Dutch industrial design is famous around the world for being innovative, simple and unconventional. It has a long history and apart from architecture and furniture it entails a lot of common household items. But because Holland is a relatively small country, with an equally small market for telephones, there are, not surprisingly, very few Dutch designed telephones. Here are 3 typical Dutch telephones once used by het Staatsbedrijf der Post, Telegraaf en Telefoon: PTT, the Dutch state mail, telegraph and telephone company.
Truly the first Dutch telephone ever. For a long time Heemaf was the only Dutch telephone manufacturer until Ericsson and later NSEM started producing telephone in the Netherlands too. Although they started production in 1931 it was not until this model was introduced in 1955 that there was a real Dutch telephone: Dutch electronics, Dutch designed housing, manufactured completely in the Netherlands. Designed by the famous graphic artist Gerrit Kiljan this model looks like no other telephone of the era. It radiates a kind of machine age energy, and looks ready to jump off the table. It is no wonder collectors often call it the batman phone, with its sharp lines and rounded corners give it an almost gothic quality. And it is not just looks: the ergonomics have been well thought out. The peculiar shape of the handset is designed to give it a comfortable grip. The number window moulded in the body shell, easy to see but not easy to damage, like the number windows on other phones that were protruding separate parts. The earthing button is flush with the top of the body shell, preventing accidentally activating it. All this and still it follows the principles of the Nieuwe Zakelijkheid (New Objectivity) of simplicity and functionality.
The most typical Dutch telephone and for a long time the quintessential Dutch telephone. An icon of its age, there was no other model but this one from the late 60s till the early 80s: The Telephone. Everybody had one and if you did not, you wanted one. People were eager to swap their old bakelite phone for this picture of modernity. At one point there even was a shortage of these, as demand outstripped production.
Made by all telephone manufacturers in the Netherlands at the time it does not come any Dutcher than this. Simple, smooth, easy to maintain, well thought out, comfortable to use, light, modern looking in its day. And yet…………..it was not that very special. Many of its features, like the handgrip at the back and the small hatch over the terminals on the bottom, can be found on other telephones too. There was even talk of plagiarism. Many countries had their own version of grey mouse during the 60s and 70s. But show this one to any Dutchy born before 1980, they will probably say: “Awwwww, we use to have one of those.” with a look of nostalgia in their eyes.
In 1983 PTT started project Omega, to design a new range of telephones for the modern age. This resulted in the Twintoon 10. It has an electronic ringer, a memory, it is digital (DTMF), sleek and has a designy look and feel. It even has a plug that was designed in a matching style.
These were meant to be the standard telephone models for the PTT. In a way they were the last of the line. Consumer demand lead to an ever broader spectrum of telephone designs on offer and the days of the state monopoly on telephony were numbered.
Designed and produced by Ericsson Holland, in Rijen (not RUEN) it was the desk version of a range of telephones of similar design, with different purposes. There were multi line phones, system phones, and also more elaborate desk versions with added options like an electronic memory for storing favourite telephone numbers. It was really an effort to have a comprehensive product line. Most of the equipment names ended in VOX, a trend which started with Ericsson equipment like the Diavox. But it did not last very long. A few years after the introduction of this line of telephone designs, PTT was privatised, and the market for telephones and telephony liberalised. Gone were the days of standard telephones.