Telephone Type 300
The telephone Type 300 (332 model)
This elegant telephone is the 332 model from the Type 300 series of telephones developed jointly by Ericsson Telephones Ltd in the United Kingdom and the British Post Office Engineering Department in the 1930s from an original design by the Norwegian artist, Jean Heiberg (strange but true).
The Type 300 represents a golden, bygone age in telecommunications when the ability to converse with others on the telephone wasn't as much taken for granted and to many people was still something of a thrill, and even a luxury. There was once a time when the telephone stood for more meaningful communication than it does in today's world of perpetual and often trivial connectivity.
Classic black Bakelite telephones
The Norwegian design was first used in the United Kingdom in 1932 after the Prince of Wales had admired it at the Stockholm Exhibition and ordered a telephone for his own use, but it was another five years before the General Post Office (GPO) adopted the 332 model as their standard issue telephone for customers who wanted a built-in bell.
Of all the pre-war classic black telephones this is the most handsome. The smart Bakelite case has crisp straight edges where its gleaming and cleanly-defined surfaces intersect, and the handset sits elegantly on an integral rest with 'easy pickup' finger space underneath.
Earlier telephone designs were more pyramidical in shape and similar to American models that superceded the era of the 'candlestick' style. One such design was the Type 200 (inset) which first appeared in the United Kingdom in 1929 as Telephone No. 162 (though is regarded as a Type 200). Inspired, so it seems, by the elegant curves of an Edwardian silver ink stand seen in a London shop window, the 162 was designed by Siemens Brothers of London who promoted it as the "Neophone". It did not have a built-in bell, though one could be attached underneath, as pictured.
Separation of the bell from the telephone was normal practice in the home. It was felt that the bell, normally located in the hall, had to be audible in all parts of the house, whereas the telephone itself might be in any place convenient to the user. With its built-in bell the Type 300 was at first thought best suited to the office desk, but it gradually became a standard household model.
The GPO ceased ordering the Type 300 series from the manufacturers in 1959, and fixed line telephone design has gone downhill ever since, with the introduction of nondescript coloured plastic telephones in the 1960s and push-buttons in the 1980s. The design of today's cordless 'land line' phones is a disgrace to the telecommunications industry.
[ First published November 10th, 2005 ]