Historical Notes on the Avaya Red Attendant Console

This was part of the page for the Tribute to the System 75. I relocated it to a blog post as I am cleaning it up for a final update of the tell all I have been promising for a couple years now!


The operator switchboard (or Attendant Console) dates back to the same look essentially since 1984, first released for the System 75 PBX.

This model the 301 Series. This was the very original console used for the System 75, originally designed for handle a few hundred of extensions.

Later models became the 302 series (not to be confused with a 1930s style telephone produced by the same company, but rarely is branded as such, only in the administrative terminal sessions to add stations and alike.) The difference between the 301 and the 302 is additional indicator “lamps” near the dialpad, to alert operators of alarms, major alarms such as trunk outages, to notify of other console positions are open for calls, etc.  Another difference between the 301 and the 302 is the display had no softkeys or space to press additional features (this got moved lower on the console.)

The 302 Series was available since the late 1980s at the earliest. Over the years there were 4 different versions of 302s, suffixed with letters

302A was the model shown below, very Merlin looking, and used button caps similar to Nortels, but more smaller. Simply it was a modified version of the 301 console released in 1984.

302B had a different display, with a white or black instead of metallic. This version was likely in general availability in the early 1990s. This version  had options for 2 or 4 wire environments, however you had to specify because boards inside were designed for one or the other not both. A button cap console as well.

302C, released during the Lucent years replaced the button caps to a large letter-sized desi strip with a plastic overlay. Another key improvement was it supported 2 or 4 wiring environments, and was interchangeable.  (It should also be noted that despite the single pair of wiring, one needed power. On RJ45 jacks, pins 4&5 provided the DCP tip and ring and 7&8 pins provided the set’s power.)

The 302A through the C and most likely the 301 had used 1/4″ phone jacks for the hand or headset. The console did not function until that piece was plugged in.  The operator would then log in, and the console would be in function. When the operator would be done for the day, the console would automatically log out and go to idle mode when the operator unplugged the plug.

302D was introduced around the turn of the century and required 2 wire environments only. 302C could work in ether/or environment, and not like the 302B which needed to be ordered by AT&T or Lucent the specify environment.

The D generation also introduced modular connections for the hand or headset, which changed the way the set would go idle or login. The intention of the 302C was to have the head or handset remain stationary at all times.  Because of the change of jacks, the operator would had to press a few buttons to log them in, because the intention was the RJ11 jack would stay stationary.

Also the infamous red and green indicators replaced the all red configuration. In late 2017, these sell top dollars on grey market e-tailers.

attconsole

The 302 Series is officially dead and is no longer sold as new by Avaya as many operators have evolved to administrative assistants doing multiple things and split the calls between those groups, or in some operator environments have been replaced by software based sets. Operator sets don’t come cheap, and including its Direct Extension Selection or DXS can cost about $1,100 new!

The DXS has evolved, but the general idea hasn’t changed. In fact the Merlin looking industrial design remained in tact right to the EOS. The first generation had 8 buttons on the very bottom acting as “Hundreds groups select”. Simply put, if you have dial plan from 4000 to 6000, the bottom 8 buttons would be labeled “40”, “41”, “42” and “53”, “54”. etc. So if you want to call extension 5138, you would hit the bottom “51” key from hundreds group, then  press “38” in the 100 array keys. You can monitor a group of hundreds at a time and in later models as the System 75 evolved from supporting a few hundred extension into the behemoth of the Definity PBX supporting tens of thousands of lines, the Hundreds group keys maxed to 20, so you could monitor a couple thousands of lines if you had that model.

 

attdconsole2

 

This picture is interesting because its very rare for any AT&T/Avaya Red publication to show exploded views of any of their equipment. This was standard operating procedure for Nortel if someone wanted to replace a part in a console or a set, however it was the job of AT&T to Lucent to Avaya to let this type of work be done by them or vendors.

Typically a 302 series differed from the other DCP telephones. While it possibly signals like a traditional office set, the handset had to be an old fashioned “carbon” handset; second the jacks themselves looked like some mid 20th century device. (I opened mine when I got my 302A – I couldn’t believe it.) Pressing buttons on the dialpad can cause the Touch Tones to initiate despite the need to press Start to open up an appearance. I have personally miswired my DCP port one time, where I was able to see the buttons and display light up, but no one could hear me. Typically on an office set, the phone may ring, and test and test, if you got your “tip” and “ring” off but I found it strange that it would give me indicator lights and display info if the polarity was off at the patch panel!

The “rings” are beeps, similar to the Partner’s “intercom tone” but with a higher and longer pitch BEEEEP. No 8 ring tones to choose from. Also when someone calls emergency, and you have Crisis Alert, the documentation of the set sounding like an “ambulance siren” is a little dramatic. It has a Crisis like sound, but not a siren. Maybe to the phone system’s tone generator but not to a human…

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