Sidetone: Winter 1997


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:Steve Purdey
Vol. XXXIVWinter, 1997No. I


One of the three largest nuclear research labs in the US, Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, recently got in touch with us through our Web homepage. A vital portion of their telephone communications network is electromechanical, custom built by Plant Equipment Inc., and requires an upgrade from thirty to fifty lines. Could we help? Indeed we could, but a modified application of our Business Centre control surface (involving a field of select keys at each expanded station plus rack-mounted switching equipment) would cost over $20,000.

Plant claimed they couldn't help because the original equipment was no longer in manufacture, but by persuading both sides to look a little more closely at the problem, we were able to expedite a solution between them which probably ended up costing less than $2000.

Did we do ourselves out of a deal? Sure, but the common sense solution was too obvious to ignore and Livermore and Plant are both in California anyway. What we really regretted was giving up those free trips to the sunny coast! The Livermore situation, however, is typical of the kind of niche market that Western Telephone is currently pursuing. With some notable exceptions (described elsewhere in this issue), new business key system installations have become quite rare for this company nowadays. Competition from electronic key is fierce, and it takes a pretty knowledgeable customer with some very specific interests to be attracted to our 'old fashioned' product.

Even so, there is still a large base of installed 1A key out there, primarily in the States. Some exists behind electronic PBXs, some is entrenched as irreplaceable special service, some stays in place because of new system cost or reliability considerations. The marketing challenge we face is to locate those applications and inform the owners of our expertise and continuing availability.

Broadcasters, utilities and government departments are all candidates for exploration. Sidetone readers will recall that various radio stations, Ontario Hydro and the Bank of Canada are included among our customers, each of whom has faced a unique problem or technical limitation for which an elecromechanical solution was best suited. Overall though, the Canadian market is small. That's why we are turning our attention Stateside where inertia, market size and a larger volume of unusual communication requirements combine to offer important sales opportunities.

It is not insignificant that Lawrence Livermore contacted us through our Web site. Much of our recent American business has come to us in this way and, being a small company with limited advertising resources, we must rely on the most cost effective means of consolidating our market niche. Without doubt, the internet is emerging as the best tool we have to attract particular users to our base.

With this in mind, Web fans should watch for an imminent rebuilding of the Western Telephone homepage. Originally constructed in 1995, our experience and user feedback have made us aware of the need to fine tune our page content in order to more effectively grab the attention of those with whom we want to do business. Instead of focusing on stand alone key systems, we will be highlighting the unique relevance of 1A key to the broadcasting industry, utilities, special applications for telcos and so on. At the smaller end, we won't neglect other users who have turned our way such as telephone hobbyists and antique collectors, and theatrical 'props' managers who often have one shot telephone needs for period piece films and plays.

Although it's not common to see, for example, Logic 10 telephone sets on executive desks anymore, a good deal of the unseen communications infrastructure in Canada and the US is still analog and electromechanical. Instead of competing with the plethora of electronic business key systems now available, Western Telephone will, as part of our 1997 marketing campaign, 'dig deeper', seeking out those people and institutions who already know what they want but haven't yet found us. And the next time we get e-mail from California, we may think twice before giving the business away to someone who doesn't appreciate the finer things in life as much as we do.


It seems like only yesterday, but 1967 - the year Western Telephone was formed - was thirty years ago! Naturally, we intend to celebrate in a manner suitable for the occasion. The actual anniversary date is September of this year, so in the fall we will schedule an Open House to which friends and customers will be invited.

By way of preparing for the festivities, Western staff is under­taking a major in­ternal renovation of our offices. Now confined to the third floor of a house (plus basement and warehouse for stor­age), a move to the second floor will sub­stantially increase our working space, improve our working environment and provide a con­ge­ni­al setting for a party. We are hopeful that the planned celebra­tions will rival those of 1982, when a three-day extravaganza marked the opening of our new work centre.


Spotlighting recent activity in the Western Telephone family of customers

The quiet hamlet of Erin Ontario, near Orangeville, is the home of WTT's first key system installation of 1997. In a stately, three-storey house on the town's main street, Toronto entrepreneur Shawn Steepe now operates Contest Management Corporation.

CMC provides a unique service to corporate clients by designing, implementing and managing their contests and promotions. Details arranged for customers by Shawn's organization include fulfillment: the warehousing and distribution of prizes.

Shawn saw the telephone system he wanted for his new headquarters in the office of his lawyer, William A. King. Bill has been a WTT client since 1982. Shawn's key system, installed during the first week of January, provides four lines and intercom at five six-button sets. Three additional locations were prewired, allowing Shawn to add sets as his business grows.

It's a good thing rotary dial telephones work on lines equipped for Touch­Tone. This fact has enabled our second largest installation, Wyllie & Ufnal Consul­ting Engineers to begin a gradual change of their key telephones from rotary to tone.

The most crucial ten sets in the system were converted in December, along with those of another system tenant, Art d'Eau. Set conversions will continue gradu­al­ly, as needs arise. The Westrex system's other tenant, The Third Sales Force, has used Touch-Tone sets since moving into the building in 1995.

Elsewhere on the conversion front, Patent Attorney Robert Westell made his move to Touch-Tone since our last report. But Western Telephone continues to service and support a number of rotary dial key systems.

Businesses who own 1A2 key systems that require service or expansion continue finding their way to WTT. In January, Lakefront Office Management purchased seven Logic-10 telephone sets, to upgrade the key system in their downtown office. An ex-Bell craftsman on Lakefront's staff looks after their service and change requirements "in house". Investment broker Maison Placements Canada Inc. also use Logic-10s, and called us when looking for spares. The firm is one of those rare Bell cus­tomers who is still under a Maintenance Service Agreement for their 1A2/Logic system. But, being unable to supply parts, Bell pointed them in our direction.

A WTT Anecdote:

Once upon a time, Bell Canada spun off an arm's length inter-connect company called BCSI. When the BCSI experiment was folded back into the parent cor­po­ra­tion, Bell was saddled with honouring service contracts on 'foreign' equipment for which they had few parts and little interest. A recently-crashed, obsolete Toshiba KSU in London was a good example.

Benoit Bertrand toils for Bell in a small Montreal office. Knowing that WTT deals in obsolete telephony, he called us. Could we help?

We didn't want to because of our specialty in a particular type of obsoles­cence, but with the help of Roydon Telephones we did sell him the unit he needed, and saved Bell's pickle once again.

We hope for more challenging problems from Benoit in the future. After all, we had approached him originally about service for Northern systems, not Toshiba. So far we've heard nothing about unhappy Northern users - maybe because none is still under service contract.

Benoit is, in a manner of speaking, Bell's supplier of last resort - but is he the man to lead us to their 1A base? Only time will tell.

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