new colorful expression. The Swedish National Encyclopedia lists the Ericofon under the "cobra" heading.

In point of fact, however, Ericofon was not the original name used by Ericsson.

- People working on the project called it the Erifon, combining the first three letters of the company name with the Greek word for sound, says Gösta Thames.

- When we tried to register the name, however, we found that it was already used for a fire-proofing product for textiles. So we had to find another name. The result was Ericofon "we simply added "co" in the middle, as an abbreviation for "company".

The casing of the first Ericofon generation used two reversed halves which were screwed together. But when a single molding was used in the manufacturing process, the phone had a more explicit "neck" and a greater degree of forward curvature, making it look more like a snake. It did not take long before people started calling it "the Cobra".

The development of product names is part of the history of Swedish industry and design, and there are several parallels to the Erifon/Ericofon/Cobra saga.

Gösta Thames was interviewed in year 2000.

Author: Marika Ehrenkrona


Ericofon, 1955. Design: Ralph Lysell, Hugo Blomberg och Gösta Thames.


© Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Centre for Business History

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