designed in Sweden
by the L M Ericsson Company in the late 1940's
, consisting of a one-piece handset
with a dial in the bottom of the base. Sharp-eyed fans of "The Prisoner
" will recognize them at once: an "Erico" looks like a small piece of Bakelite
sculpture that just happens to have two little grilles
in it at the appropriate places. Ericos also feature a polite-sounding ring known as the "Ericotone". In Europe
, they were a staple of hospitals
and other places where a "hot line
" was needed: to answer an Erico, all you needed to do was pick it up, with no awkward base to deal with.
Unfortunately, the Bell System was foursquare against imported phones, which hampered Ericos becoming a staple of American telephony. Moreover, they were making their own experiments in telephone design, culminating in the "Princess" phone. By the early 70's, with touch-dialing rapidly becoming standard, Ericsson had discontinued the Erico: only 3000 touch-tone Ericos were ever produced.
With the breakup of AT&T, sporadic attempts have been made to revive the Erico design with touch-tone -- the most recent has been the "Nick & Nora Candlestick Phone" (a blatant misnomer all around) which has neither the elegance nor the functionality of the original Erico. A shame.