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Modern times (part one)
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The 1970s were a period of relative stability. Compared with the previous forty years, the number of new kiosks installed was small. Some new sites were opened, for which the K8 was used, and when kiosks needed moving or where vandalism became a serious problem the existing unit would usually be replaced with the current model. Around 4000 K8s were supplied.

The K8 was more resistant to attack than its predecessor, but the degree of improvement was not enough to justify replacement of all the threatened K6s. In many instances thePost Office took a dramatic approach and ripped out the original glazing frames before the vandals did, replacing them with K8-style single-pane windows, the portion up to knee height being filled with sheet steel. The toughened glass that had been used for many years was replaced by unbreakable polycarbonate.

Unhappily this scratched easily and became opaque through damage and frequent efforts to remove graffiti. The modified boxes looked ugly but it had become extremely difficult to keep the payphones working. In the circumstances, the appearance of the kiosks was of little importance to those needing to make an emergency call.

Another solution was to use a more open, 'walk-up' booth. The first of these was the 'Booth 7A', called the Oakham, after the Old Oak ham tin, which it resembled. The idea originated at a meeting on Tyneside, where staff from Post Office headquarters in London were told stories of kiosks that had been set ablaze and of others being dragged away by lines attached to lorries, the thieves preferring to break open the cash box somewhere less public. One of the local team observed that what was needed was something made like a battleship, perhaps built by the local Swan Hunter shipyard. The headquarters team continued the discussions on the train home, and by the time they arrived back in London they had completed the basic design of the Oakham.

The first unit was erected in 1980, in Gateshead, and it was soon appearing elsewhere. It proved to be a highly successful design and even survived intact the inner city riots of the early 1980s. The Oakham was painted yellow, partly because it had no lighting of its own and red was not felt to be sufficiently visible. The brighter colour was, however, about to take on a new significance.

When Post Office Telecommunications and the Royal Mail were separated in readiness for privatisation, new corporate identities were established. British Telecom, the trading identity of the new telecommunications company, adopted a blue and yellow colour scheme. As an experiment, some telephone boxes were painted yellow. It was not a popular move! It soon became clear that the British held the red telephone box on a par with black taxi cabs. Yellow was simply not acceptable. In the end, and at least in part because the new colour showed the dirt more easily, British Telecom decided to limit the use of yellow to the K8, and then only if local people wished to make the change. Few did.

Meanwhile, other more fundamental discussions had been under way. The castiron boxes could be expected to last for another forty years or more but the way payphones were used was changing. Ac-cessibility for disabled users was becoming an important consideration, for example. It was time to have a thorough review of the telephone box. In 1979 a study reported that all the various needs could be satisfied by a range of six models: a conventional kiosk with a door, a similar unit without a door, a walk-up booth in both floor- and wall-mounted forms, a robust Oakham-style pedestal structure, and a variant of one or other of these designed to suit the disabled.

Over the next couple of years, a number of new models were tried out. Some were imported from Europe and North America. Some were new British designs. They were of several shapes, some open, others closed, and none were of cast iron. Meanwhile British Telecom commissioned David Carter of DCA Design Consultants to develop a range of housings as defined in the 1979 report. His designs reached prototype stage only. They had been pro-duced to suit production at the rate of 10,000 a year. In the lead up to British Telecom's privatisation financial constraints had reduced the forecast demand to less than a tenth of this, and the DCA designs would no longer be economic. Attention turned to an internally designed range known as the 'Croydon'. Based loosely on the DCA designs, this, too, went to prototype stage and no further. There was another change of plan.


Modern times (part one)

The Booth 7A was known as the 'Oakham', because it resembled an Old Oak ham tin. It had no lighting of its own and was painted bright yellow to make it more visible.


Modern times (part one)

A very sad K8, photographed in 1985 in East London. The steel props were not there to hold the roof up, but to stop users falling through the missing
windows should they lean on them. The payphone was still working when the picture was taken.


Modern times (part one)

The King 511, from Canada, installed near Holborn Circus, London. Described in the literature as providing fresh solutions', it was constructed of aluminium and acrylic.

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