Here’s how to view a Google map of Oslo in the 1700s

Imagine if you could somehow drop a historic map on top of Google maps to see how a place has changed over the centuries.

Here’s how to view a Google map of Oslo in the 1700s
What was Paleehagen? Take a trip around the Port of Oslo in 1798 to find out. Photo: screenshot Oslo Harbour 1798/Google

Historian Ragnhild Hutchison has gone one step further with this thought experiment: she has been busily working to build a website and app to visualise how the Port of Oslo Harbour looked 220 years ago, ScienceNordic reports.

“The idea is that you can physically stand somewhere at the Port of Oslo, pick up your phone, open our map and travel back to 1798,” she says, speaking to ScienceNordic.

Oslo went through an economic boom in the late 1700s, and new buildings were constructed in the same area where the Barcode Project financial district, near the Oslo Opera House, and Aker Brygge, home of the Nobel Peace Centre, are today. Timber trading abroad created wealth in Norway, and the Port of Oslo became an important trading area.

“This was a special time in Norwegian history, and the port is where the market economy in Norway really grew,” she said.

Hutchinson’s project launched earlier this month, with a test version showing the Port of Oslo in 1798. The website includes a map of Oslo from the 1700s overlain on a modern Google map of the city.

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You can click on different areas to see more information about various historical buildings in Oslo, of which most are gone now. And you can also move around with your computer or on your mobile phone, to get a feel of what it was like to be there.

Screenshot: Port of Oslo 1798/Google

“It's designed to be very simple, you don’t need to download anything. Just open your mobile phone and open the map,” Hutchison said.

“This project is really just the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “There’s a lot of archival work and research behind this.”

Much of what is known about what the Port of Oslo looked like comes from fire insurance assessments from the period. These are insurance papers that describe entire buildings and interiors in Oslo from the 18th and 19th centuries. And they are very detailed.

“We know who lived in the different buildings, and we can almost say what they ate for lunch,” Hutchison said.

The problem with the fire insurance assessments is that they are written in gothic handwriting, and it takes a long time to interpret what was actually written.

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“We have had a small army of people who have been sitting and reading different sources, which we have used for different research projects,” she said.

In addition to the fire assessments, the researchers have used customs archives to figure out what kind of goods were coming to the port as well as ship arrivals for the period around 1800. And the people working in the Port of Oslo were obviously good at recording what happened in the harbour.

“We have very good archive material dating back to the 17th century,” she said.

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Hutchison is also Managing Director of Tidvis AS, which has developed several different storytelling projects. The Port of Oslo 1798 has been funded by a number of organisations and foundations.

She hopes the project can help people think about Oslo's history and how it has developed over the centuries.

“Around 1800, a whole new financial area was built around the harbour, but now everything is gone. The people who worked there had a lot of money, just like the Barcode Project area today,” she said.

This article was originally published on ScienceNordic

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How a Viking king inspired one of our best-known modern technologies

A Swede and American tell the story of how they hatched the idea for the moniker 'Bluetooth' over beers.

A Danish 16th-century paining of Viking king Harald Bluetooth
A Danish 16th-century paining of Viking king Harald Bluetooth. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

At the end of the 1990s, Sven Mattisson, a Swedish engineer working at telecom group Ericsson, and Jim Kardach, an American employed by Intel, were among those developing the revolutionary technology.

In 1998, at the dawn of the “wireless” era, the two men were part of an international consortium that created a universal standard for the technology first developed by Ericsson in 1994.

But prior to that, they had struggled to pitch their wireless products. Intel had its Biz-RF wireless programme, Ericsson had MC-Link, while Nokia had its Low Power RF. Kardach, Mattisson and others presented their ideas at a seminar in Toronto in late 1997.

“Jim and I said that people did not appreciate what we presented,” Mattisson, now 65 and winding down his career at Ericsson, recalled in a recent interview with AFP.

The engineer, who had travelled all the way to Canada from Sweden for the one-hour pitch, decided to hang out with Kardach for the evening before flying home.

“We received a lukewarm reception of our confusing proposal, and it was at this time I realised we needed a codename for the project which everyone could use,” Kardach explained in a long account on his webpage.

‘Chauvinistic story’

To drown their sorrows, the two men headed for a local Toronto bar and ended up talking about history, one of Kardach’s passions. “We had some beers… and Jim is interested in history so he asked me about Vikings, so we talked at length about that,” said Mattisson, admitting that his recollection of that historic night is now somewhat foggy.

Kardach said all he knew about Vikings was that they ran “around with horned helmets raiding and looting places, and that they were crazy chiefs.”

Mattisson recommended Kardach read a well-known Swedish historical novel about the Vikings, entitled “The Long Ships”.

Set in the 10th century – “a chauvinistic story” about a boy taken hostage by Vikings, says Mattisson – one name in the book caught Kardach’s attention: that of the king of Denmark, Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson.

A Bluetooth adapter from 2004. Photo: Stefan Gustavsson/SvD/TT


An important historic figure in Scandinavia in the 10th century, the king of Denmark’s nickname is said to refer to a dead tooth, or, as other tales have it, to his liking for blueberries or even a simple translation error.

During his reign, Denmark turned its back on its pagan beliefs and Norse gods, gradually converting to Christianity.

But he is best known for having united Norway and Denmark in a union that lasted until 1814.

A king who unified Scandinavian rivals – the parallel delighted those seeking to unite the PC and cellular industries with a short-range wireless link.

And the reference to the king goes beyond the name: the Bluetooth logo, which at first glance resembles a geometric squiggle, is in fact a superimposition of the runes for the letters “H” and “B”, the king’s initials.

Low-cost and with low power consumption, Bluetooth was finally launched in May 1998, using technology allowing computer devices to communicate with each other in short range without fixed cables.

The first consumer device equipped with the technology hit the market in 1999, and its name, which was initially meant to be temporary until something better was devised, became permanent.