Ugliest Operator Consoles, part two

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I won’t say this console is “ugly” in the looks department per se, but I believe the user interface is beyond “ugly”. From knowing a little of the old school Mitels (the pure TDM flavors), it had complex features, but accessing them were over simplified.  From my third hand research, I mean is that you had like up to 10 programmable features, then the softkeys, then the arrows to move the cursor around on screen.

They never sold special BLF modules for the console. The same PKM-12, 24 or 48 modules used for the SuperSet digital sets – would be plugged into this console. The ones originally used for the SuperSets kinda had consistency but if you had the 5448 or something of that generation it would look like a hodge podge type of deskset if you still are using these types of consoles, because even the most recent IP-based console is completely a carbon copy of the digital cousin.

The handset retainer is misleading, because (correct me if I am wrong) there is no switchhook, and functions like other consoles, you must initiate by pressing a line key.

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Ugliest Operator Consoles

As we are going into the spirit of the Christmas season, I thought to spoof “Ugly Christmas Sweaters” to do a similar thing to operator consoles.

Today’s will be img_1692

This is a Mitel operator console. Before they were seriously electronic, the set was bulky, I believe metallic or heavy duty and the Busy Lamp Field would literally mean a field of lamps with no button access.

They stopped making this around the late 1980s, but wouldn’t be surprised to see these installed in SX 50, SX 200 or SX 200 Superswitches.

PICTURE IS NOT MY OWN. It was snatched by an eBay listing

Phone of the Day: Mitel Superset – Cannon Mountain Tramway

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In New Hampshire we have mass transit. Not to get to work per se, but to enjoy natural beauties.

How you get to this tram, is to the Franconia Notch State Park, and the Cannon Mountain facility on Exit 32 B on I93. This facility I believe is still owned by the State of New Hampshire’s Department of Resources and Economic Development, known by it’s true acronym as DRED. DRED and several other state agencies (Department of Safety, the Liquor Commission and Department of Health and Human Services) had jumped on the Cisco bandwagon since the last decade. This facility has been unscathed as they probably use a Mitel SX system, I’m going to assume SX 50 given the low port density.

POTD – Local Kohls

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In today’s Phone Of the Day I recently took this picture of a Mitel IP 5212 set (if memory serves me)  at the Bedford NH store. This Kohls has a few IP telsets and boatloads of analog sets all across the sales floor. There are no sets near the fitting rooms. This store was built within the last five years around the time where perhaps Kohls was in a position of like a dysfunctional marriage: Do I stand with my man? (i.e. sticking to Avaya.) Don’t forget in early 2010s there was a bunch of doubt whether if Avaya would continue in supporting an overrated brand of telephony equipment. There is probably many reasons why in newer stores (of which popped up in my area, as their stores came to my area around 2002 – of which the Norstar 7200s are still in use in those locations) and other reasons such as higher maintenance contracts if you go through Avaya directly and the change of the user interface. Continue reading

Dev Notes: SIP Expierences

Today’s writings is the memories I’ve forgotten without regrets (or whatever party animal line is) about personal runins with the Session Initiation Protocol better known as SIP.

These runins were not done when I was drunk, nor were these done professionally, and if I had a LAN party related to telephony maybe these stories would be more funny.

Continue reading

My Collection: Mitel 3300 and IP Phones!

This sudden surprise came to me from Jason, the same one that gave me his old G3 PBX. This time it was a Christmas present for me. I really appreciate it. I got less than a 36 hour notice a package would come via UPS to my doorstep, to find out he had an extra Mitel system.

Without going into details, the system arrived Wednesday, the 2nd. I got a completely full fledged system capable of voice mail, auto attendant, analog trunking and what seems to be a dozen IP phones.

I decommissioned a Nortel POE switch I had for over a year to get a Cisco POE switch (since you know its best to have “Cisco all the way” – especially when I’ve made an aggressive move to use VLANs.) Simply put, to reduce manual labor of programming VLANs on Cisco Phones, it’s best to use a Catalyst Express 520 and enable CDP at the Cisco router so the PC traffic can talk to the other 12 ports and the VOIP talk to the other 12 ports. Makes life a lot easier especially when I’m introducing internet hosting to the network (next year’s project.)

 

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The package came on the day that it happened to rain for the first time in years (sarcasm implied.) The UPS folks were too lazy to put the system in the proper baggy, and the package was damp, and the control unit (on the bottom) was about to break open. Factor the raw cold air, I left it downstairs for a few hours.

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Using an old laptop bag for packaging material is pretty genius! (And you can’t have too many laptop bags!) On the bottom is the rack ears, which I may actually bring the Mitel over to the server barn (i.e. a small rack in the family room.)

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A bunch of Mitel IP phones, I had some extra handsets, wonder if they can work on the headset jack for “training” uses, you know, hehe?

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The basic Control Unit, without digital boards (in the front panel.) I’ve yet to open up the system because I believe its screwed shut, and I just found time to blog on this – as I haven’t gotten into the inside – yet.

Not sure if I have the formal OK to post this image from a private email from Jason, here is an inside of his he took for me to see.

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This looked a little artsy.

I did get more handsets than telsets, and the box could’ve held about 12 Mitel IP sets. Mitels are cool in the design because the way they made it low profile. The sets are heavily curved, so a 7″ deep set of a modern Mitel equates to a 8″ of a traditional boxy telset. (These in fact remind me of the Merlin style believe it or not.) This also comes from the same vendor that made some really odd looking sets in the late 80s, ones I haven’t taken photos of. Mitel also made some really odd looking first gen screen phones. I don’t have a picture handy, and I think it’s best to try to let it rot and not put it on the Web.

Setting up the Mitel was really easy, given the dependency on an old version of Internet Explorer (the admin is about a decade old when IE 6 ruled the world – don’t blame me for vendors creating apps just for Microsoft!) and navigating through its prompts I was able to create a dial plan, figured out how to set up the phone’s line appearances, etc.

 

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I got a few 5330s, their screen based sets. They are similar to Avaya’s 960x series, to not fully alienate traditional desktop users. The main information is on the top, and the lines and feature are below the solid black line. Page up through 3 pages and you can have up to 24 features and lines. (From my experiences, you can’t go beyond 4 call appearances -sometimes called “Multicall” on Mitels, but there maybe a loophole with bridged appearances.)

(You wonder how come I have “Send Calls” on the screen? Simple, you can rename feature keys or anything for that matter, which is good if you cutover from one vendor to another and try to mitigate retraining… wait, IT guys ask what is “training”?)

A caveat I learned was the blue button known as the Superkey does not work like other Mitel sets. For these 5330s, you have to program a feature button also known as a Superkey to change ringers, and other settings – for me it’s a little weird. Hardware specific on the 5330s is done on the actual blue key – which to others could be mistaken as a Superkey.

Despite other oddities, the system compensates it with very feature rich functions on the sets themselves. If you don’t get through to another user, you can activate their MWI by pressing your VM access key while ringing – which is kinda cool.

This is an incomplete post with more pictures and video to follow.

I have 6 or so Cisco IP phones in the house, basically 1.5 sets on each level as the “house phone system” and the Mitel will be used for my side business. The G3 will be repurposed as the Museum. I’ve bought goods from The Home Depot to build 3 shelves of all the phones and the wiring will go right next door to the switching closet. The cool thing about a legacy PBX like the G3si is the ability to add Merlin cards for the Merlin sets, the ability to have both rotary and DTMF dialing and the DCP sets that I had after the IP Office went up in smoke. (They never sold on eBay.) As such, I have plenty of lines to set up a simulated museum with the phones working to call one another. That will be an ongoing project when I have time next year.

Call Appearances

Call Appearances is a feature used on many multi line telephone systems (or MLTS) to allow a single telephone to handle multiple calls at once without having to be bombarded with an annoying call waiting tone or be able to switch to the other call or calls at once.

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An Avaya 4602 IP telephone that has two call appearances. This telephone can be a single line if the user wants the “b” button to be a feature key. Just expect a call waiting tone if someone wants to call when you’re on a line.

 

To explain the phrase simply, anything that makes a telephone ring – from the inside or outside, buzz (Nortel term), page, act as an intercom, would appear on a preset button. Typically call appearances are designated on the first group of buttons set for lines. Some support a few, some can support tons. Some are easy to toggle (with hard keys), some require using a screen (like Ciscos.)

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A Cisco 7941 IP phone can handle up to two lines, but in some environments can support up to 200 call appearances! When you get a call when you’re in a middle of an existing call, you can toggle the other appearance using the soft key. Unfortunately call appearances cannot appear on any fixed buttons, and managing more than a few calls with the softkey/rocker switch can be cumbersome.

 

The phrase Call Appearance comes from AT&T when such feature was used on their System 75 and 85 PBX systems. Prior to the launch of the System 75 in 1984, AT&T sold a system called the Dimension and Horizon PBX. The problem that plagued AT&T’s telephones, was they had multi button sets with lights, but they were simply speed dials with the ability to give you an indication (like if a user was busy or a feature was on. To transfer calls, it was just like a POTS set, hit the “Recall” and number and hang up. Multilines were non existent, and wasn’t an option.  This was their proprietary phone offerings for about a decade. (Check out the Lee Goeller page where he explained this flaw in his essays in the past.)

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The MET 40 was AT&T’s largest PBX phone outside the operator consoles. This over foot long phone unlike a 1A2 phone, could only handle one extension or number. Want to conference, transfer, etc? You had to hit the flash button just below the keypad – like it was a 1A2 set – but yet you couldn’t have more than one number on that set! Operator consoles did have more than a single appearance at the time. There was a reason why it was called the Multibutton Electronic Telephone not Multiline.

 

To owe up for a flaw like that in the Dimension, the System 75 basically allowed what was once for operators available for everyone.  By default, all digital sets programmed gave users 3 call appearances. You can have as many as you want (virtually given the oldest and newest sets from Avaya could max just beyond 48 buttons – the system’s max per telephone is 96.) The call appearances are concurrent and they are referred to letters (a=, and so on) as opposed to numbers (like “Line 1”.)

These Nortel/Aastra 5300 used to be for the front desk, this was taken in a room that used to be a sales office for luxury properties around the Mount Washington Resort. It's been since scrapped by Omni.

This Aastra 5300 Centrex phone shares characteristics of a Nortel Meridian PBX telephone. Similar to AT&T’s the phone looked the same but would act a little different. The button arraignment is just like Mitels, and Multiple line appearances would appear on the lower right hand, by default you could have two. Nortel was more for dedicate feature keys as AT&T was more for dedicated line keys.

Bridged appearances gives you the “key system” like functionality out of a large PBX. You can pool a dozen phones and share the lines on that same number. Bridged appearances are similar to daisy chaining multiple home phones on a single line from the phone company. You can have several bridged appearances, and regardless if it shares the same number, you can still make calls. (so you can’t eavesdrop and listen to some office gossip unlike the party lines or the bridged lines in the home!)

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A Nortel 7308 taken at a local Party City. This phone tied to a Norstar system allows for one call at a time. You can however, have one call from the outside and inside occur at once, but you cannot do both in multiples. This goes true for Avaya’s Merlin and Partner systems as well. The closest to a call appearance environment for Norstars is when its in a bridged extension setup.

 

The same features were in parity with AT&T’s 5ESS switching system used for the phone companies. AT&T produced the 6500, 7500 and 8500 sets that resembled their on site phone portfolio, the only noticeable difference was the display, fixed feature keys and the ability to plug them into an PSTN with an ISDN BRI line jack. Typically ISDN sets were used for secure environments (the Oval Office for one) or in Centrex environments for attendant/operator services or conference calling (as posted earlier.)

Mitel IP Phone 5224 for SIP purposes. it's a lovely looking phone!

The Mitel 5224 IP Phone under SIP has resembles some of Avaya’s call appearance setup. The sequencing range however starts on lower right hand keys and ends on the upper left. The first 4 buttons acts like the call appearance and the fifth key acts as a bridged appearance. You can’t go beyond that.

By the 1990s many vendors had mimicked the AT&T standard, and not only that, the ISDN implementation lead to the CA-EKTS or Call Appearance for Electronic Key Telephone Systems. Don’t start thinking 1A2 or a Norstar because despite the initials, this was used for Centrex or ISDN phone service. Various vendors like Telrad, Fujitsu, AT&T and Nortel produced telephone sets that could be interoperable with each other’s PBX or carrier switches. ISDN was what VOIP is today, it was supposed to integrate phones and computers with a fixed, always on dial up quality of broadband connectivity.

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An original AT&T 301 attendant console for the then System 75 PBX. Call appearances are located on the bottom right six buttons. As infinite as call appearances were on AT&T systems from yesterday and Avaya systems today, you could only handle up to 6 calls before the attendant would busy out or if you were lucky, you could have additional consoles to take over the load.

 

 

ISDN’s bugs (and derogatory  abbreviations like It Still Doesn’t Nothing) and when the Web and Internet became mainstream and as networks were standardized on the TCP/IP setup, at least for the States the telephones never took off, and ISDN was used for the closets and the end users were in a niche markets for voice over artists that would start movie trailers “In a world…” dominated by the late Don Lafontaine and the late Hal Douglass. ISDN gave life like voice quality where many broadcast, radio, TV and production houses a direct line to voice overs and not have to worry about crummy MP3, old POTS grade voice quality and so on.

But since the “Call Appearance” became a standard in some way, many vendors caught on with the name and then made their own version of it, however the idea was still the same – anything that made a line usable, would “appear” on a dedicated button with indication statuses, etc.

Call appearances are useful for

  • Operator/attendant environments (this is a requirement; not having call appearances would make an operator’s terminal useless)
  • If you handle more than one call at once, or often make frequent conference calls
  • the ability to not just have one extension, but ether share other extensions or monitor other extensions
  • That call waiting can be disabled as the other call can “appear” on the idle line below your current call

Without call appearances in todays modern world of telephony, you’d be better off with a POTS/landline telephone.

My Collection/Video: Mitel 5224 IP Phone

In today’s post, I thought I’d share a boot up sequence of a Mitel IP phone. This is from my own YouTube channel.

These are nice phones, however to administer it, it gets tricky. Most of the menu driven features uses the Superkey, and changing volumes isn’t that easy. Changing ring tones is similar of changing one on those cell phones before we all used smartphones. I shouldn’t complain too much, Mitels in the past were even more clunkier than (including their first and second generation IP sets.)

IP Phones – Mitel 5224 IP Phone

picture of a Mitel IP 5224

 

I’ve become a refugee from Avaya since the beginning of this year. I used to live and pray among their equipment, but since Avaya has gone out of touch with their user base; I decided maybe its time to really move on.

Mitel (pronounced my-tel) has made some nice IP equipment in recent years. Back about a decade ago they made some wacky designs – on their IP phones, but of the last few years they are pretty decent looking. This Mitel 5224 set has 24 buttons; 4 line appearances (similar to the 3 rollover lines that Avaya refers to call appearances) however once you go over 4, then expect to hear busy signals; and the rest can be used for speed dial and depending on the setup you could use BLF. I do not have a proprietary Mitel PBX, so I am using the SIP firmware.

The set is well designed, the handset is wideband, and the rubber on the handset is great for a built in shoulder rest. The LED on the top serves as the message waiting and the LED blinking pattern goes in sync to its 24 ring tones, really cool. One of the quirks (actually not Mitel specific) the volume key actually doesn’t change the ring volume, you have to go into menus like a cell phone to change it, as it only changes the contrast when idle. Another problem, again not just Mitel is the requirement to press the dial softkey to initiate a call. This is one of the major setbacks of using SIP, it works somewhat like a phone, but there are these kinds of setbacks.

I do love the LED backlit display, which makes it friendly in dark areas or get your attention if a you missed a call.