When the telephone lines darkened the sky in Stockholm


A black and white photo from the 1800s, showing a tower in Stockholm covered in telephone wires

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Okay, so we may be joking about creating a new Telefontornet, but it is a fascinating story! 

In the late 1800s, Sweden was the most telephone-dense country in the world, and Stockholm had more telephones than any of the major cities in the world, with 4,832 subscribers. Because of this huge demand, the decision was made in 1887 to build Telefontornet. 


Vintage photo of Telefontornet

Telefontornet, or Phone Tower, stood on the roof of Stockholms Allmänna Telefon (SAT)’s headquarters in downtown Stockholm. When it was first opened, Stockholm had 5,500 telephones and the city’s telephone lines collectively came to around 5,000 kilometers. 4,000 telephone wires led from the tower to all over central Stockholm.


Vintage photo of a guard at Telefontornet


As you can see, 4,000 telephone lines equal quite a mess, and the network was extremely vulnerable to the elements. Locals even said that it darkened out the sun. 

Black and white photo of Stockholm from the 1800s where rooftops are covered in wires


As you can imagine, besides being a bit of an eyesore, the wires were especially sensitive to the elements and damage. 


Vintage photo of collapsed telephone wires
Vintage photo of telephone wires collapsing


So it's perhaps not a surprise that by 1913, the networks had gone underground.

But could you imagine if technology hadn’t evolved, and we still needed to have physical lines for all of our connections? There were only 5,500 telephones to connect to when this picture was taken. Imagine how tangled it would be nowadays, when we don’t have just our phone sets connected, but our mobile phones, our computers, our tablets, our everything!

Henrik Tore Cedergren, founder of SAT, had a clear mission: A telephone in every household. I think he would be amazed to see what we have today.

Of course, when everyone sees that pictures of the tower are from Stockholm, they want to know where Ericsson fits in. So a brief history lesson:

In 1883 the telephone company SAT was founded. Since the company was a competitor to the local Bell telephone company in Stockholm, they couldn’t rely on Bell for their telephone equipment. In Sweden there was only one company that could fill their orders: LM Ericsson. Over the years the companies worked together in a similar way in Mexico City, Warszawa, Moscow and other cities.

In 1918 the companies merged into Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson, still the mother enterprise of…you guessed it: Ericsson.

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