"What is this strange telephone switchboard? Where's it from? Quite the mystery"

@lookmumnocomputer got his hands on an old french telephone switchboard:


Some things we know:

Quite possibly a hotel switchboard, given the size, labels and numbers.

COLOMBES was the French Ericsson plant, established in 1911-12:

The cursive Ericsson logo was officially introduced in 1942 (https://logos.fandom.com/wiki/Ericsson), but was used on products before that.

@Caustic found the dial on ebay listings for Ericsson phones from “1940s”: https://www.ebay.com/itm/VINTAGE-BLACK-BAKELITE-ERICSSON-COLOMBES-ROTARY-TELEPHONE-1940s-/274067602215

The company that made the capacitor, LCSM, was founded in 1955 (much later merged with SFR and they’re CEFEM these days).

The plaque says “6.69” which could mean June 1969. Definitely not Ericsson’s most modern tech at that point :grinning:


Some reading, for the curious (but no sign of this specific switchboard yet):

https://www.ericsson.com/en/about-us/history/sources/product-catalogues has old product catalogs (some even in French, but not specifically about things made at the French factory).

http://runeberg.org/ereview/ has scans of Ericsson’s official scientific and technical journal from 1924 onwards.


After having a google and some looking at the video “Ericsson Colombes” is the factory it is made and very may well have come from this building! https://www.ericsson.com/en/about-us/history/places/europe/france
That’s about as much I can find currently :slight_smile:

EDIT: didn’t notice that was already found! D’oh!


The plaque also says SCH E_10090_ED1 FA3690 (not really sure of the transcript). SCH as in “schematic”? It was common back in the days to give the schematics.


Was just about to comment similar. here’s the screenshot for reference -


I think that may be the serial number, , on the right there is also “6_69”? I think this may be a date code of when it was made June 1969 possibly, I think it may be older than 1969 thought based on its appearance, so i’m not 100% sure that that’s what that is, this is quite the pickle indeed! :thinking:


Found another source of LM Ericsson brochures - https://www.telephonecollectors.info/index.php/browse/document-repository/catalogs-manuals/lm-ericsson

This has similar relays it seems, but not the same unit -


Cool bit of kit! Think it’d be a shame if he turned it into a synth - would be cool if he use it as basically a switchboard between multiple music sources. You even could try and make the sources multiple key-matched and beat-matched loops and let people a try at effectively doing a little loop jam, but with the awful interface of having to beat match a rotary dial to the first beat of a loop


that looks like a lot of the same components! like they come as modules you pop together. maybe the enclosure is custom like was said, however it does look awfully good for a custom one. but there could be companies who made these custom ones for hotels from the Ericsson parts.

edit, but then that doesn’t explain the serial number etc being Ericsson. maybe Ericsson made to order???


Pretty sure this is just a custom version built in France for the French market, using standard Ericsson components but also locally sourced bits (e.g. the capacitor).

(if you click around enough on the catalog page I posted earlier, there are component catalogs with all sorts of bits and bobs, but unfortunately the catalogs and journals gets more boring the newer they are – more direct ads and photos of men in suits signing contracts than actual product descriptions)


Is it necessarily the case that the capacitor isn’t a replacement?

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Could be, but a French capacitor from the right era in a product built in France? Could definitely be original. I mean, they’re French.

Seems LCSM did capacitors for rather specialized technical use, including railway systems, and that was big business for Ericsson, so they could also have been a standard supplier.

On the other hand, Ericsson made their own components, including capacitors:

(Yes, I’ve skimmed way too many of the journals I linked to earlier. There’s a lot of fun bits in there.)

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My favourite logo was the 1982 - 2009 version, just love the style of those old phones also!

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Something to keep in mind here is that this was not manufactured by the Switzerland Ericsson. I already looked at all models that they made, and you need to be sure you look for models that were made in the Colombes plant. Dont bother going down the road of “maybe the french plant build some existing model” rabbit hole i went down.

What you are probably looking for is STE (Societe Francaise des Telephones Ericsson)

The model of phone i found in ebay that has a similar dial is absolutely manufactured by STE specifically.
Info and history of STE specifically:

They mention:

Other companies such as Berliner and Dunyach & Leclerc were using Ericsson parts.

So what we may have here is like what sam was saying. We have Ericsson parts, but either a completely custom job, or one of them perhaps.

By the way I finally looked at the video. Sam unscrews the mouthpiece, which he discovers is designed for easy servicing. An attempt to unscrew the earphone is less successful.

At this point my ancient decrepitude comes in handy. When I was a child I would read books about how things worked. It turns out that phone mouthpieces and earpieces were traditionally of quite different design. The earpiece was a quite ordinary moving coil miniature speaker, but the transducer in the mouthpiece was made up of graphite (carbon) particles packed tightly together. This was done because, unlike electromagnetic transducers, it could give you a strong enough signal to pass some distance down the line without electronic amplification.

So Sam might want to take a closer look at those mouthpiece transducers. Could they be carbon microphones?

I recall also that banging the mouthpiece on a table top was thought to loosen the particles in a dodgy receiver.

Wikipedia: carbon microphone

Edit: 1942? That would be during the occupation. Depending on geographic origin, this factory might have been under German or Vichy control.


@Caustic called them Swiss above, but they’re Swedish (roughly the same thing in this context, I guess :slight_smile:). Their various subsidiaries were surely more directly impacted, but all that was hopefully sorted out by 1969.

(a link on that fandom.com page brought me to an article that mentions that they moved to new facilities in the early 40s, and changed the logo soon after that. The earlier logo featured a phone model from 1892 so I guess it was time for an update :smiley:)

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Yeah woops. Switzerland Ericsson is Ericsson AG, not the Sweden LM Ericsson.

We are reasonably sure it was manufactured before the war. They were commissioned to make encryption machines for the germans 4 years before ww2.

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In the UK we usually count 1939 as the start of the war, but I know not everybody uses that date (which is when Britain and France declared war on Germany in accordance with their treaty with Poland.) By “four years before,” did you mean 1935 or some other year?