You will have seen on some occasion the image that heads this article. It’s very viral. A gigantic metallic tower from which they emerge thousands of telephone wires. It is known as telefontornet In Swedish. And is the old telephone tower from Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. A work of engineering necessary for the communications of that time and that has a huge visual impact.
The current equivalent, at a technological level, is the network of telephone masts that we can find on the roofs of some buildings in cities. And the visual equivalent would be Japan’s electrical wiring network.
If telephone masts already cause a visual impact, imagine seeing in the distance a metal tower 80 meters high. A rectangular tower like those of the Middle Ages but made of metal and similar in appearance to the Eiffel Tower. Precisely, both constructions are from the same period. The Eiffel Tower It was a large tower 300 meters high that was built between January 26, 1887 and March 31, 1889 to coincide with the Universal exposition of 1889. His purpose was to demonstrate to the world how far the constructions with iron. For its part, the old telephone tower in Stockholm completed its construction in 1887. But its function was more practical. Provide telephone coverage to Stockholm. A city that in 1880 had 169,000 inhabitants. And that ten years later, 1890, it would have some 246,000 fellow citizens.
More than 5,500 telephone cables that they had to arrive at different points of the modern Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. and behind the project telefontornet there was nothing more and nothing less than the company Stockholms Allmänna Telefon ABthe Swedish equivalent to the already powerful Bell Telephone Companyborn in the United States but soon spread throughout Europe through its international subsidiary based in Brussels, Belgium.
One cable for each phone
The first phone call of which we have proof was made on March 10, 1876. Graham Bell He called his assistant, Thomas Watson, and pronounced one of the most repeated phrases throughout history: “Mr Watson, come here. I want to see you”. “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see him.” And on August 10, 1876, Graham Bell himself managed to make a long distance phone call. Specifically, between Brantford and Paris, two Canadian cities separated by about 6 miles, almost 10 kilometers. Since then, the telephone cable networks They were settling in cities all over the world.
However, although current mobile networks allow connect thousands of phones at once with a few antennas located in strategic areas, the first telephone lines were more rudimentary. In other words, for each telephone line a single cable was needed that connected the home, business or office with the exchange center where some lines were connected to others with the invaluable help of a human operator. telephony was a whole revolution compared to previous technologies, such as telegraphy. But, in its beginnings, it had its advantages and disadvantages.
As with the electrical simile, if many points in a city need electricity, more cables will be needed. Thus, more subscribers to the telephone network, more telephone cables they had to be installed and deployed on the heights of the cities. Hence the use of poles and towers of telephony that gave the sky of the cities a curious appearance. And in the case at hand, the big cell tower from Stockholm, telefontornet in Swedish, it met the need for approximately 5,500 telephone lines.
Stockholm, capital of telephony in the world
At the end of the 19th century, Sweden was one of the countries with the most telephone lines of all the world. With permission from the United States, which in 1900 had some 600,000 telephones installed on the system devised by Bell. Figure that would rise to 2.2 million in 1905. And 5.8 million in 1910. Be that as it may, in 1887, Stockholm had approximately 4,832 users subscribed to the telephone network. It was necessary to create a large tower capable of meet that demand on the rise
The telephone tower or telefontornet would be built in the center of Stockholmat the headquarters of Stockholms Allmänna Telephone (SAT). Specifically, on your roof. For obvious reasons. And its purpose was to meet the demand for 5,500 phones across 5,000 kilometers of distance. All through telephone cables. Once the construction and deployment was finished, the volume of cables was such that, according to sources at the time, the sky darkened. And no wonder. If you looked at the sky of Stockholm, wherever you looked, it was inevitable to find dozens of cables that crossed each other and that joined buildings and roofs through posts and smaller towers in the direction of the large central tower.
Looking at the chronology of events, the life of this impressive cell phone tower was relatively short for its visual splendor. After its construction was completed in 1887, it ceased to be used in 1913. With an intermediate renovation in 1890. And, subsequently, it received various maintenance in 1913 and 1939 until its final demolition in 1953. Hence, the photographs that remain of the telefontornet be in black and white.
Telefontornet expired too soon
The story of the Stockholm telephone tower begins in 1883. That year the company is founded known by its acronym SAT and name Stockholms Allmänna Telephone. Rough translation, Stockholm Public Telephone. At that time, in Stockholm there was already a previous telephone network managed by Bell, the popular American telephone company. With which it all started, wow. And that it also had networks in European countries like Sweden.
For the technical deployment, SAT could not work with Bell because it was its direct competition. Instead, he opted for a Swedish company. Today it is known worldwide by its name ericsson. But when it was founded, in 1876, its name was more extensive: Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson. And more than a telephone company, it was dedicated to repair phones. Its founder was Swedish Lars Magnus Ericson, hence the name LM Ericsson. But soon they went from repairing telephone terminals to providing material and telephony products to companies like Televerketthe large Swedish state-owned telecommunications company that had been founded in 1853.
It’s no wonder SAT thought of Ericsson as provider of the technological part of the project telefontornet. And as for architecture, the Swedish fritz eckert He was in charge of beautifying the great metallic tower, designing the four towers that crowned it and that were more aesthetic than practical.
The decline of the telephone cable giant
But time passes very quickly when it comes to technology. That is why in 1913, the great telephone tower of Stockholm, telefontornet, It stopped working. The reason is that that year the works necessary to bury telephone cables necessary to satisfy the demand of a Stockholm that at that time already had more than 342,000 inhabitants in the city and 229,000 in the surroundings.
As with power lines, telephone wiring installed on rooftops and rooftops was in many dangers. The cables themselves and/or the towers and poles that held them could collapse due to a storm or snowfall, frequent inclement weather in Sweden. Hence the short active life of this telecommunications tower, despite its spectacular nature.
But precisely because of its imposing appearance, it would remain standing for several more years. While, on the one hand, the company responsible for the tower, SAT, had just merging with Ericsson (1918), telefontornet became one more element of the skyline. And in 1939 he began to display advertising of the company’s department store Nordiska Kompaniet. Finally, in the summer of 1952 there was a fire that affected the structure of this gigantic tower. This led to in 1953 it was demolished.