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  • Writer's picture Kester Eddy

Cobblestones, Reflections in High Noon Light, Central-Eastern Europe - KesterTester54

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

A Young Woman Strides towards the Archway & Light - but where? [Updated with results of KT53]

Photo: A contrasty urban image from the summer of 1995, taken with, I think, a 17mm wide-angle lens on a 35mm camera.

After the two tough challenges of Felcsút (Viktor Orbán's home village) and a phone-box maker from the 1990s, something more straightforward, perhaps? Where could this be?

Answers via the website messaging system, or an email, if you would.

Oh, by the way, I've added a couple more clues to the last Tester - might make it a bit easier. Having found the EU-approved, Black Woolly Hat, I'll aim to do the draw on Sunday morning.

Have a good weekend!

UPDATE: The results of KT53

​Well, the phone box apparatus - or rather where it was made - proved a real tough nut. I suppose it was one only for a certain niche group of real old timers.

Alan Sutton thought it migh be a Hungarian product. His bid came in early: I seem to remember the Telefongyár being a client of ours at PW [Price Waterhouse], where I worked between 1990 and 1992. A quick look at Wikipedia noted that it was bought by Siemens in 1991, and became Siemens Telefongyár Kft. and they would have made the phones.

I haven't a clue who the girl is or the location of the phone - most likely Budapest as it had and still has most of the phone boxes in Hungary.

OK Alan - she has a beautiful smile, that's for sure, as Tom Chilton observed. He was out and about sleuthing on site in search of the answer: Well, it's Gabi and the phone looks as if it's in a metro station, maybe Moszkva tér?

I checked out the phone box in Kismaros (see pic).

It says Transelektro Telkor, but the second word was presumably Telkom originally. An online search on where these were made was fruitless but I did find out the following (from June 2021)

There are 4,953 public telephones in Hungary, as compared to 30,000 at the turn of the millenium.

On average, they are used for 50 calls a month, lasting less than half an hour in total.

Hmmmm. Little wonder Magyar Telekom want rid of them then. A real financial burden.

David McCall, writing in from some North American airport wrote: I don't know where the phones were made, though I think you may have alluded to this during a previous challenge.

I think I may have done, David.

I think the significance of those phones was that they were the first with a call back number. Just like when I was a kid, you could wait by the phone for a call.

I thought you could do that with the old yellow and red plastic apparatus, David, but maybe my memory is at fault there. He continued: About that time they also introduced the phones using a card rather than coins. We once had a collection of used cards!

Indeed, I'd say that was late 1991. Monétel products, I believe.

So far, so fruitless. However, nobody, including myself, had considered the prowess of Hubert “Poirot” Warsmann when he gets going.

From the date you mention and the visual, I assume you want to talk about the South African Telkor devices first tested in HU in 1990 and introduced in 1991 by Matáv. Not sure whether they were made in SA or the design was licenced for local production to Mechanikai Művek, a now defunct Budapest firm that sold the ubiquitous TMM 78 (dial) and TMM 80 (push button) to Posta in the 80’s. I don’t recall seeing the MM logo on them though. Maybe that was the beginning of the end for MM.

Gulp – I hadn't reckoned with all this knowledge, Hubert. I was told by the second in command of what became the South African embassy though that the phone apparatus was made in South Africa.

Hubert continued: I seem to recall that the design was picked for its robustness and its ability to operate outdoors with minimal supervision. For instance, every set had its own microprocessor allowing it to communicate with central control to report errors, daily revenue, etc. This also allowed remote software update (nothing new Tesla!). Also and unlike the MM earlier designs, the cash bank was separate from the electronics, for added security.

Again, Hubert has far more knowledge about these phones than myself. I was only told that these phones were near enough vandal proof, and that is why Matáv chose the design. But Hubert knew yet more!

Telkor was quite successful in the region at the time with sales in Hungary, Bulgaria or Romania, but they sold their payphone activity soon after in a general restructuring of the SA telco industry and disappeared from these eastern European markets. Otherwise, I think pay phones have been in service in Hungary since the late 20’s and that the first keyboard ones appeared at Ferihegy in the late 70’s but only in the 80’s downtown. These Telkor pay phones were superseded in the late 90’s by Swiss Monétel devices that only accepted chip cards. I don’t think they install new phone booths anymore, rather the contrary, but I still see a few in Bp here and there, whereas I don’t recall seeing one in Belgrade in the past few years for instance.

Wow – looks like Hubert has done a PhD in CEE telecommunications history! However, I'm pretty sure the Monétel phones arrived before the late 90s, Hubert. At least I'm sure I remember buying my first card when still at or just after leaving Radio Bridge – which switched to majority Hungarian language broadcasting around December 01, 1991.

Whatever, no need to wheel out the EU-approved Black Woolly hat this week – Hubert wins with a walkover. Congratulations to him and all other entrants to boot, surely a worthy winner!

Oh, almost forgot, a consolation prize to Mr Chilton (that's just one beer for me next time we're out): the young lady with the enchanting smile was on Moszkva tér - round about where now they've put up the fancy splash fountains that turn on and off in summer.

No idea of her name though - would be lovely to let her see the pic.

UPDATE2: Here's an interesting piece by a fellow who struggled to design the phones for CEE - including making sure that the HUF 5 coin was accepted, but the very simila Yugoslav 10 dinar - which was worth about one fifth of the HUF 5 coing - was rejected.

Now, what about the photo above? Much easier than Gabi and the phone apparatus, methinks!

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