Sidetone: Winter 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:Joel Eves
Vol. XXXIIIWinter, 1996No. I


Notice anything different about the masthead? This month, we're proud to add Sidetone's internet address to the list of ways to reach us appearing at the top of each issue. (Our last masthead change, as I recall, involved addition of our telephone number in 1984 at the insistence of customer Frank Sobolak who "always had a copy of Sidetone nearby" when he needed to call us.)


Jumping ahead of our predictions, we simultaneously published the Autumn, 1995 issue on paper and on the 'net. The two previous editions, Spring and Summer 1995, are now available at "Sidetone Online"; further back issues will be added gradually.

Conversion of the Spring issue gave us our first opportunity for an external Sidetone "link", a direct connection to someone else's web site. By clicking on the reference to Communications Consultant Ian Angus, electronic Sidetone browsers are led directly to Ian's home page ( And, in the reciprocal spirit of the internet, a link to Sidetone will soon appear in the Magazines and Newsletters list in the Angustel domain. This is what net­working is all about!


We were encouraged by the amount of response to the last edition's Back Page invitation to "come and visit us on the internet". It seems that many of our subscribers are already "connected".

Bryon Alexandroff, who worked here during our campus radio days, suggested that we might lower postage and printing costs by using e-mail to distribute Sidetone to readers who can receive it that way. Offering an alternative point of view, 1970s WTT alumnus Joe Stephens, now living in Miami, e-mailed a request that we keep sending him issues on paper. "After all," he wrote, "it wouldn't be Sidetone if it wasn't printed sideways!"

Fear not, dear readers, there is no plan to stop publishing Sidetone on paper in the future. But those who wish to receive it by e-mail will soon be able to. Let us know if this is your preference.


Amid the flurry of e-mail responses from Sidetone readers in December, we received our first purchase order over the internet. CITY-TV engineer Dana Lee had just been handed a telephonic project at the station when he heard about us at a party. (Brownie points go to friend and customer Dave Lister for this one.)

We began communicating by e-mail, and soon fashioned a deal. The CITY-TV/MuchMusic/Bravo group holds a January staff party (the "post Christmas, post New Year's, post Channukah, beat the January blahs, non-denominational Mardi Gras and talent show" party), each year organized by a different department; this year was Reception's turn and the party theme, naturally enough, was telephones.

Dana had been challenged to create a party telephone system with which phones on 18 tables could be selectively rung and connected to the event's PA system (a kind of Russian roulette of public speaking for the TV types). After a few rounds of discussion with WTT, Dana decided to rent the system's power supply from us, and set about building his own switchboard (dubbed the "Droid-o-matic Telephone Line Selector"). And since the concept of a switch-board had come up, how could CITY resist renting the perfect party prop from us: our 1937-vintage, 40-line 551A cord board.

Topping off the party preparations, the venue (Wayne Gretzky's) was decora­ted with about 50 handsets, donated by Bell Canada, suspended from the ceiling by their cords. The January 12th event was, from all indications, a roaring success (the excerpts shown on TV sure made it look like fun).

Not only did our power supply and cord switchboard return undamaged, but our museum is now the proud owner of the world's only "Droid-o-matic Telephone Line Selector".


When the Toronto Transit Commission opens its Downsview subway station in March, a custom Key Service Unit from Western Telephone will be part of the infrastructure. In January, WTT was retained as communications equipment supplier by Advanced Railway Concepts Ltd. of Milton, the contractor respon­sible for track-level signalling and communications systems on the Spadina extension.

Materials to be supplied by Western extend two "party line" systems used for maintenance communication into the new station at Wilson Heights and Sheppard Avenue West.

The Key Service Unit incorporates a power plant, a small patch field, and two 203A Key Telephone Units. Production of the 203A, an essential termina­tion device for expansion of the existing systems, was discontinued by Northern Telecom in the '70s; since then the unit has become quite rare. Fortunately, WTT is equipped to remanufacture such equipment from spare parts, ensuring the TTC of an ongoing supply.

WTT became aware of the Commission's analog, track-level communications systems in 1978, and has followed TTC tender call activity since that time. Western's first opportunity to supply telephone sets and hardware for use in these systems came in 1993, when Montreal-based customer Signarail Inc. won a contract to revamp the signalling equipment at the Commission's Greenwood subway maintenance yard.


Bell Canada is about to become a Western Telephone rental customer. Later this month, the telecommunications giant will take custody of six-button telephones, handsfree units and monitor speakers destined for the Bank of Canada's Toronto office.

The Bank of Canada is served by a unique internal telephone network which includes a pair of dedicated "party lines" linking offices in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Serving about fifty users, any or all of whom can participate in a conference call, the Bank's Selective Signalling system uses analog telephone equipment exclusively.

This exclusivity is no accident; it's an engineering necessity. The Selective Signalling system uses a four-wire transmission arrangement incompatible with digital telephones. Changing to a digital system, if one could be found, would necessitate simultaneous replacement of system apparatus in all three cities.

Relocation of the Bank's Toronto office forced their phone supplier, Bell Canada, to work with technology they have destandardized and now consider obsolete. To acquire the necessary materials for the job, Bell turned to WTT.

Pressured by Bell to find a modern, overall solution to their intercity communication requirements, the Bank of Canada retained Ottawa Consultant Steve Nicholson in 1995 to investigate possibilities. Steve set about studying the makeup of the Bank's traditional system, and issued a Request for Information in October, inviting vendors to submit proposals for equipment or services which could functionally duplicate the present system.

Western Telephone responded to the RFI November 11th, suggesting that the existing system is not, in fact, obsolete. Our proposal points out that through proper maintenance management and ongoing availability of spare parts, the system can be kept in prime working condition for many years to come. Advantages of the WTT approach include low cost, elimination of potential service interruption during conversion to a new system, and the convenience of user familiarity. In addition, a number of enhanced features which the Bank would find desirable could be provided within the context of the existing technology.

In January, when Bell's reluctance to perform the Toronto move became a concern to the Bank, Nicholson put them in touch with Western Telephone.


Most Western Telephone customers will be unaffected by increases in charges to take effect later this year. Here is a summary of the results of our 1996 review of rates and charges:

  • Rental Rates remain the same as when established in 1985. WTT is committed to maintaining these rates through the decade.
  • Hourly Charges will also be held at the 1994 rates. In summary, a Service Call costs $70 ($65 for prime customers), and hourly Installation Time costs $60/hr. ($50/hr. for prime customers). Prime customers are those whose systems were installed by WTT, or who subsequently appointed us as their Telephone Agent.
  • Unit Prices for shop repairs and for supply and installation of telephone sets and add-ons also remain unchanged.
  • Customers with Service Contracts on owned key systems will see an increase in the spring. Starting May 1, the rate for a Six-Button set will be $3.50/mo. Rates for Logic-10 and Logic-20 sets will increase to $5.00 and $7.50/mo. respectively.
    The need for these increases has been determined by evaluation of repair cost data from service contract systems.
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