Het Leven (Life) Illustrated1922: Fully automatic telephones

het leven 1922 titel

An article on the very first use of automatic telephones here in the Netherlands. Their amazement about this wonder of technology is wonderful and they go through lengths explaining the use of the rotary dial.

I came across this article by accident, looking for something else. It was in a lot of documentation I got from another collector. It is the original issue from 1922.

S&H ZBSA 19
S&H ZBSA 19

The telephone pictured was probably never used in Amsterdam at that moment. It is a Siemens & Halske ZBSA 11 from 1911. By the time Amsterdam went fully automatic, its successor was in production, the ZBSA 19.

Below is a transcription of the original text, translated in English. The Dutch text is rather archaic and uses old style spelling. I have tried to stay true to that as best as I can.

Fully automatic telephones of the Amsterdam Municipal telephone company, that will soon make their entrance.

Het Leven 1922 p1
Het Leven 1922 p1

Next a desk telephone according to the fully automatic system and above a wall telephone, such as the ones that the Municipal Telephone service in Amsterdam will place with their subscribes as of this month.

It is not exceptionally courteous and ‘t is also slightly unjust, but above that it may be a confirmation of the adagio that the new is not always better than the old….. but still it is a fact that many impatient tradesman and shopkeeper or office clerk will sigh with relief when he will hear: we will lose the telephone ladies!

Because that is what is about to happen.

And above we introduce to you…. the “mechanical telephone ladies” inside your telephone-self, such as us and you, one somewhat earlier, the other later, will receive them in Amsterdam in their home: the “fully automatic” telephone, that will “make” the connection you wish without the use of the lady of the exchange, without human intervention.

Amsterdam semi automatic exchange
Amsterdam semi automatic exchange

Soon the in the exchange “Centrum” the installation for the numbers 6000 to 8000 will be ready. This expansion has been equipped for the use of the above pictured telephones. In the future such an apparatus will be issued to subscribers that receive a Centrum number as much as possible. Furthermore it is planned that subsequent groups of 100 numbers of the exchange panels, on which the ladies established connections, will be phased out and transferred to the fully automatic system until slowly, when every exchange is converted tot this system, all subscribers will have become their own telephone lady and the exchanges will contain nothing more that self-switching and relaying, machines, and self-connecting instruments.

Het Leven 1922 p2
Het Leven 1922 p2

Life Illustrated is tasked to inform the subscribers already, who will receive their automatic telephone any day now, about the workings of these telephones. Just look at the photographs: on each of them a disc is mounted, that turns spring loaded in the common direction…….same as the sun, as they say. That disc has 10 holes, corresponding to 10 numbers. Who now wants to call another, always has to turn that disc five times until the finger touches the stop: the first manipulation determines the exchange you want. Until now these were called “North”, “South” and “Central”, but in the fully automated system each exchange gets a number instead of a name. One notices: this system accommodates 10 numbers: so there is room for 10 exchanges! North is 1, South is 2 and Central 3. The second manipulation – turn until the stop! – gives the thousands of the number called, – the third the hundreds, the fourth the tens, the fifth the units. Each

Kiesschijf jaren 20
Kiesschijf jaren 20

number up to 10.000 (9999) can thus be made in every exchange. This system has a capacity of 9.999 subscribers in each exchange: with three existing exchanges we can accommodate 30.000 subscribers and this number can be expanded through the addition of newer exchanges to 100.000. In this manner: he who wants to call South 8729 puts his finger in the 2 and turns until the stop. Then let go and the disk springs back. The same manipulation follows for 8, subsequently 7, than in the 2 and finally in the 9. After turning five times, the connection will have been established by itself! As said, turn five times every time! When there are dashes in the telephone guide between letter and number, then one has to turn 0 for as many times as there are dashes. C—-4 is called by subsequently dialing 3, 0, 0, 0, and 4. Another thing. The national operator can be reached by turning five times 7 consequently.

Amsterdam automatic exchange
Amsterdam automatic exchange
Gemeentetelefoon Amstedam
Gemeentetelefoon Amstedam

Oh well – sometimes this will go awry, there will be a “malfunction” and then you can no longer under any circumstance tell the telephone lady off, because she will not be around any longer……but we will get over that!

The main thing is, that thanks to the expeditiousness of the Amsterdam telephone board, our capital will get a network, as modern as possible, that is prepared for the greatest expansion possible, that will bring the unmissable use of the speaking wire within anyone’s reach and is technically on the same altitude as the most perfect telephone networks abroad.

2 Comments

  1. Dag Arwin! Al bladerend door de posts kwam ik dit fraaie stukje tegen. Over die S&H type 1911; in de verzameling is een exemplaar met amsterdams stadswapen. Inderdaad is het logisch dat het net na 1922 verder voorzien is van type 19. Toch lijkt er een verklaring. In 1911 is een delegatie van de gemeente telefoon in Hildesheim wezen kijken naar de eerste automatiseringen in Duitschland. Na terugkomst heeft men i.s.m. Siemens besloten een proefproject op te zetten. Een aantal abonnees kregen een automatisch toestel. Wellicht dat het type 1911 met wapen daarbij zat. E.e.a. staat beschreven in een boek van Onno de Wit, telefonie in Nederland 1877-1940. Een zeer lezenswaardig boek!

    Met vriendelijke groet,
    Erik

    • Hallo Erik, bedankt voor je reactie. Ik was niet bekend met deze proef. Ik heb een gedenkboek uit 1936 van de plaatselijke telefoondienst Amsterdam, maar daar wordt er niet over gesproken.
      Ik dacht altijd dat ze voor dat artikel in “Het Leven” gewoon een verkeerde soort stock foto hadden gebruikt. 🙂
      Bedankt voor de aanvulling!

      Groeten,
      Arwin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*