911-only public phone [telecom]

Well, I thought I was well-informed about telephony trends, but I must admit this is a new one on me.

I stopped at a convenience store earlier this morning and noticed something I had never seen before, a 911-only public phone mounted on the front of the building.

It's in a mini hood-type enclosure, has a keypad, G series handset, with the armored cable. Hood is painted bright red, and '911 only' is noted very clearly.

It's made by GAI-Tronics, and googling a bit, it seems that they make all kinds of special purpose telephone sets. I've never heard of GAI-Tronics either, so I must be somewhat out of the loop. ;-)

I admit that I have never seen such a 911-only set like that.

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They're pretty common as replacements for fire alarm pull boxes. We have one on the front of our volunteer fire department, in case someone comes by when nobody's there.

R's, John

Reply to
John Levine

........... Wouldn't a GSM handset without a SIM card serve the same purpose?

Securely mounting one of those in an enclosure would seem a more cost-effective than specialised equipment with a dedicated landline.

Reply to
David Clayton

The above usage surprises me.

A telecomm administrator told me paying the phoneco for a conventional public pay phone was cheaper than installing a "hot line" to the police or fire dept. People still ocassionally use pay phones so that revenue helps defray the cost. Further, it gives the public some convenience which isn't available with a "hot line" type of phone.

In many places there is a public pay phone available in train stations that is mainly there in case a passenger needs 911 help. No coin is needed for 911 calls.

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snipped-for-privacy@bbs.cpcn.com wrote in news: snipped-for-privacy@e14g2000yqe.googlegroups.co m:

In the 1970s and '80s, the phone companies oversold pay phones as a replacement for (much more reliable) municipal fire alarm systems. Then pay phones started to go away.

The nearby state university has these outside special-purpose phones all over campus, on the campus PBX. Some are 911 only, some can reach the campus operator and make campus calls, such as, "let me into my dorm, I forgot my key." Most have a blue light above them. None have any additional supervision or monitoring beyond a normal PBX line.

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There is a feature option that makes a POTS line appear to be a hot line; i.e., 911 is programmed as the only number in a speed-calling like list. There is no dial tone, either. A rental car agency (for example) can use the same feature to call their staffed site.

Reply to
Sam Spade

David Clayton wrote in news: snipped-for-privacy@myrealbox.com:

A conventional POTS Land Line telephone derives its operating current for the telephone handset transmitter and dial pad from the two wire POTS line. A wireless mobile device would require a local power source, regardless of the power supply configuration or technology.

Secondly, a wireless mobile device would fall victim to power outages that go beyond the capacity of the battery back-up (UPS) available at most wireless cell sites (Towers). Typically eight hours if the batteries are maintained, let alone mobile carrier channel saturation (All cuircuits busy) during an emergency condition.

A plain old telephone (POTS) line can't be beat for general reliability, as long as the twisted pair to the phone is not in need of any maintenance.

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But since the sponsoring agency has to pay for the phone service no matter what, it seems to me making such phones typical pay phones is slightly cheaper. This is because people still use pay phones ocassionally and that revenue will offset the service cost.

As to having direct access to a business, pay phones on transit property have abbreviated *nn numbers that let the passenger call transit information for free. (However, I can understand a rental car agency wanting a phone just for them, marked accordingly).

I recall that airports had a large display box of nearby hotels and services with a phone with an autodialer. (Some hotel lobbies had them containing restaurants and tourist attractions). One selected a particular establishment and the phone did the rest automatically. I don't know if such devices are still in use.

Regarding the above post of college campus phones, the phones I've seen were vandal resistant boxes with a speakerphone, no handset. One could call an extension on campus or of course campus security (security was the main motivation for their installation). I wonder how much they get used today since it appears students no longer have landline phones in their dorm rooms but use their cellphones for everything instead.

Indeed, some campuses essentially require all students to have cellphones since special alert broadcast text messages are sent out via that mode. I'm curious--to utilize such a feature would require a student's phone be on during class. Yet I would think most college instructions would insist students to turn off their phones to avoid ringing distractions. (This issue came up after one of the college mass shootings. I wondered why PA systems weren't installed instead.)

Reply to
Lisa or Jeff

People are willing to pay more money for the 911-only phones (some of which are actually on a POTS line with an autodialer built into the phone) because they are worried that a payphone will attract drug dealers.

This is really no longer a problem now that all the drug dealers have cellphones.


Reply to
Scott Dorsey

The real security and reliability comes from switch-based protocol rather than a auto-dialer in the telephone. The auto-dialer requires dial tone, which can be accessed through tampering with the telephone. The switch-based protocol never provides dial tone, thus only the intended destination can be reached.

"Hot line" telephones should be considrably less expensive than coin telephones, both as to the instrument and the tariffs.

Reply to
Sam Spade

I can the understand the telephone set being simpler since it doesn't have to handle coins, but the set still must be rugged to be vandal resistant.

I don't understand why the tariff would be considerably less expensive because it's still a wire pair like any other phone line and service by the switch.

***** Moderator's Note *****

I think a "911 only" phone should cost more than a regular pay phone.

  1. There's no revenue to offset costs: no long-distance, no Information calls, no toll-free calls.
  2. There's no ordinary usage to test the line and instrument, so any trouble calls would be on a priority basis, thus adding to costs.

Bill Horne Moderator

Reply to
Lisa or Jeff

Certainly each arrival terminal at JFK and LAG has such an autodialing phone as part of its Ground Services kiosk, with local hotels and Airport Shuttles as the primary beneficiaries of the autodialer.

Cheers, -- tlvp

-- Avant de repondre, jeter la poubelle, SVP

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Same at numerous highway "rest stops".

In the Good Old Days I've heard it was possible, if you timed it just right, to lift the handset, tap a button in a way to just get you a dial tone but without the associated dialing (sometime Touch Tone, sometimes pulse).

Supposedly, the stories went, you then had an unrestricted dial tone and could place your acousticly coupled tone generating pad over the mouthpiece and make your own calls.

Or so I've heard.

Reply to
danny burstein

I never heard of that, but given the technology involved it certainly seems possible. However, in the days of the older simpler technology the lines were probably rotary-pulse and a tone pad wouldn't work. (Yes, I know some lines supported Touch Tone even if the subscriber didn't pay for it, but that was hit or miss, and by the time that was common the kiosk technology was probably more advanced.)

Speaking of highway rest stops, Western Union once had its own public telegraph counters at major railroad stations and airports and they were busy locations. Would anyone know if WU had desks or direct line phones at major highway rest stops, especially back in the 1950s?

Reply to
Lisa or Jeff

I had to smile when I read the beginning of this thread as it brought to mind an interesting hack from 25 or more years ago. Seems that certain ad agencies wanted to get in on the kiosk/ad panel phone game on the cheap, so they ordered a standard phone line from the local telco and place a modified autodialer inside the panel. When Joe or Josephene User walked up to the panel and lifted the phone they heard dialtone which was their cue to press the appropriate button for the business in question, or an alternate implementation was to punch in a 1 or 2 digit code, either of which caused the autodialler to call the business's regular local phone number.

In college towns at least, it didn't take long for the word to circulate that if you had a recording of the DTMF codes for your girlfriend in another state (or one of those little DTMF generators) and didn't mind making calls from the local airport, you could call for free.

This usually lasted for about three or four months until the ad agency that owned the panel got around to paying the phone bill and wondered why their local business was generating all these long distance calls. Considering that calls at that time could be .25/min or more, you might imagine the shock of the person who opened the invoice...

Reply to
Robert Neville

I believe such panels are at many airports. Even they would be better off with C.O. based hotline service.

Reply to
Sam Spade

Again, C.O. based hotline service would prevent that.

Reply to
Sam Spade

That would be a good question to ask the local LEC.

Reply to
Sam Spade

Out of curiosity: Suppose you could hold your personal cellphone up to a panel on such a board (or stick it into a small slot on the board, next to a given listing), and the board would set up a call directly from it, to the relevant hotel or service? (Or _from_ them, to your cellphone?)

Technically feasible, with current cellphones? (via Bluetooth, or whatever?)

Potential advantage: Once the cellphone connection was established, you'd be able to move on, pick up your luggage, grab some food, whatever (and, your phone would have captured the number, in case you wanted to reconnect later on).

Security concerns? Maybe the wireless connection would only set up the call on your display panel -- you'd have to press Send to actually send it.

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Logan Airport in Boston had these in the baggage-claim areas up through at least the late 1990s. They were Western Electric touch-a-matic sets with a cover over the dial pad and record buttons, but with the cradle, switchhook, and auto-dial buttons exposed. And, yes, you could dial other numbers by tapping out the number with the switchhook (or, presumably, with a tone generator). I think that they still have something like this, but with more attention paid to security.

When I was in college (late 1990s), we had these near the door of each dormatory. The primary use for them was for visitors or pizza delivery drivers to call individual rooms and ask to be let into the building (the doors were automatically locked after, I think,

9pm, with access thereafter only possible with magnetic-stripe cards held by the building's residents). They also had an "emergency" button, but I don't know anyone who ever pressed it (presumably, it would call the campus police). Being speakerphones, they required AC power and would not work in the event of a power failure.

In many ways, the Gamewell fire alarm telegraph is still a superior device for emergency calls, as it does not require the user to know his own location or even to be able to speak into the device.

***** Moderator's Note *****

The Gamewell box - or, more accurately - the McCulloch-loop telegraph system - is a much more _RELIABLE_ system device for emergency calls, but that's a double-edged, and very sharp, sword.

The Gamewell Fire Alarm boxes are only able to signal the _location_ where help was needed, *NOT* what *KIND* of help. Municipal governments, which are inherently adverse to change, had to make a switch after voters across the U.S. took advantage of initiative petition lawmaking rights, and put a rat trap in what used to be a bottomless pocket that mayors, selectmen, city managers, and school boards were picking with ever-increasing finesse. In the face of such pre-tea-party revolts, the solons were forced to economize in any way they could, and the most effective way to cut costs for city emergency services is to deliver *ONLY* the minimum amount of help needed when someone calls. That means, of course, that they have to be able to describe _what_ is wrong, not just _where_, and _that_ means E911.

Of course, everything has a price: Gamewell boxes were inherently multi-lingual, required minimal maintenance, and were usable by _anyone_, not just those with access to telephones. But, they are relics of an earlier time, long before telephones, let alone a cell phone in everyone's pocket. E911, even accounting for the higher cost of multi-lingual operators, is far less pricey than providing enough firefighters, EMT's, and police to respond to every single incident.

Bill Horne Moderator

Reply to
Scott Norwood

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