- Â A Â key system has multi-line phones with keys that you Â press to get dial tone on aÂ Â Â Â Â Â specific line from the phone company’s Central Office Â (CO), or to answer a call. In smaller key systems, incoming calls Â usually ring at several — or all — phones. In bigger key systems, calls Â usually go to the receptionist or attendant, who will then tell Â someone that he or she has a call on a particular line, often using the intercom Â to call one phone, or by making a paging announcement to several Â people, or throughout a large area.
- Â With Â a PBX (“Private Branch Exchange”), you usually use a single-line Â telephone (“SLT”) and have to dial 9 to get dial tone. Â Incoming calls usually go to a receptionist, attendant or operator, Â who transfers the call to the appropriate person.
- Â CO, Â by the way, is pronounced see-oh. It’s not “company” Â or “co.”
- Â KTS is the abbreviation for Key Telephone Â System, often called just a Key System.
- Â The Â heart (or brain) of a KTS is its KSU (Key Service Unit). Some Â telecom newbies say Key System Unit. Computer guys often call it a Central Â Processing Unit, or CPU. Old telecom guys call it a switch. Â Cardiologists call it a heart. Neurosurgeons call it a brain.
- Â An Â individual module inside a KSU used to be called a KTU (Key Â Telephone Unit), but this term is disappearing.
- Â Our Â Panasonic phone systems combine features of key systems and PBXs, and can use Â both multi-line and single-line phones, so they are considered to be hybrid Â systems.
It’s OK to say dial, even if you make Â your calls by tapping buttons on a touch-tone Â Â Â Â Â pad. Touch-Tone was Â originally a trademark of AT&T, but they let the trademark lapse. A maker Â of cheapie phones used Touch-Tone as a brand name in the mid-80’s, but they Â seem to have disappeared. Most phones and phone systems can be switched to Â produce either touch-tones or dial pulses (clicks), like old rotary Â dial phones, for use with central offices that don’t accept touch-tones. Â The technical term for touch-tone is DTMF (dual-tone/multi-frequency).
- Â The Â actual “dial” on rotary dial phones is called the finger wheel.
- Â Rotary Â has another meaning in the phone business — the feature that lets a caller Â who dials a busy phone number, to automatically connect through another Â number. This feature may also called hunting or ISG(Incoming Â Service Group) or Call Forward On Busy.
- Â Phone Â company features such as Call Forwarding, Conference Call, Speed-Dial, Â Call-Waiting, Re-Dial, Call Return and Caller ID, are often called Custom Â Calling Services, as distinct from POTS (Plain Old Telephone Â Service). Pot, on the other hand, is not a plain old telephone.
Â Â Â Â Â What normal people call a “bell,” phone pholks call a ringer. Â Traditional electromechanical phones, the dominant life form until Â the mid-1980s, used mechanical bells. The oldest phones had Â externally-mounted ringers, sometimes on a box separate from the actual Â phone. Phones generally had two separate gongs with a vibrating hammer Â that moved from one to another, until the compact size of Princess and Â Trimline phones necessitated space-saving single-gong ringers. Modern electronic Â phones use internal electronic ringers, which can sound like Â warbles, chirps, chimes, beeps, buzzes or almost anything else. In a noisy Â area you can use a loud alert signal, which can sound like a horn, Â gong, bell, whistle, etc.
- Â Ringback Â tone is the artificial Â ringing sound that you hear on your phone when you call someone. The rhythm Â of the ringing you hear is not necessarily synched with the real ringing at Â the other phone.
- Â A Â ringdown circuit lets you make a call to a pre-determined phone just Â by picking up a handset on another phone. It can be provided by your local Â phone company, or you can use your own equipment and wires.
- Â Ring Â up just means to make a Â call, as in “I’m going to ring up my mother after breakfast.”
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
|Where’s your OCTOTHORPE?
“Octothorpe” is one of many names for the # key – usually found Â Â Â below the 9 and to the right of 0 on a touch-tone phone. It’s also called Â Â Â the tick-tack-toe sign, cross-hash, cross-hatch, enter, hash, number-sign, Â Â Â noughts-and-crosses, octothorp, pound, pound-sign and probably other Â Â Â things.
*The asterisk under the 7 and to the left of the 0, is called Â Â Â Star.
Just as a ship is a big boat, cable Â used to mean thick wire. Computer people have affected telephone Â vocabulary, and now “cable” seems be be synonymous with Â “wire,” and might eventually replace it.
- Â The Â name of the British long-distance company, Cable & Wireless, Ltd. Â comes from the undersea cables that run around the world, and Â “wireless,” the Brit term for radio. Cable & Wireless installed Â the first telegraph cable between the US and Britain. Some cellphone Â service providers, such as AT&T and Verizon, refer to their services Â as wireless. That’s silly.
- Â Wireless Â Cable refers to cable-like Â TV programming sent over-the-air to an antenna on your roof or in your attic. Â It is NOT satellite TV. Multipoint Multichannel Distribution Service (MMDS) Â is the technical term for it. Operators broadcast multiple channels of Â television at microwave frequencies from an antenna located on a tower, tall Â building, or mountain.
- Â Wire Â running from the phone company to your place is called the local loop.
- Â Loop Â plant includes the local Â loop, plus all the telephone poles and underground conduit and assorted Â hardware used to connect them to you.
- Â Wire Â running around inside your place is station wire, or station Â cabling.
- Â The Â common phone wire that was used for decades, and now considered Â Â Â Â Â inadequate, was called D-station wire and JK. It Â was also classified as IOW, because it could be used Inside and Â Outside. Wire designed for inside use only, is IW. Most of this wire Â had four conductors (with green, red, black and yellow insulation), Â and was also called quad.
- Â Some Â of the oldest wire used in and on walls, with three or four conductors Â twisted together, but with no outer jacket, is called bridle wire. Â Newer bridle wire does have an outer jacket, and can be used between a Â telephone pole and a building.
- Â Wire Â designed to go in the air is called aerial cable. It can be strapped Â or lashed to a supporting cable, or might be made with an integral support Â strand in a figure-8 configuration (a cross section looks like the Â number eight.)
- Â When Â wire is installed underground, it may be placed in a protective conduit or Â duct, or it may be designed for direct-burial, and filled with Â a moisture-resistant gel and equipped with protective layers of gopher-proof Â aluminum and plastic.
- Â Modern Â wire without a jacket is usually cross-connect wire, and is generally Â Â Â Â Â used in short lengths to make connections Â between two terminal blocks (also called punch-down blocks). A Â group of punch-down blocks near the main phone system control unit may be Â called a main distributing frame (MDF). A block or blocks Â farther away, closer to the phones, is an intermediate distributing frame (IDF).
- Â Most Â phone installations now use multi-pair station wiring inside the Â walls, usually with four twisted pairs. The general description is UTP Â (unshielded twisted pair). It’s a good idea to install more pairs than Â you think you’ll need, for adding more phones and gadgets, and to compensate Â for damage by plumbers and mice.
- Â Twisted-pair Â wire varies in the number of twists per inch. Wire with more twists is better Â and more expensive. UTP is classified in various levels or categories Â (“Cats”).
- Â Computer Â networks generally use Cat-5, Cat-5e or Cat-6, and phone systems Cat-3 Â or Cat-5.
- Â Cat-5 Â wire and above is capable of higher data transmission speeds, and must be Â installed properly to avoid loss of speed and data glitches. Special Â jacks and other hardware items are available for use with Cat-5 and Cat-6 Â wire.
- Â Each Â phone circuit consists of two wires in a pair. One wire, with positive Â Â Â Â Â Â electrical polarity, is called the tip and is traditionally green within a phone jack, the other is negative, called ring, Â and is red. The tip and ring terms come from the parts Â of an old-fashioned telephone switchboard plug.
- Â Multi-pair Â phone and data wire use an industry-standard color code, to Â distinguish one pair from the others. Each wire usually has a base color and Â a contrasting stripe, and the other wire in the pair is the opposite. The Â first pair of wires usually has a white wire with blue stripes, and a blue Â wire with white stripes. There are codes for 25 different pairs. When cables Â have more than 25 pairs, each group of 25 pairs is wrapped with colored nylon Â thread, in a binder group.
- Â With Â most phone systems, you need a direct path from the central control unit to Â each phone. Phone guys call this home-runwiring. Computer guys call it Â star topography.
- Â Loop-through is a less-expensive wiring scheme, often Â found in homes, where one piece of wire goes from jack to jack to jack.
- Â A Â cord used to mean a short, flexible, and perhaps temporary piece of Â wire — such as the one between the base of a phone and a jack on the wall. Â Here, too, computer lingo is taking over. Patch cable is now more Â common than patch cord. A patch panel is an array of jacks that Â accept patch cords.
- Â When Â a piece of wire is cut to a specific length and has specific connectors or Â plugs attached, it is usually called a cord or a cable, as in extension Â cord, or modem cable.
- Â A Â cord/cable/piece of wire that connects a phone to a jack is normally called a Â line cord or sometimes a base cord or a mounting cord. A Â standard line cord is 7′ long. Other common lengths are 12′ and 25′. Â You may also find 50′, particularly in dollar stores.
- Â The Â coiled cord between the base of a phone and the handset is usually called a handset Â cord. The standard handset cord is 6 feet long. 12 Feet and 25 feet are Â also common, and if you want your dog or cat to have a lot of fun, you can Â get a 50-footer at the dollar store.
- Â The Â little plastic tips on the ends of cords and cables are plugs. Plugs Â fit into jacks. Despite their male name, jacks are female. Plugs Â are male. If you Â Â Â Â Â don’t understand this, find someone of the opposite sex, get naked, Â and look in the mirror. Or study Michelangelo’s “Temptation and Â Fall” on the Sistine Chapel ceiling in Rome. Modular plugs are made in Â three standard sizes. The smallest plug, known as 4-position/2-wire, is used Â for handset cords. The middle-size plug is the most common. It has six Â positions, and either two, four, or six wires. It is used for most line Â cords, for connecting phones, modems and other devices to phone jacks. The Â largest plug, with eight positions and eight wires, is usually used for LANs Â (Local Area Networks) and sometimes for four-line phones.
- Â In Â the computer world, a connector can be male or female. In the phone Â world, a connector is female. A CPC adapter has one (male) plug and Â two (female) connectors.
- Â CPE Â used to mean customer-provided Â equipment (in the ATT empire) or its opposite, company-provided Â equipment (in the GTE empire). Now it’s customer premises equipment, like Â a phone or a modem; so CPE can be either CPE or CPE.
- Â ETE is the abbreviation for employee telephone Â equipment, often freebie CPE. Could ET phone home with ETE?
- Â People Â sometimes say they “jack-in” a phone. That’s silly. You plug-in Â a phone.
- Â Some Â people — even electricians — call wall outlets and wall jacks…plugs. Â That’s stupid. Plugs go on wires, not on walls.
- Â Even Â though almost all phone jacks go on the wall, the term wall jack isÂ reserved for jacks that are designed to Â support a wall phone. Wall jacks can have plastic or stainless steel Â covers. The mushroom-like pieces on a wall jack that fit into slots on the Â backs of wall phones are mounting studs.
- Â Other jacks include surface jacks that stick out from the wall, and flushÂ jacks that are nearly flat, like an electrical outlet (also called a receptacle).
- Â SurfaceÂ jacks are often called baseboard jacks or biscuit jacks. In Â modern houses, the baseboard is often replaced by a small strip of molding Â that is too small to hold a jack, so the jack goes above the baseboard.
- Â Jacks that connect directly to the phone company have RJ designations. RJ Â stands for Registered Jack, and refers to FCC-established standards. A Â single-line jack for a wall phone is an RJ-11W. A two-line jack for a Â desk phone is an RJ-14C. The RJ designation refers to the way a Â particular piece of hardware is connected at a particular time — it is not a Â part number. An RJ-11C, RJ-14C, and RJ-25C can be physically Â identical, but differ in the number of phone lines connected to them. Most Â people call an 8-wire jack used for a phone or a computer network an RJ-45. Â That’s a mistake, because an RJ-45 is a jack used to connect a data terminal Â to a phone line, but since the same piece of hardware can be used for Â terminals, networks and phones, any 8-wire jack is commonly called an RJ-45.
- Â The W in RJ designations stands for wall. Nobody seems to know what Â the C stands for. There are other suffixes, including X.
- Â RJ21X is a common phone company demarcation point (demark) Â for up to 25 lines.
Â Â Â Â Â In this Website, we use the term line to refer to an Â individual two-wire circuit (a pair) between your office or home and Â the phone company, that generally provides service for one phone number.
- Â There Â are ways to get more out of a pair of wires, and alternatives to wire.
- Â SLC (pronounced slick, and standing for Subscriber Â Line Carrier) is used by phone companies when they need to provideÂ dialtone where there is insufficient wire running through the street. It can Â provide up to 96 derived lines. The smallest unit can squeeze twoÂ calls out of one pair of wires. The line voltage on derived lines is Â usually much lower than the 48 volts on normal lines, and may confuse simple Â multi-line phones. Hold circuits may not work, and in-use lights may be on Â even when the phone is hung up. SLCs may limit modem speeds, too. Some phone Â companies use “SLC” to mean Subscriber Line Concentrator or Subscriber Â Line Carrier, and you may also encounter SLCC (Subscriber Line CarrierÂ Circuit). And, to make things even worse, some people say “slick” when referring to SLIC (Subscriber Line Interface Â Concentrator). “PairGain,” once a trademark, has become a Â generic term for this technology.
- Â ISDN stands for Integrated Services Digital Â Network, a package of voice and data channels that can use just one pair Â of wires. Data speeds are usually 56k or 128k, which was a big improvement Â over the modem speeds common in the early 1990s, but is much slower than the broadband Â data speeds provided through cable and DSL.
- Â DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is a Â technology that moves data at frequencies higher than normal speech on copper Â telephone lines to transmit traffic typically at multi-megabit speeds. DSL Â can allow voice and high-speed data to be sent simultaneously over the same Â line. Because the service is always on, you don’t need to dial in, and there Â are no busy signals.
- Â ADSL (Asymmetrical DSL) uses different Â upload and download speeds and can be configured to deliver up to six Â megabits of data per second (6000K) from the network to the customer – that Â is up to 120 times faster than dialup service and 100 times faster than ISDN. Â ADSL enables voice and high-speed data to be sent simultaneously over the Â existing telephone line. This type of DSL is the most predominant in Â commercial use for business and residential customers around the world. It’s Â good for general Internet access and for applications where downstream speed Â is most important, such as video-on-demand.
- Â A Â T-1 circuit can provide 24 conversations (or data transmission paths) Â using two pairs of wire. It is commonly used to connect several offices of Â one company, or to allow a business to connect directly to a long-distance Â provider, without passing through the local phone company’s facilities. Some Â phone systems can connect directly to a T-1 line, others use an adapter Â called a channel bank. Keep in mind that a T-1 circuit does not use 24 Â pairs of wire. It is able to carry multiple streams of voice and data on on Â just two pairs.
- Â VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol and Â is also known as Internet Telephony. It’s a money-saving method to Â transport voice via the Internet, rather than the public switchedÂ telephone network (PSTN). Initially VoIP calls were made from Â computer to computer, then computer to phone, and now can use conventional Â phones on both ends of a call. VoIP can also be used to link branches of the Â same company, even thousands of miles apart; and allows people to work at Â home with the same type of phone they’d use at the office. Analog voice Â signals are converted to a digital format that can be sent as Internet Â Protocol (IP) packets, and the process is reversed at the receiving end. Â Early VoIP calls sounded lousy. Now they can sound as good as a conventional Â phone call, and better than many cellular calls.
- Â Centrex is a package of features provided to business Â customers by the local phone company, that may replace — or duplicate — Â features in your own phone equipment. The package may or may not save you Â money, may or may not save you space, and is often a major PITA to use, Â because you’ll probably have to dial 9 before each phone call. Sometimes you Â can get “assumed dial nine” to avoid the PITA, but you may have to Â pay extra. Centrex is good for uniting multiple branches of a company that Â are spread around a metropolitan area. In some places, Centrex has other Â names such as CentraNet and Plexar.
- Â Fiber-optic Â cables use very thin Â strands of glass, instead of copper wire, and can carry a huge number of Â conversations, as well as data and video.
- Â Microwave Â uses extremely high Â frequency radio transmission to carry voice, data, and video between Â dish-shaped antennas, and is used by phone companies in private networks. The Â “M” in MCI, stands for Microwave, which the company used in Â its early days as an alternative to AT&T long distance service.
Â Â Â Â Â In this Website, we use phone to mean
an individual telephone instrument.
- Â In PBX lingo, a line is called a trunk and a phone can be called aÂ line, or an extension. In both key systems and PBXs, phones are Â often called stations.
- Â PeopleÂ who have worked in offices for a long time often call a phone line a wire, Â as in “I’m sorry, but Mr. Witherspoon is on another wire.”
- Â Old phone guys often call phones, sets. A wall phone is a wall set and a desk phone is a desk set and a multi-line phone is a key set.
- Â YouÂ may also hear phones referred to by their traditional model numbers. An Â old-fashioned rotary-dial desk phone is a 500-set. An ordinary Â touch-tone phone is a 2500-set. A touch-tone wall phone is a 2554.
- Â Phone company customers used to be called subscribers, and telcoÂ (telephone company) old-timers often called phones, subsets.
- Â OldÂ electromechanical key telephones sometimes were referred to with generic numbers, such as K-10 for a key phone with 10 buttons.
- Â InÂ Bell-Talk, single-line phones were often called CVs (pronounced Â “see-vees”) and key phones were called KVs (pronounced “kay-vees’). If they went on the wall, they’d be a CVW or KVW.
- Â CVs were sometimes called C-sets.
- Â These terms were part of the Bell System USOC (UNIVERSAL SERVICE ORDERING Â CODE) which consumer and business customers have seldom encountered since Â the AT&T breakup in 1983. The code included standardized abbreviations Â for a huge number of hardware items, and were listed on installation orders. Â The USOC is now used in the wholesale side of the telecom business, where, Â for example, a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) orders Â service from a telco for resale to its customers. (Thanks to Ray Keating for Â his help on this.)
- Â An installation order for a key system was called a K-Plan, and had a chart that showed the functions of each button on each phone.
- Â K-Plan is different from K-Plant, which was all the key system equipment and Â support and distribution facilities owned by a phone company. K-Plant almost Â became a “place” in the minds of phone guys, as in “Joe’s in Â K-Plant.”
- Â Bell’sÂ actual hardware items (jacks, adapters, transformers, etc.) often carried a KS Â designation.
- Â KSÂ stood for Kearney System, a parts numbering scheme developed for a Western Electric factory in Kearney, NJ. Even today, some common Â pieces of telecom hardware are marked with KS numbers. You might also find Â pieces of telecom gear with a ComCode, another Bell/Western Electric Â part number scheme. One 50-cent part can have a dozen different identifiers.
- Â Phones are often refurbished after being removed from service, so they will Â look and work like new for other customers. In the old Bell system,Â refurbished phones and gadgets were known as C-Stock.
- Â ATT (now Lucent and Avaya) sometimes likes to call its phones voice terminals. Â I think that’s silly and pompous and confusing.
- Â Inter-TelÂ likes to call its phones endpoints. YUCK! I think that’s worse than voice terminals.
- Â Some people call phones handsets, which is not very pompous, but is evenÂ more confusing.
- Â PhonesÂ used in or around your house or business, that don’t need wires between the Â handset and base, are called cordless phones.
- Â CompletelyÂ self contained phones that work without wires are called cellphones, Â or cellular phones, wireless phones, mobile phones or Â handyphones.
- Â Various Â radio frequencies have been used over the years for cordless phones. Â The newest frequencies used in the US are in the vicinity of 5.8GHz and Â 1.9GHz, selected to avoid interference with and from wireless computer Â networks and other devices and systems operating in the 2.4GHz band.
- Â The Â 1.9GHz radio band is known as DECT or Digital Enhanced (formerly Â European) Cordless Telecommunications.
The handset is the part of the phone that goes in your hand, and includes the parts you listen to and talk into. The plastic shellÂ that holds the parts is the handle.
- Â If Â those parts were attached to something that attached to your head instead of Â being held in your hand, it would be called a headset, instead of a handset.
- Â The Â important components inside a headset or handset are the transmitter (or Â microphone) and the receiver (or speaker). What some people call Â receivers, are really handsets.
- Â SomeÂ people even call their entire phone a receiver. Yuck.
- Â Some people, particularly Brits and Aussies, call an entire phone a handset. Double-Yuck Â (unless it’s a cellphone).
- Â Headphones have miniature speakers (also known as Â drivers and transducers and receivers and receiver elements) and are mainly Â used for listening to music. It’s unusual to hear the word Â “headphone.” The word almost always has an “s” at the Â end. It’s a contraction for “pair of headphones,” like Â “pants” is short for a “pair of pants” and “scissors Â is short for “pair of scissors.” Headphones are sometimes called cans.
- Â An Â earphone is a tiny speaker that fits in or on your ear, commonly used for Â listening to a portable radio.
- Â EarPhoneÂ® is a tiny ear-mounted speaker with a shortÂ microphone boom (sort of a mini headset), made by Jabra for phones.
- Â EarSetÂ® is an all-in-the-ear speaker/microphone, also Â made by Jabra. Similar products from other companies are called ear buds.
- Â HeadPHONE Â is an advertising Â label that Panasonic uses for some phones that have headset jacks.
When you hang-up briefly to get dialtone
for a new call, or to activate call-waiting
or another feature, you flash the hookswitch.
- Â “Flash” Â refers to a light on an old-fashioned switchboard that would let the operator Â know that you need help. The “hookswitch” refers to the actual Â on-off switch inside the phone that would be activated by hanging up Â or picking up the handset. When you pick up the handset, you go off-hook. Â When you hang up, you go on-hook. “Hanging up” refers to the Â actual switchhook on old phones, where you would hang Â the receiver.
- Â A Â lot of our current telecom vocabulary is based on the parts of ancient Â phones, like the candlestick above. Some phones have buttons labeled flash Â and some fax machines have hook buttons.
- Â The Â switchhook’s connected to the hookswitch…and the headbone’s connected to Â the neckbone, and that’s all right with me.