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Klaus vom Hofe

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Deutsche Telekom's memory

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What do a publication by the German-Austrian Telegraphic Union from 1856 and a current product magazine have in common? The answer: they're both documents in Deutsche Telekom's corporate archives. The oldest and the newest, to be exact.

The German-Austrian Telegraphic Union's magazine and the product magazine "Mehr Magenta" (More Magenta).

The age difference between the oldest and newest objects is now more than 160 years.

The readers of the German-Austrian Telegraphic Union's magazine were likely technicians and employees working in the telegraph system. In 1856, they found out – on several hundred pages, now quite yellowed – about the details of telegraph routing via Lake Constance, through the center of Berlin, and more. An entire page was dedicated to the new Morse code, which wasn't standardized until nine years later. It must have been an exciting time: enormous growth and certainly much optimism. After all, the goal was to enable international communication. 

How did this anthology make its way to Deutsche Telekom? "A colleague from the post office called me – she told me about a telegraphy archive at the former Regional Directorate of Posts and Telecommunications in Potsdam that was being liquidated," says my colleague Wolfgang Richter. He established Deutsche Telekom's archive in Bonn and keeps track of things there. After the call, he inspected the archived documents and rescued the anthology from 1856, among other specimens. 

"We collect everything that has to do with Deutsche Telekom's history and business activities since its founding in 1995," explains Wolfgang Richter. Since telegraphy is a technical ancestor, however, he is happy to broaden the scope. Exactly 561,682 objects are currently stored in the archives, including more than 500,000 videos and photos: prints, slides, negatives, and of course digital images. The rest consists of price lists, annual reports, and speech manuscripts, along with catalogs, employee and customer magazines, trade journals, and posters. The basement of Deutsche Telekom's headquarters in Bonn also houses many old landline and mobile phones. Wolfgang Richter regularly receives inquiries from colleagues, as well as from the general public. Some of them are very specific, such as one person who asked when the local network was commissioned in a village in the Eifel region.

The future always needs the past

New technologies, innovations – a great deal of work focuses on future topics. All the same, I often find myself attracted to Deutsche Telekom's corporate archives. It helps give me balance, perhaps together with the thought that the future always needs the past. Enthusiasm for innovations and technical performance is also reflected in the archived objects, such as the magazine of the German-Austrian Telegraph Union. And some time in the future, archive experts will be providing information about long-forgotten things like apps and 5G.

I'm very grateful to my colleague Wolfgang Richter for opening these doors for me. And for the fact that he always lets us Communications staffers know about anniversaries. Like "25 years of the D1 network" last year. And Deutsche Telekom AG will soon be celebrating its 25th birthday as well.

By the way: the age difference between the oldest and newest objects is now more than 160 years. The newest one is "Mehr Magenta" (More Magenta). This product magazine made its way directly from the printing press to a sturdy archiving folder bearing the number 24316. The next additions will be an employee flyer and the latest issue of "Mehr Magenta". (Look out, here comes the advertising blurb:) If you'd like to take a look, click here (in German).

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