With the death of the “telefonkatalogen” (the telephone directory) 123 years of Swedish history has departed. If you’re in Sweden and need to look up someone’s phone number, you have to go online or call the number information service. No more telephone directories.

“Sure it’s a bit sad,” says Tomas Söderblom, a telephone- and telephone directory collector in Lund. “And it must create a problem for older people. These directories have been part of people’s everyday life all these years.”

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The Swedish telephone directory was first introduced in 1889 – a few hundred copies were published in what was a grey 14-page notebook with a directory of 320 subscribers. In 1903 the telephone directory was divided into six parts, covering all subscribers in the western parts of Sweden. In 1938, the directory was given a new format, one that it was to keep for almost 30 years. The cover was designed by the artist Akke Kumlien, showing the Swedish coat of arms in a stylish yet simplified version. Fast forward to 1972, when subscribers with the same last name are being put in order of their first names and not, as previously, in order of their titles. The cover now features the emblem of Televerket (the Telegraph Agency).

In 1992, the telephone directory becomes a true work of art when 35 Swedish artists each create a cover. Dan Wolger’s piece is most talked about, a cover showing his own name and phone number. Four years later, the directory and the Gula Sidorna (the yellow pages) take the step into cyberspace with the launch of gulasidorna.se. In 2000, the business is being cut from Telia to the company Eniro, and now, in 2012, the directory disappears altogether from Göteborg, Stockholm, and Malmö. It is as of yet unclear for how long the directory will exist in other parts of the country.