Kjobenhavns TelefonAktieselskab - KTAS





KTAS served Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark on the island of Zealand. Denmark comprises a series of islands and a chunk of mainland, and so has special problems with the provision of telephone services. Separate companies were formed to build telephone services for each of the main islands.

In Copenhagen the first company was Kjobenhavns By-og Hustelegraf, started in 1879. Their first phones were built locally by A Benzon, but the Bell company opened a rival firm, Internationale Bell Telefon-Selskab, using their superior telephones and Gilliland's switchboards. The little local company could not compete.

In August 1882 KTAS began operations, financed by local businessman Carl Frederick Tietgen. The new company appears to have bought out both Bell and By-og Hustelegraf. They standardized on Bell equipment. Initially they had 22 subscribers but this grew rapidly and in 1888 they built a new exchange in Jorcks Passage with Bell multiple switchboards. In 1900 another exchange was built in Norregade, this time using Ericsson switchboards.







Left: 3-box Blake from Bell

Centre: Modified 2-box with Ericsson replacement transmitter and receiver

Right: Ericsson single-cell wallfone Model 301








Left: Very early Bell desk phone

Centre: Ericsson No 370 swingarm skeletal phone

Right: Ericsson No 375 skeletal phone


Their first telephone was the large 3-box wallphone built at Bell's factory in Antwerp. Although these were built with Blake transmitters, they were eventually converted to use L M Ericsson's superior transmitters and receivers. These also allowed them to convert to a twin box wall phone, built locally. From the earliest days they imported some phones from Ericssons, notably the ornate little "single cell" wall phones and the "turret" or swingarm early version of the Skeletal phone. These phones marked the start of a long relationship with Ericssons, and they also marked the start of a small but significant local telephone manufacturing industry.

In 1892 Emil Moeller (usually spelled Moller) started his own manufacturing company, Emil Moller Telefonfabrikker, at Horsens in Denmark. Over the years he produced many telephones for KTAS and the other Danish companies. Some used unbranded Ericsson parts and most were based on Ericsson styles, so his early phones are often mistaken for Ericssons. Generally he simplified the rather ornate Ericsson designs to produce a restrained and economic local product . The number that survived in use until after the Second World War is an indicator of their quality.








Left: Strowger wall phone built by Siemens

Centre: Ericsson AC300, about 1910 to 1914

Right: D08, auto version


In 1898 KTAS decided to introduce automatic exchanges, and brought in a Strowger unit with the early Strowger phones. This must have proved reasonably satisfactory, for KTAS continued to install automatic exchanges where possible. In this respect they were one of the first companies in the world to adopt automatic exchanges as standard practice. CB and magneto exchanges were still used in some areas, and to provide for them a small steel-cased CB desk phone was introduced in 1907.

In 1904 KTAS bought in Ericsson's Model AC300, another steel-cased magneto desk phone. The KTAS model is notable for its red ringer cutout button. This feature seems only to have been used in Denmark. In 1908 this was supplemented by the little desk phone generally known as the D08. This was made by another local firm, Telefon Fabrik Automatic A/S, and was based on an earlier phone from Zweitusch & Co. in Germany. It was made in CB and automatic versions, in black and later ivory, and had a small call meter mounted on the top panel. A version was also made for "demiautomatic ringing", an arrangement that used a pushbutton alternator to signal the exchange. The D08 is one of the world's classic phone designs and has been widely copied, even into the 1970s.

In 1908 KTAS upgraded the exchange at Norregade, now using 2000 lines of Siemens & Halske switchgear. The company seems to have been keen on evaluating new products; an unusual policy for a smaller company. Most telephone companies were rather conservative and tended to stick to a supplier that they knew, rather than look around. In the case of Siemens & Halske, though, they probably bought their first Strowger switchgear from S&H who were agents and were building the equipment themselves.

In 1914 Mollers produced a version of Ericssons' Model AC400. It was also used by other Danish companies and will be seen with transfers from Fyns Kommunal, Lolland-Falsters, and JYDSK. Many were refurbished in the 1960s, generally with JYDSK transfers, and sold in the United States as being "from Danish castles". Moller's simplifications are evident in the photo - less decoration than the Ericsson model (usually just an aluminium KTAS nameplate screwed to the top deck), a simple bent cradle without beads on the crossarm, and a slightly shorter handset.

In 1920 Mollers was bought out by Mr Kristian Kirk, and by 1937 the name was changed to Kristian Kirk's Telefonfabrikker.

Through most of the 1920s and 1930s KTAS sourced their switchgear from Ericssons or Standard Electric. Towards the end of the 1930s and through the 1940s Standard Electric was the preferred supplier. It appears that by this time Kristian Kirk was producing Standard Electric equipment under license. Standard Electric was the new European name for the manufacturing company spun off from Bell Telephone Manufacturing in Antwerp when Bell sold off their overseas resources to ITT. The automatic switch would have been BTMC's Rotary system, itself a better developed version of the earlier Lorimer system.

In 1947 KTAS took over Bornholms Telefonselskab, serving an adjacent island, and in 1948 it took over the Lolland-Falster telephone company which was also using Standard Electric equipment.






Left: M47

Centre: M51

Right: M52


KTAS introduced their first bakelite phone, the M49, in 1949. It was an Ericsson design. An updated version, the M51, was built by Kristian Kirks. An alternative version, the M52, was produced in automatic only by Telefon Fabrik Automatic.

In the 1950s KTAS now standardized on Ericsson's ARF and ARM switchgear. Orders in 1950 alone totalled 82,500 lines, to cater for post-World War Two demand. They also bought in the Ericofon in 1957. It was around this period that many of the older magneto phones were taken out of service, reconditioned, and sold worldwide. The D08 and the tall JYDSK phones in particular are well known to collectors.






Left: F68

Right: DK80 /Digitel

In 1968 the F68, an Ericsson plastic desk phone, was introduced. It was soon being produced under license by Kristian Kirk and Telefon Fabrik Automatic. A touchphone version was produced in 1972.

There was still support for local designs. Kristian Kirk's designer, Jacob Jensen, produced the DK80. This was a stylish pushbutton phone in the new flat style, with a range of options and colours. It was exported widely. In Australia it was sold by Telecom Australia as the Digitel.

Until now the Danish Government had left KTAS and the other companies alone to run their business. Denmark had a technically advanced world-class system supporting local manufacturers and exporting a useful amount of product. Government pressure now forced the remaining companies to amalgamate. The amalgamated company became Tele-Danmark Communications under Government ownership, but was partly privatized again in 1994. Since 1998 it has once again been fully privatized, and is now owned by a range of investors including overseas companies.

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