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100 Years Ago, a Telephone Tower in Stockholm Connected 5000 Phone Lines (2014) (twistedsifter.com)
104 points by lelf 65 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 19 comments

Being not aware of this type of thing anywhere else ( except maybe those overloaded street corner phone poles you see in Asia) it would seem either this was extremely early and advanced and in a very affluent, high density city that could justify and capitalise on its benefits very early or that in other places they realised it didn't scale and went with street poles and pits and exchanges and benefited from later adoption. Where was London or New York or Paris in terms of telephone subscriber adoption at the time?

>either this was extremely early and advanced and in a very affluent, high density city that could justify and capitalise on its benefits...

People visiting Stockholm nowadays - or even people living there, for that matter - have little idea how poor and slum-ridden the city was just fifty years ago: the town center was full of small and cramped apartments housing whole families in single rooms, lacking bathrooms and toilets (everyone shared a row of earth toilets in the yard, and washed once a week in communal baths).

So, based on the high-tech and affluent Stockholm you see now, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that this was an “early and advanced” technical solution, when actually it’s simply a product of the very small scale of the town. The area ‘inomtullarna’ (which comprises the entire city center, excluding the dormitory suburbs), could easily fit inside the single London borough of Camden, for instance.

Yes as a native I have heard if this, but Sweden was also a relatively rich and technologically advanced country at the time despite all the slums of Stockholm so I assume there must have been wealthy parts too.

That's the story of every city, it does not say how big of an area this tower serviced but I would guess that the area was dense and expensive enough. Also the company that built this went on to merge with Ericsson which managed quite well in the telephony area. A big part was that they managed to deliver telephony subscripions to so many people so fast, Stockholm was way a head of e.g. London (20x) counting telephones per capita. There are several reasons for this the comming population explosion that created the slums you talk about was one.

During the period this tower was needed the population of Stockholm more than doubled so how the slums where distributed will most probably have changed during this time.

The switchboard room inside that building is also pretty fancy looking:


Even more photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tekniskamuseet-telehistoriska/...

Nice photos. Extra info about “telefontornet” can be found in https://www.ericsson.com/en/blog/2014/10/when-the-telephone-...

A thread from 2014: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7546715

I feel like there have been others. Anybody find one?

From the article, the tower had been decommissioned over a century before the article was published a few years ago. This is Victorian-era tech; steampunk but real. This was not high tech post-WWI, as the headline would indicate.

Ah, so that’s what it means to be connected to the cloud?

I think this is a suitable example for the “Clean Code” book, the chapter about refactoring.

And also: Do you think they’ve built a mock somewhere with 5000 phones as a test rig?

That’s awesome how the could align the coords like that. Reminds me of Osaka where I could look up and see phone lines everywhere. It was beautiful in a chaotic and nostalgic kind of way.

There’s something incredibly reassuring about seeing your 1Gbit line physically enter your house from the street pole.

It also makes the city seems like cyberpunk central, which is pretty cool.

Then they redid everything in Erlang.

The central switch near this tower was the subject of mass surveillance during WWII. They basically employed a massive amount of women who were just listening in on phone calls trying to find criminal activity and national security concerns.

Source: W. Agrell, Vem kan man lita på?, ISBN 9789175452395

Just like room 641A, Folsum St, San Francisco.

Fascinating how technology changes but humans don't.

Small Village solution implemented in large scale. They also tried one big switchboard, but finally ended up with some 50 operators with common trunk lines. Last time I saw Telephone Tower was in Suomenlinna 1950's with 30 lines and it was already a rats' nest.

When this was built, was it assumed that this would be a temporary structure? Was there any long-term thinking at all, or just an immediate need?

Also, this thing looks like a fabulous lightning distribution network during thunderstorms.

Related: There is a whole sub reddit cableporn in which people compete who makes the neatest cable wirings.


Insulation was a big problem before plastics. Varnished cloth, mostly. Hence so much open wire.

I suspect this is effectively a an aerial copper cross connect / distribution location

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