New Life to Norway’s Red Phone Booths

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In a delightful blend of nostalgia and innovation, Norway's iconic red phone booths are getting a second life, evolving from their traditional role into vibrant hubs of literary and auditory experiences. This transformation, led by the Association Read! (Foreningen !les), marks a new chapter in the story of these beloved cultural landmarks.

About the Listening Booths

After the advent of the mobile phone, the telephone booths lost their relevance. However, it turned out that Norwegians had a fond relationship with the red booths, and spontaneous protests arose when they were removed.

The Association Read! (Foreningen !les) stepped in with books and transformed the telephone booths into reading booths. Now, a major renewal is happening: the same association is behind a new project to fill old telephone booths with sound, supported by a grant from and collaboration with the Sparebankstiftelsen DNB. The public will be able to hear local poets, current authors, stories from the local community, and more when they visit the telephone booths.


Local guardians, usually the local library, will be responsible for updating the content in the listening booths and adapting it to local conditions. But how to turn an old telephone into a kind of jukebox with soundtracks? A telephone from the 1980s is not exactly "Podcast Ready": Apart from the handset, there is little in the devices that can be reused for the new purpose. The library needed software to upload content, and a solution for communication between the telephone booths and the library was necessary. After all, the telephone booths do not have fiber or broadband.


Association Read! contacted Maketronics and its managing director Jens Brynildsen. He developed the software for the listening booths’ guardians, mainly local libraries. Brynildsen also created a prototype for new hardware to be installed in the telephone devices, including a new display. After a test phase for five prototypes, the hardware will go into production so that even more booths will have sound. PBT Group is responsible for installation and maintenance across the country. And the communication between the telephone booth and the guardians software? Com4 solved this with robust and reliable mobile technology.


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The innovative reuse of the beloved telephone booths is intended to contribute to thenmission of the Association Read!: To spread the joy of reading and create more readers (and listeners). Brynildsen has created sensors that detect when people are nearby, which makes them start to ring – making passersby curious. The technical and practical solutions from Maketronics, PBT, and Com4 make it easy for local guardians to update their local telephone booth with new content, including for international tourists who pass by. Five prototypes have been set up, and more will be rolled out over the next few years.

"The solution from Com4 makes it easy for us to get the old telephone devices online. All devices connect to a central web solution. This allows booth guardians across the country to update and upload audio files to the kiosks."
"The technical solutions behind the listening booths are impressive and a great example ofthe reuse of existing infrastructure. The reading booths create a lot of engagement around literature across the country."

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