Courtesy of a somebody in the 406 area code who sent me their decommissioned console that is worth almost a $1,000 on the thirdhand market. Remember, this used to cost about $2,100 back in 1988, with an inflation adjustment of over $3,000 today (for sure!) The video is hosted by my social media platform, The Clickford Zone
The Merlin systems were basically from the beginning designed to be a workgroup phone system to compare it to the computer networking world. While the Merlin phones look so big business, and in some cases they were. Small Key units like the Merlin were installed in large environments against existing Centrex and electromechanical or analog/digital PBX systems. Because those systems already had 8 or 9 for the outside line, this would be redundant and therefore the Merlin did not have this feature. For small setups it was easy to pick up the phone and make a call. However this one and succeeding phone systems, many central offices would get quick off/on hook statuses because the users would be making an internal call. One trick was to hit the Intercom on hook then pick up the set.
A picture of an AT&T Merlin Receptionist Console that looked almost like a BIS 34D with the BLF console fused in together with an interesting display. It was supported on a Merlin II, System 25 and Legend systems only.
The Merlin (or sometimes known as all caps due to the stylized brand) was produced by AT&T (then American Bell) from 1983, and was continued to market via a rebrand the following year as AT&T Information Services, then the spinoffs of Lucent in 1996 then Avaya in 2000. The brand stuck around for nearly two plus decades, but the systems went more progressive. It’s not to say that the original line had a huge following and install base well into the new century. While there is no conclusive information of the research and development at this time of writing (early 2017), it was most likely developed to succeed the ComKey system at the time.
(As a sidenote, the ComKey was the first electronic telephone system, but it came with the price of complexity in wiring. ComKeys were basically a Peer to Peer or Point to Point, better known as P2P; system basically each set requiring fifty pair cables to connect to each other directly, or indirectly sharing the same telephone circuits; and while the system supported music on hold or paging, it required the similar shoebox sized KSU and circuit boards to do so.)
Robin and the Vectors was a group that started in the mid 90’s at AT&T. We created song parodies about the call center products developed by AT&T/Lucent Technologies/Avaya and created these videos to present and the User Group each year. The band consisted of Robin DeLorenzo (lead singer), Marty Askinazi (Guitar/Vocals/Producer), Zack Taylor (Lyrics), Walter Bier (Sax) and Alex Fattorusso (Bass)
If you couldn’t tell by the name of the c-rated band, this was most likely a marketing ploy for their call center offerings. This was the time in the mid 1990s when AT&T and Lucent was behind in the lucrative market of call centers. The Definity PBX had out of the box support for call centers in enterprise accounts; and it wasn’t too long after they dominated (for all the right reasons!)
Some people love voice mail, many just hate it. Many are apparently so egotistical, they think it’s not worth listening to 2 minutes of a voice based message than a generic email.
People also think email is better, but do you know the history of voicemail?
if the answer is no, lets go down memory lane of Voice Mail.
Voicemail is often assumed to be an electronic answering machine on a server. While it’s true, its origins was almost similar to sending a letter or an email, just with spoken word.
The first indication of such language was in printed publications in 1877. A famous man named Thomas Edison with an invention called the phonograph. For the Gen-X audience and older, this is basically a record player. Millenials are probably familiar to just be cool for the latest trend. While it was well known for songs, the ability to record spoken word, as a way to replace letter writing had the possibility. The “voice mail” language was in the lexicon by the 1910s.
While the answering machine was invented in the 1960s, the ability to install these would be so cost prohibitive, and worse, a wiring nightmare. In the early 1970s, Motorola introduced pagers that provided one way voice messages that would be answered by an “answering center” (this in 2017 is completely archaic with the advent of digital telephony, automated attendants, in fact the size of these answering centers were the size of contact centers, which was not existent at the time.) These pagers used UHF signals and were often used for volunteer fire fighters, etc. In this sense, this could be considered as a voice message.
These sets of JPEGs I acquired over a decade ago. I’m posting these photos because to clear things up with these sets. These 8500 sets was marketed by AT&T, then Lucent then Avaya. They are ISDN sets. Open standards telephones that worked on BRI supported lines. So this set could theoretically work on a Nortel PBX or carrier switch, or a 5ESS central switch or a Definity/Communication Manager PBX. But when Avaya was spun off, who had the rights?
It seems to be Avaya, because Lucent marketed a 202x series of ISDN sets post spinoff. Prior to the 8500s, there was the 7500 (mimicked the 7400 DCP/7300 Merlin sets) and the 6500 (mimicked the Spirit line) essentially giving Avaya the legal right-of-first-refusal perhaps.
The Museum of Telephony doesn’t give a crud about style and aesthetics unless it hampers on performance. The reason why these sets were boxy, may had been internal processes, as commented recently; or the fact according to a list-serve post related to sets used in the Oval Office, was the sets had ribbon connector inside to support daughter-cards for encryption. While the ISDN sets were used for interoperable purposes, ISDN brought something proprietary hybrids couldn’t, use end to end digital signals to prevent any types of eavesdropping beyond the handset.
A previous post on the 8434 actually opening the case of the proprietary DCP set kinda confirmed the possibility on the PBX side of products, but no known “adjuncts” would support “VIP” styled security.
These open BRI sets were in the White House’s Oval Office until a few years ago when Cisco slowly made it’s way. And after Donald Trump’s latest remarks against Avaya, one can’t feel hopeful that any ISDN, digital telephony or Avaya in any way or all will return. This is one of the few places where one can’t just believe VOIP can be fully secure.
If you were on the ether hashtag campaign of “#MakeAmericaGreatAgain” or “#MakeAvayaRedGreatAgain” or “#MakeAvayaGreatAgain”, don’t be hopeful on the latter two hashtags after recent events from our new President and the incumbent phone vendor in the White House.
Avaya Incorporated was founded by Lucent Technologies in late 1999 to “unlock shareholder value” by focusing on mostly carrier switches such as the 5ESS products. The company was fully spun off as an IPO that was listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AV. Meanwhile, Lucent spun off other vendors such as Agere, a semiconductor company that went into their own products, with chips that even had Western Electric prints from the mid 1980s.
With the basics of the company’s founding, it’s important to go back to the beginnings dating as far back as the telephone itself. The history is on Avaya and the track related to Avaya’s past and present assets, products and services. Continue reading →