Sidetone: Autumn 1995


25 High Park Blvd. Toronto M6R 1M6 (416) 536-9252
  • Joel Eves
  • Stephen Purdey
Sidetone is a regular publication of WTT Communications Ltd. distributed, free of charge, to customers, staff and friends.
Editor this issue:Joel Eves
Vol. XXXIIAutumn, 1995No. IV


Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door, some­one once said. A similar axiom seems to apply to those who repair mousetraps which are outdated but serviceable, if our experience is any indication.

Our "serviceable mousetrap", of course, is the proud but humble Generic Key System which, like the Energizer Bunny, just keeps going and going. Thousands of businesses across North America still use this hard-working electromechanical phone hardware, either to satisfy special applications or simply because it works well and does not need to be replaced.


On the advice of a fellow collector of antique telephones, I recently checked out an electronic surplus store of which I was previously not aware. To my surprise, I found the store using a 1A2 key system for their telephonic needs, and offered the proprietor my business card "in case the system ever needed repair". The owner was surprised at the concept; he bought the system in 1985, and nothing has ever gone wrong with it. But he's heard that few people service these phones any more, and was glad to take the card.

A Downsview construction company owner found us a few weeks ago by referral from another interconnect company. He bought a Logic-10 system in 1980 and just had his first problem with it - nothing a $35.00 shop repair wouldn't fix.

Then there's the auto parts dealer just north of our office who found us in the phone book last summer when lightning blew the fuses in his key equip­ment; that too was a cheap repair. There are still lots of little key systems out there.


Early in the '90s we identified the broadcast industry as a market with spe­cial telephone requirements which can be readily satisfied by Generic Key. Working this niche has brought us a number of installations in our local market area and some repair work for other radio stations in the province. Now our reputation is expanding.

In August, KSL Radio/TV of Salt Lake City, Utah found us. Engineer John Dehnel had undertaken a merry chase to find Logic-20s which began with Nor­thern Telecom in Tennessee and wound up with a Toronto refurbished equipment supplier who referred him to us. We have just completed our second project for KSL Radio and John, who likes to build his own interfaces between the key system and broadcast equipment, can now get all the parts and informa­tion he needs. There are many other broadcast engineers like John out there; soon, through the wonder of the internet, we hope to make their acquaintance.


Those who listen to Bell's marketing patter might be inclined to believe that all the large, special-application key systems are gone, replaced by customized digital kluges. Such is not, in fact, the case. Recently, we found out about three major key systems in the Bank of Canada, in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal, joined together by private lines. Because of the nature of the private line network, wholesale replacement with digital technology would be both difficult and costly.

The Bank's consultant located WTT through the network of used phone equip­ment brokers. Our proposal to retain and upgrade the existing hardware was warmly received, and should bring us future sales.

Finally, there's New College at the University of Toronto, whom we sold telephones last year to keep their ailing Bell key system running. We did our first service call there in October, and have now submitted an upgrade proposal to the Dean.


Community broadcaster CKLN-FM is back in the news. In October, the subscri­ber-supported radio station at Ryerson Polytechnical University held its twelfth annual fund drive: FundFest 95. Such a radio campaign is telephone intensive. In CKLN's case, an additional six telephone lines are brought in each year for the event. Six single-line sets are attended by volunteers who document callers' pledges to the station. A bank of indicator lights in the studio give programmers a sense of how the campaign is progressing by how many lines are in use.

In previous years, these pledge telephones were supplied by Bell Canada, along with the six lines. This time around, however, Bell's destandardiza­tion of things analog had reached the point where "conventional" telephones, those with extra hookswitch contacts which could be wired to operate the studio indicator lights, were no longer available. Two days before FundFest was to begin, manager Punam Khosla got the bad news from Bell and called WTT, the station's key system supplier, for help.

Our donation of six phones coupled with a last-minute wiring effort saved the day, as well as ensuring that CLKN will have the appropriate phones to use in future years. This year's campaign was a big success, bringing in pledges for more than 95% of this year's $120,000 donation target.


A single-line answering machine can take a call on any line in a key system automatically, using a new rental feature unveiled at Trinity College in October. Named Incoming Call Routing, the feature monitors the status of all lines in a group, routing a ringing line to the jack serving the answering machine. The feature, which rents for $3.00 per month per line, can also be used to provide caller ID at a multi-line answering position, or to send call overflow to a single-line set.

Incoming Call Routing is available to Generic Key System customers who rent common equipment features from WTT. An installation charge also applies.


The pilot installation of Incoming Call Routing serves Trinity's Office of Convocation, the last of the College's four key systems to convert from Bell to WTT. The feature allows the office, which handles Trinity's fund raising, greater flexibility in handling unexpected call volume during periods of light staffing.

Work on the final conversion was completed October 29, on the anniversary of Phase 1 coming on-line. A total of 53 telephone sets were installed at Tri­nity during the year-long conversion project.

As well as providing Trinity with an active service organization to support the four key systems, Western Telephone is saving the College more than $300 per month in rental charges.


WTT picked up an unexpected project at Trinity College in September, when Dean of Women Dr. Elizabeth Abbott chose to abandon the digital Meridian/Centrex key system serving her offices and apartment and join the WTT ana­log system serving St. Hilda's College.

Inability to simultaneously pick up calls on more than one phone and diffi­culty in connecting consumer telephone devices in the apartment were two significant shortcomings of the Meridian system installed by Bell three years ago. With analog key, connection of an answering machine, caller ID display and modem are a simple matter. And our responsiveness to customer needs did not go unnoticed by Dr. Abbott, who had been trying to get Bell to relocate her apartment telephone for several months. Conversion of the Dean's system affords St. Hilda's College the honour of now being a fully analog building, excepting only the pay telephones in the 300-unit women's residence.


WTT's Business Office will close December 22, 1995 and re-open on January 2nd, 1996. Repair service will be available throughout the holiday period.


WTT is finally on the internet! Our first generation Home Page hit the 'net November 3, thanks to the efforts of our resident Web Guru, Henry Postulart.

Currently available offerings at our site include WTT Historical Highlights, a description of the Business Key System and examples of Special Applica­tions we have developed employing analog components. And, of course, you can send us a message via e-mail. We're on the World Wide Web, at:

Over the next few weeks we'll be adding lists of available Analog Components and Technical Data to our site. And the next phase, an on-line Sidetone Lib­rary, will begin by year-end with the 1995 issues. We will work our way backwards in time, adding older issues to the library, as time permits.

To make our site readable by the maximum number of web users, we offer mate­rial both in a simple text and a Netscape-enhanced graphic form. We welcome your comments on our internet offering.

Scroll to Top