Enhanced 9-1-1

TRIGGER WARNING: The following is mostly an accurate narrative, however editorial statements are featured in the latter paragraphs that could offend people personally.  Trigger words include “Part 68”, “Enhanced 911”, “Avaya”, “Kari’s Law”, etc.

This is a work in progress. Expansion of this subject will occur as time progress to focus on earlier generation 9-1-1 services.

9-1-1 in the United States is a three digit telephone number to access emergency services to report a fire (fire), stop a crime (police) and save a live (emergency medical services). When it first came out in some markets in 1968; all it was provided a hotline to a dispatch center of the local municipality, country or even statewide. The first generation of 9-1-1 was around for more than two decades, and in some locales in the US it was not abnormal for some to still have seven digit emergency numbers instead of 9-1-1. While switching services routed calls to dispatch centers and also provided redundancy and failovers in case one dispatch center was overloaded; one of the major failures was location.

The origins of Enhanced 9-1-1 began in the early 1980s. The technology required digital switching; and in some markets step-by-step switching was still a common system going up till the mid 1990s. Also the advancement of digital PBX and Key systems for local dispatch centers provided call-center grade quality. With all these advancements would be enable location information. Essentially, if your phone company didn’t provide Caller ID, then your service was analog.

For consumers, information would automatically be passed over to the local Public Safety Answering Point. This would come from the database of the telephone company and would be confidential between the telephone company and the PSAP authorities; as some customers choose to have numbers unlisted. The database would include the physical address because some billing addresses could go elsewhere.

For businesses, with the change of technologies moving from hard wired digital systems to a bit and byte, cyber based technologies; instead of regulating the services, regulations went against the customer. As a result, this may be the reason why so many customers in the enterprise world have cut the cord and gone to mobile or cloud based phone systems.

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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!

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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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Ugliest Operator Consoles, part six

You thought Avaya would be off the hook (non pun intended) right?

Nope! It would defeat the purpose of being the equal opportunity offender.

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Dimension Attendant Console, circa mid 1970s. NOT MY IMAGE.

This console was made in the early 1970s for the Bell System’s Dimension PBX (and smaller versions most likely for the Horizon system.) The console was a weird design consisting of a shoebox form factor.

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To the right of the set had only eight characters alpha numeric LED display. The console is filled with many indicators (the design at the time.) The console was very primitive for it’s time. No call appearances for overflowed calls. The buttons above the dialpad did act as such but they were referred (IIRC) as loopback lines.

Even stranger, as with many consoles at the time, would require a straight up, direct line from a special console port on the PBX to the location of the console. What was it’s connector? You guessed it, a 25 pair Amphenol plug!

While the Dimension console did in fact have BLFs with buttons, it was a seperate option and was located on the top, picture shown above.

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Not My Photo – Same Crappy Set a with new Look! (and more BLFs since the System 85/Definity G2 could support to over 30,000 extensions on a single node!)

 

In the mid to late 1980s, AT&T remade the set – took away the wood grain decal, mainstream of office telephones of the time, and made it jet black, to match the Merlin-like sets of the time as this console went into System 85 PBX line. If research confirms my out of experience of that PBX, the only attendant console, had to be one that was hard wired to the PBX. Unless with some reversed engineering, and some creativity, one could theoretically take AT&T’s ISDN console that was identical to the 302s, put it as an ISDN set and do it that way.

The Definity G3r succeeded the System 85/Definity G2 (aka a band-aid Dimension) in the mid 1990s. Release 5 was intended to be the combination of the 2 PBX systems, after all it’s core roots dates back to when the Bell System marketed the thing. Of the many fundamental changes, what retained were desksets, carriers, etc.; what went away was some of the user interfaces, the notorious MAAP to program the system, and the hardwired attendant console. A 302 could replace it via a 2 wire (2 pair if you wanted power coming out of the wall’s) voice drop and be affiliated in a DCP line over a dedicated attendant port. The only set that would continue with button caps at this point in the late 1980s lead into the 302 set to have similar clear plastic overlay for designation keys.

It’s strange the console given its “electronic” ability, could very well be mistaken for being some electrical box like an ol Call Director or 10 to 30 line set.

It’s one of those “I so just don’t want to remember this set”

Ugliest Operator Consoles, part four

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This one is a little more tolerable, it looks like an ACD console, but it’s an operator console. Fujitsu marketed an F9600 PBX in the 1990s, some customers took advantage of their offerings. (The City of Nashua, NH is one of the local users I can name off.)

The BLF is rather interesting because it’s something you expect from a Japanese made Key Telephone System. The DESI-d buttons looks like an equivalent to the Hundreds Group Select.

What’s also common with many of these consoles is how “dumb” they are. The time of day is essentially a local desktop clock on a phone. Some of the consoles have those little buttons similar to your car to change the time. So they couldn’t pull time of day information from the PBX itself.

 

Ugliest Operator Consoles, part three

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(I guess I stay up late looking at my own screengrabs)

The Japanese are no angels ether. I guess since digital PBX systems were derivatives of the design of mainframes, the consoles that used to manage mainframes, were not based on CRT in the beginning. Heck even the first PC – the Altair, was filled of complicated LEDs and switches.

This console most likely is used for the NEAX PBX system (the equivalent to the M1, the G3, or SX systems.)

In the late 90s, early 2000s, they too got their act together, and had a sleek console with the user in mind.

Again not my pictures, was taken from an eBay listing.

AUDIX!!!

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The AUDIX board is now working!!!

If you can recall, I had a series of issues when I received this around late February. It turns out it needs a “null modem” cable because it’s basically a modem connection to in basic terms make the keyboard and monitor acting as a terminal session to work. I thought I had such cable, but apparently a null cable is thicker than a typical RS232 cable, which was what I only had until recently, I bought an ol US Robotics modem (that’s the supported modem for ether the PBX or AUDIX box) at a thrift store.

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POTD: Avaya Red 8410 DCP Telset Attitash Grand Summit Resort | Bartlett, NH

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This was taken at the front desk at the Attitash Grand Resort Conference Center in Bartlett, NH. This area in the building is where you can only spot the digital sets. The nearby bar, conference rooms and rooms use analog sets. There is no evidence of any attendant consoles ether.

I’ve frequented this facility during the spring time over the last four years for an annual conference. I no longer attend, and I like the place, so I went for the vacation this week. The people I used to see at the front desk were not working (or is no longer working there) to see if I could see the switch room.

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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.

Rants: IT’s Dissent to Telephony

File this under IT is what it shouldn’t be. I mean, IT as in Information Technology.

A partner  of mine gave me a link to a page entitled “Meridian System Tech Support Guide” written by a Nicole Hayward for some pro-IP voice provider. Joe the UCX Guy would have a field day with these types of sales traps.

Let’s take apart the post one by one and call this young lil’ whippersnapper out

It’s no surprise that many network administrators and IT professionals are seeking Nortel Meridian Phone System tech support.

Well, I mean if you’re in IT, you hate people, why would you want to manage a system that requires people skills (AND having to deal with end users?)

 Released initially in 1975*, it’s been said that the Nortel Meridian is still the most widely used PBX for businesses with 60 to 80,000 lines. But when it comes to support, the hard truth is: Meridian systems are well beyond end-of-life

* Somewhat misleading, the SL1 came out in 1975, the Meridian 1 went to market circa 1990. As she implies in the last sentence, lets not let the facts get away of a good sale. She uses Wikipedia as a primary source, instead of here. (Laughing out loud!) Don’t get me started with the agism on the last sentence.

Nortel went out of business in 2009, and Avaya acquired its assets. There is no single source for Meridian tech support, but I’ve gathered a few resources and tips below. Please keep in mind: You’re probably better off selecting a Nortel Meridian phone system replacement.

“No single source” – well wasn’t that Northern’s way of using vendors for non Fortune 500s? Whatever. Like the UCX system. All you need is a server replacement. All gateways and digital and IP stations made in the last 25 years will work, young miss. instead of some crappy phone service that that basically emulates tip and ring over IP to be honest. I gotta do a SIP article sometime soon.

On the common system failures, this girl confuses the M1 line to the key based Norstar. (And yes I’m being crude, because there are women out there who do love TDM phones and can be much more intelligent than some millenial)  Again, sales have no damn clue about telephony at all.

  1. System Programming Failure – “The Nortel Norstar system utilizes a super capacitor (super cap) for maintaining the programming data in memory. The problem is that the supercapacitor has a high incidence of failure as it ages. There are no outwards sign of failure (nor any way to test, other than unplugging the system) as it’s only there as a data “backup” system.”  [Kremlacek]

IT people or ones with aggressive sales backgrounds are very manipulative. If she ever worked for me, I’d press her for harassment charges, with her kinda tone that shows below.

If you have prior experience with Meridian equipment, manuals may help. Otherwise, don’t try this at home, folks.

What, I can’t have an M1 in my house? Not even an Option 11… my goodness what planet are YOU on?

While I couldn’t find a single repository of Nortel Meridian manuals on Avaya.com, many of the past PBX resellers and business partners have published them. I found a big list of Meridian 1 Options 11C, 51C, 61C, and 81C manuals here. You can find a particular manual by Googling the system option, e.g. “Meridian 1 Option 11C Manual.”

Yeah Google may not be your best friend, ever tried SUPPORT.avaya.com? And what is this Unix reference of “Repository” – we we call it in the ‘biz a COLLECTION…grrr! 

At this point, I want to become a Wookie…and I’m not even a Star Wars fan!

Among the other options, she writes about the various options, but basically rips and writes the content, and doesn’t put it into her words, like whatever Avaya’s brochure says, must be true, type of attitude.

So here goes the sales pitch:

While it’s tempting to keep your existing phone system on its last legs, consider the costs: your time, a technician service and/or Avaya maintenance contract, refurbished parts, etc. And at the end of the day, it’s a short-term fix. You are better off considering a new phone system solution, and it’s likely a hosted VoIP PBX will work for you.

Why hosted VoIP? If you were getting along fine with the basic phone system functionality that the Meridian PBX offered, your organization will be floored with the capabilities that a cloud VoIP providers offer.

Um, excuse me? Do you even have a clue how many features the M1 has, or are you judging on the original SL-1 specs from 1975? Oh wait, there’s more!

Switching to hosted VoIP can be done in a matter of days. Most hosted VoIP solutions, like OnSIP, have 50+ phone sytem features, utilize your existing LAN, and require no investment in equipment beyond the phones.

There is over 300 end user features on the M1 and I am not even CLOSE to being a Nerdtel fanboy, Nicole! There you go, these scare tactics + sales makes customers creep out and cave into some dummy millenials who can’t tell from tip vs ring, or the functionality of a true PBX vs some Asterisk type. Good luck cutting over to a “hosted” solution for 8,000 ports (an average port count in an M1 setup.)  These IT and sales people want to sit at their workstations and not get them fingers dirty in those lovely 66blocks with hard wired telephones.

Of that, lets turn this sales pitch, to something relevant to the Museum, if you walked away in the last calendar year learning something new about telephony, please return the favor with kind feedback or a donation or something on the Wish List. I’m love to get tiny compensation to take time out of my busy live to try to fill the Web of something other than the Political Correctness of Technology known as Information Technology or PCs. I stride to be 99.999% accurate and clear of all the exhibits and posts before it gets published.

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