Case Study: The Need for a Home Phone System

In the first twenty-three years of my life, of about four or five of those years, I grew up on a ranch house in Suburban New Hampshire. This picture taken from Google Maps from 2007 shows my former residence. In fact this ten year old capture was the better one than any of my collections!


The house had an unfinished basement, and dated electrical infrastructure. DSL internet was provided by the telco (Verizon then FairPoint) and the only Comcast service was Cable TV. The Internet connection was located in my mother’s bedroom as the gateway/router lived there too. Typically I had to ask permission when a problem arose, which at times I had to get in to reset. My bedroom consisted of a desktop, my MacBook, a PowerMac G3 and a Lacie Network Space, 3.5″ NAS appliance. No Gigabit Ethernet at the time, as that was very costly. A Cat 6 cable linked the router to my bedroom. We all shared the same phone line, one in my mothers bedroom, one in the kitchen and one in my bedroom.

There was no phone system or any rack mount servers at all. Not that was really a need.

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Avaya Red (AT&T) 8434 Brochure

The Museum is having a low in terms of new features. Here we go with, Stretch, Stretch and Stretch by finding something to fill up for the lost posts. I thought since the 8434 telephone from Avaya was one of the attractions to this site, that I’d post it’s brochure from the time I found deep on the Avaya hosts.

8434 bro 1

The copyright is from 1994 from AT&T and it doesn’t indicate the DX suffix. The 7400s were well popular in the early 1990s. The most funny thing about the world of Avaya Red (then AT&T) was most phones used were within that decade from the mid 80s to mid 90s. Many Avaya Blue shops still had those wedge SL-1 telsets in production even past the 21st Century. The MET sets (that kinda had the resemblance the first gen SL1 sets) were made around the same time, mid 1970s. Not sure if AT&T had aggressive buyback offers or just simply those quasi digital sets couldn’t do things like multiple lines.

8434 bro 2

As much as I liked the 7400s because it shared the Merlin shell; the 7400s were kinda like the Ciscos of the 1980s. Overpriced and underperformed. Most first gen sets (made from 1984 to like 1988) had no ability for integrated speakerphone (known as listening only); displays were add ons, and it was known for its proprietary “R” handset and tactile buttons other than the dialpad. Volume was a dial wheel, as well as it’s display contrast. Isn’t that interesting, analog controllers to a digital telephone? By about 1988, the BIS (Built in Speakerphone) series appeared for both Merlin and System 75/85 users, as well as hard buttons for line and features, and models for call center and dedicated display (7406D and 7407.) For the people who didn’t like the futuristic looks, the 1990s came with something that resembled more like an “office telephone” – Enter the 8400 Series.

Similar to the whole AUDIX saga, AT&T’s documentation was very lousy from the 84 breakup to the Lucent spinoff. Because information is very scarce, I’m going to bet the 8400s were introduced to the market around 1993/94; and not 1990. If I am wrong on the year of introduction; then it would be safe to say; by that time; these sets were starting appear on desks as time went on.

To prevent the reader from being constantly bombarded with repetition of history, please click on this link for additional information

Phone of the Day: Avaya Red 7400 Series Voice Terminal – Macy’s 34th Street

Yours truly was Live from New York yesterday. Put it this way, I saw more Avaya Red sets this time around than Ciscos. A couple Avaya Blues here and there.

I don’t know much of the history of the original Macy’s. Macy’s went under 2 decades ago, and was sequentially boughtout by Federated Department stores that went on a buying spree of regional department stores; then in 2005 made their big buyout of the May Department Store chain of brands. Between the Federated and May buyouts Macy’s was in almost every mid sized city than prior to. Most of the Macy’s around where I live used to be the brands of Jordan Marsh and Filene’s both using/used ROLM CBX switches.

What’s interesting is I’ve been to Jordan Marsh/Macy’s stores and they had resemblance to the flagship 34th Street store, while former Filenes still has resemblance of the pre-Macy’s buyout, but by default all first level stores has that signature all white look. More non telephony related subjects to this store I set foot for the first time on the above link.

Now from what I can tell Macy’s uses an Avaya Red PBX. This one appears to go back in the System 75 days. Now I didn’t see if this thing worked, because in Release 14 (branded as 4.x)  of their enterprise PBX system, they depreciated the 7400s because the four-wire cards carried a lot of legacy code (from what I’ve read on the list serves, just dumping the 7400 DCP drivers gave Avaya some million lines of code removed.)

This particular model I forget, because AT&T made various models in the 10 year period, it may be a 7410 BIS set. Also, just because the 8400s released in the early 1990s, it was not a surprise to still have a part number (known as Comcodes or PECs) – I believe some models of the 7400 were still orderables in the first year of the Avaya spinoff (early 2000-late 2001.) If you were still on the 7400s at that point, Avaya did want you to go to the 6400 series (crap sets.)

More to come throughout the week.


My Collection: A Definity AUDIX Board!

Update: 02-23-15 at 9:20 pm We’ve gots some problems… Presently tried to follow all the instructions but the board appears to be booting up but the ASA and even TUTTY (Putty + AT&T Terminal) clients are stuck in the BSOD. According to historic documentation, the LEDs are working as they should after boot, so maybe something failed at the connector side. I sure hope I didn’t “break” it…

So I got another surprise gift from Jason that was sent on President’s Day. I just received it a couple hours ago. This Definity AUDIX board is an integrated voice mail system for the Definity platform. These are no longer available and were designed in small environments. It was on the market for most of the 90s and probably up to 2001. The replacement would be an external PC or now a Modular Messaging running on a server class PC or an Aura virtual appliance. The beauty of this tiny board is it gave customers in small sites the power of the bigger AUDIX system. And hopefully I can hear the AUDIX lady once I get into the thing!

So much for that cutover back to the Cisco huh?

Video: The Secrets of the 8400 Telephones!

Exclusive: Have you checked out the profile of the Voice of Audix? Click here to read on!

I’ve learned new things about the old 8400 Voice Terminals. In this video I posted that I learned through somebody on Instagram, these versions of the 8400 Voice Terminals are really “Telephones” because there is intelligence to these sets.

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Video: Local AT&T Ad for Colorado – 1987

“One company in Colorado designs and produces some of the world’s most sophisticated telecommunications  equipment. That company spends more than hundred million dollars for goods and services with nearly 2,700 local suppliers. And that company helps support local charities and the arts with over a million dollars and 1,500 volunteers.

That company is AT&T. At Home in Colorado.”

att westminster ad

As many the Avaya Red geeks out there would know the Westminster, Colorado facility was where most of the enterprise systems for AT&T, later Lucent then Avaya (including products such as the System 75, Definity, etc) was developed, produced and served locations for technical support (remember the Definity Helpline?)

att westminster ad 2

Within a couple years after Divestiture, AT&T had tried to refine their brand such as the the infamous tagline “The right choice”. This commercial taken from a newscast from KCNC-TV in Denver (not to far away from Westminster) apparently was designed for the Colorado market, focusing on their local suppliers and returning their favor to non profits, featuring children at the Denver Children’s Museum with kids playing with old sets, and a girl playing with a 7405 or 7434 set.

att westminster ad 3

Years have gone by, and Westminster is like many other high tech facilities in America. Abandoned and ether outsourced or off shored development to people who had no knowledge of the systems from its early years. Sadly the old AT&T legacy is going further into earth than say the other legacy IS systems and equipment. I don’t see the same outrage with actions like startups such as Emetrotel or even VMS Software (yes the same VMS as in Open VMS hiring local DEC coders basically from retirement to continue to develop that operating system!) No, it’s a slow death for Avaya Red. Westminster does still exist, and Avaya is still there, just it’s not all centralized like it once did.

This is one of the unique AT&T commercials of that time.



Lorraine Nelson – The Lady Behind AUDIX!

Thanks to Jason who gave me this link a while back but took me a while to catch up on emails.

In the mid 1990s, the Lorraine Nelson was featured in a The Wall Street Journal Report (that syndicated weekend show) on the subject of voice prompts. (Don’t let the cheesy visual effects in the intro mistake you from the 1980s!)

This video came from her own profile on YouTube, but I’d suspect this was recorded in the mid 90s. In the shortened video, the report stated that she worked for AT&T and a decade before, came up with the idea for the voice of AUDIX. (So with that, it would indicate AUDIX was released sometime between 1986 to 1987 – there is no official record of a specific date or year when the system actually came out to market in 2015.)

Nelson came up with a vision of being the “nicest secretary” for others to hear and provided all the voice prompts for AUDIX (and later Merlin Mail, Merlin [Magix] Messaging, and Partner Messaging.) All of her voiceovers had “a smile” to them.

Years gone by, she lives in Connecticut, and according to list-serves a few years back she does the announcing for the Connecticut Lottery, and 7 years ago she mimicked an AUDIX like prompt for a promo at CNBC when they pre-empted Larry Kudlow’s show during the 2008 Bejing Olympics. The promo ended almost like an AUDIX with the signature “Please Wait.”

While you can still hear her in other places, Avaya seems to be doing what Nelson didn’t want the voice to be. Again I’ve read comments in the list-serve in the past, and there was an indication that her voice was being mimicked with a synthesizer instead of finding her number (or find her profile on YouTube) so she could provide new prompts.

If you ever heard of IP Office’s voice mail system, one would suspect that was roboticily produced. Unless some disease hit Nelson, I can’t get why it’s so robotic!