South Africa’s telephony history started in 1878, when Adolph Boettger, owner of a small watchmaker’s shop in Cape Town, imported a few telephones from Siemens & Halske.
These telephones were used experimentally to link the dwelling of the Telegraph Department’s chief clerk with the St George Street Post Office.
These early telephone models were used in SA before the advent of telephone exchanges in the country (1878-1882), and worked over private wires – referred to as Bell telephones.
The first telephone exchange in South Africa was established in Port Elizabeth in May 1882, with 20 subscribers signing up that year.
The first switchboard of the PE exchange was a cross-bar return Schwizer Commutator, and the telephone instruments used were of the Gower-Bell type.
A history of phones in South Africa
The list below provides an overview of the history of telephones in South Africa – from the first Siemens & Halske in 1878, to the Samsung Galaxy S6 in 2015.
A special thanks to Telkom’s library services for providing the photos.
Siemens & Halske phone in 1878
Siemens & Halske phone in 1881
Ader telephone in 1890
Ericsson AC 120 telephone in 1895
Table Telephone in 1900s
Skeleton magneto table telephone in 1910s
Central battery type table phone in 1920s
Neophone automatic table phone used from 1934 to 1958
Old telephone from the 1940s
Centenary telephone in the 1950s
Push button phone in 1964
Lorea telephone in the 1980s
Magnolia telephone in the 1990s
Venus phone in the 1990s
Ericsson GH198 in 1994
Ericsson T10 in 1997
Nokia 3210 in 2000
Nokia 3310 in 2001
Motorola Razr V3 in 2004
Apple iPhone 4 in 2010