In 1887, they built this relatively high (45 meters) "telephone tower" in Stockholm. It was apparently built to hold the wires for all the telephone subscribers/customers in Stockholm. (On the photo, it looks much higher than that to me...)

Photo from around 1890: Telephone tower

Even though this was in 19th century, I still cannot believe that they opted for this idiotic design. Being a Swede myself, I know very well of the embarrassing "Wasa ship" from a couple of hundred years prior to this, which barely got anywhere before it just sank, so I'm aware that we've not always made the best engineering decisions, but this is a bit too much even for Swedes.

Why on Earth would you have individual telephone wires going directly from the tower into the homes of every single subscribers? You don't build a huge tower if there are only two subscribers, so clearly they expected to have quite a few. Then, why ruin the entire "air space"/skyline of the city with these ugly wires, which look like a massive safety hazard other than just being an eyesore? Why not have them bundles together where possible, attached to telephone poles of some kind?

The first time I saw the photo linked to above, I thought it was faked or a joke. I'm still not sure. It seem unfathomable to me how they could think this was a good idea, even briefly. It doesn't matter if the public soon started raising voices against this structure -- anything else would be very strange -- since, after all, they did build it like this in the first place, and it was a thing for at least a few years.

If this isn't a hoax, I wish somebody could give a reasonable explanation as to how intelligent people could come up with this design of having a central tower with wires strung directly into the telephones of each customer. Is it possible that it could have actually been a "status symbol", as in:

Yeah... Check it out, neighbour! What's that wire going into my window? From that huge tower? That's right... I've got a *telephone!

That's just about the only guess I could offer myself, but it's rather silly.

  • 3
    What is wrong with the Wikipedia page on the subject, which includes the phrase, " The quadrangular metallic structure was 80 metres tall and soon fell out of favour with the local population. "?
    – MCW
    Apr 27 '20 at 12:44
  • 1
    How else would you do it?
    – MCW
    Apr 27 '20 at 13:47
  • With regards to ship building : Peter Pett the british dockyard commissioner ensured in 1667 the safety of his ship models. Those ship models was the print and design of the future ships of the british navy. Until the 1700's ship design when increasing size of ships was basically test-and-trial. Vasa was a trial in how much you could get away with. The iron ship USS Oregon from 1890 was also a such a thing ie what can we get away with ??? Apr 27 '20 at 16:59
  • why closing? is he not allowed to doubt a small Wikipedia page? Is wikipedia magically hoax proof? the question even has a good, detailed, picture-rich answer. Pictures like the ones given in the answer are not so easy to find, or to search for, and he must be excused to not knowing tech from 100y ago.
    – Luiz
    Apr 28 '20 at 14:28

Absolutely - and dedicated point-to-point wiring remained state-of-the-art technology for telephony right into the 1960's, as in the 1960 photograph below of a telephone exchange switchboard:

enter image description here

As the number of subscribers increased, however, these exchanges became more numerous and more disbursed through the cities, though the dedicated lines from each subscriber or party-line to an exchange remained. Over time these dedicated lines were gradually buried underground over time, but remained above ground in many other places. However the demand for telephony had expanded far more rapidly at first than it was possible to bury the liens, so for many years most neighbourhoods were served by above ground lines.

Every subscriber (or group of subscribers in the case of party lines) had a dedicated line into the nearest telephone exchange. To make a call one asked the switchboard operator to manually connect your dedicated line to the exchange of the party you desired to call, which in turn often required multiple exchange relays by other operators until a dedicated connection had been established from your dedicated line to your receiver's dedicated line. Although the process is now automated, this remains the reason that wired telephony remains a point-to-point service.

British Telecom examples:

  • Pole top distribution dated to early 1960's:

    enter image description here

  • Estimated mid 1960's example, dated from visible technology:

    enter image description here

There is no shortage of pictures on the web available by Googling "Telephone Wires 1880's"

  • 1
    There where no towers with individual telephone like the one depicted above in the sixties, at least not in western Germany. There where, though, posts with telefone cables, neatly arranged along railroad and roads. Houses had wall connection with these lines, though they started to put the cables into the ground back then.
    – user43870
    Apr 27 '20 at 13:19
  • @a_donda: How were those dedicated lines distributed to subscribers in Western Germany in the 1880's? Apr 27 '20 at 13:31
  • That i don't know. But i faintly recall the 1960s. Your answer suggests that these contraptions were still there in the 1960s, and that was not the case.
    – user43870
    Apr 27 '20 at 13:44
  • @a_donda: Sufficient evidence yet? Apr 27 '20 at 13:44
  • Btw., the cables are still there and it is still a point to point service, but they're underground and the technology and protocols have changed so that there is more bandwidth. And at least in the late 1960s rotary dial was present even in remote areas in Germany.
    – user43870
    Apr 27 '20 at 14:03

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