Sidetone: Spring 1996


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:Tõnu Naelapea
Vol. XXXIIISpring, 1996No. II


For T.S. Eliot, April was the cruelest month. In his poem "The Waste Land", a work about spiritual dryness, Eliot saw April as a tortuous time, not bringing the renewal that Chaucer attributes to the month, but rather vain re­col­lec­ti­ons emphasizing the emptiness of the lifecycle.

And indeed, April can be a fiendish month. It starts with foolishness, and ends with the pain of having to submit tax returns, and often money, to the Government. Taxes are as inevitable as death, although death does mean never having to pay taxes again. The pranks and jokes of the first of the month are practised, perhaps to take the taxpayer's mind from his onerous re­spon­si­bi­li­ties.

The custom of April fooling is an old European one, originally innocently boisterous. The intent of the obstreperousness was to hookwink an unsuspec­ting victim into performing actions whose only meaning would be to bring laughter to those in on the prank. The hornswoggling was not intended to exploit or victimize; it was all to be in good fun.

Recently, however, it appears that the craft of calculated tomfoolery is disappearing. Monkeyshines and buffoonery seem to be the domain of loud and obnoxious radio DJs, who prate and blather with the sole intent of embarras­sing not only their intended dupe but the audience as well. April fool jokes can also be downright cruel &-- sending people out on wild goose chases can often bring unexpected consequences. In a world dominated by the short attention spans that TV and ad agencies have fostered good, complicated practical jokes are few and far between.

One fine example of a spoofmeister was Sir Richard Burton, the nineteenth century explorer, linguist and writer. Burton loved to bait the educated, mainly because of the supercilious airs that professional scholars are wont to put on. Before archaeology became recognized as a science antiquarians were quick to attribute the heritage and veracity of their findings. Burton demonstrated the ease with which the wool could be pulled over the eyes of self-professed experts by salting Egyptian digging sites with shards of "Etruscan" pottery that he himself had created and aged, and laughed throughout the excitement that the find created. Another classic was the discovery of the Tenth Lost Tribe of Israel. Burton showed sundry scientists a copy of an old Hebrew grammar work, complete with Burtonian terminations and additions as evidence that Burton had indeed found the lost tribe. Spoofs don't need much proof, if directed at goofs.

Sir Richard owned up to the pranks, as one certainly should. A more distur­bing trend of recent years has been to couch humour, whether in pranks or jokes, in offensive terms. One explanation for this is that humour often mirrors the concerns and issues of society. As noted by sociologist Alan Dundee, racist and sexist jokes are rooted in changing social dynamics.

An example provided by Dundee is the proliferation of so-called "dead baby" jokes at the time the Roe vs. Wade case gave rise to heated arguments about abortion. Often, when one does not agree with trends, jokes are the way to express displeasure or discomfort.

It goes without saying that humour provides positive relief. Laughter is indeed good medicine. But to make someone the butt of bent humour is deleterious to harmony and cohesion. Surely it would be better to return to the innocent shenanigans of April Fools past, rather than to continue the trend towards humour that objectifies. A good natured chortle can only breed further guffaws.

April, and April Fools become cruel when, unlike Burton, we put on the hurtin'. And Eliot would say, don't sully it. The first of April should be a funnee day, as even Alan Dundee say. Here's to a return to sportive vexation, because it's too much to hope for abortive taxation.

Happy future April Fooling!


Spotlighting recent activity in the Western Telephone family of customers

Twenty-four year WTT customer Jeff Engel brought one of his firm's suppliers to our customer family in January. The new client, Harrison Lighting, had acquired a 7-station key system; Western Telephone was retained to install it. Although a small system, Harrison's installation was far from routine. The firm's Factory and Showroom occupy non-adjacent units at opposite ends of the 121 Manville Road industrial complex in Scarborough. An 800-foot weatherproof cable was installed on the building's roof on one of last winter's coldest days (causing our vice-pres to acquire the nickname "shiverin' Steve").

The William Engel Company, of which Jeff is CEO, first employed WTT in 1972 to install intercom and paging systems at its downtown Toronto office and plant. Ten years later the site went interconnect, replacing Bell phones with a Logic-10 key system from WTT. Both systems are alive and well.

It's always fun to meet someone new who appreciates their key system. Michael Wilson is just such a man. When the intercom on his office's Logic-10 system stopped working in January, Michael located us through industry friend Lou Landry. A public relations consulting firm, The Hilda Wilson Group uses twelve Logic-10 sets, intercom and busy lamp fields to serve their Eglinton and Yonge headquarters.

In March, we were happy to welcome Patent Lawyer Robert Westell to that elite 10% of our customer base which a Toronto Star reporter nicknamed "The Rotary Club" in 1995. Robert had been renting his rotary-dial key system from Bell for what seemed like an eternity. It was the phone system he wanted, but since destandardization in 1992 service had become a concern.

After reading about us in a Report on Business story in 1993, Robert hired us to maintain his Bell key system. After all, Bell wouldn't service it!

This year, addition of a WTT rental feature to his system signalled the need to change telephone providers. On March 22, the three-station, two-line Bell system was replaced with an identical one from WTT. Now Robert has the telephone system he wants, backed by full service and support, and a monthly saving of more than $40. WTT maintains a stock of telephones and parts for clients who prefer to continue using rotary dial.


Judging by the reaction we have seen so far, WTT may be the only key system specialist on the internet. Thanks to the tireless efforts of our very own Web Guru Henry Postulart, the westerntel site continues to grow. Helping us spread the word through the digital medium, so far, are the following search sites:

Inquiries and requests to quote are rolling in by e-mail, mostly from the U.S. but some from as far away as Singapore and Zaire. Always a favorite of ours, the broadcast industry has flooded us with encouraging response since our broadcast net listing. It seems many radio engineers south of the border agree that 1A2 key is the ideal choice for phone-to-air connections.

Utah telephone broadcast equipment manufacturer Gentner Engineering wrote to suggest that we might work together to mutual benefit. A strategic alliance may be just around the corner!

Last but not least, kudos go to three vital pieces of internet software: com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons package Trumpet Winsock, viewer Netscape and e-mail reader Eudora.

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