All telephone enthusiasts probably have an internal list of “Telephone Songs”. I keep such a list in my notes somewhere and have always planned to start a post for all of us to keep updated. There are tons of songs that mention the telephone, but we probably have an “I know it when I see it” attitude about telephone songs.
Anyway, imagine my excitement when I found these two posts from historiatelefonia.com. I took Spanish in High School, and somehow I found @historiatelefon on Twitter. I can muddle through the posts and always enjoy the photos. Anyway, here’s a blog posting about telefono en la musica. Many of these are non-English so it was a thrill to find them:
The winner for best telecom Easter egg in a show is – Reacher!
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m always on the lookout for real telephone numbers in TV shows and movies. So I was delighted to find five telephony Easter Eggs in the new show “Reacher” on Amazon.
At one point, the police detective holds up a scrap of paper with a real telephone number on it. Of course I paused and called it right away.
I was treated to someone’s voicemail. I was asked to leave a message, but there was no beep and the call hung up. Sure enough – in the next scene we found out who this was, but it allowed us to be one step ahead of the investigation!
Much later, we saw the rest of the note, which contained three more valid numbers!
Each of these numbers ties into the story. Two of them are voiced by characters that never actually make an appearance in the show. Do they get credit for appearing in Reacher? There’s no mention in IMDB.
And finally at the end, we get a tender scene with a telephone number hand-off. This one, like the others, is tantalizingly obviously supposed to be called by us, the viewer.
This time I waited until the end of the show before calling it, and it was like a sweet post-credit scene. Well done, Amazon!
If Amazon changes these scenes, or if they’ve disconnected the numbers by the time you read this, or if you are not in the US and do not want to incur international telecom fees, here is the audio associated with each of these numbers:
The “rate centers” of the telephone numbers match the story line, so someone knew what they were doing. I checked the callerid name for these numbers, and three of them say “SKYDANCE”, which is the name of the production company for Reacher. It appears that Skydance has a great telecommunications consultant on this! Whoever you are, we appreciate you!
On an interesting side note, Amazon has recently released a telecommunications product called Amazon Connect for call centers. From the information I could find, I don’t think these numbers are part of Amazon connect. So Skydance Media is paying some monthly fee to host these numbers somewhere. Hopefully indefinitely.
The carrier associated with three of these numbers match the carrier for the telephone number in Don’t Look Up – ONVOY LLC. It could be Onvoy is a partner of Twilio. Peerless is the carrier for the remaining two. They are also a large business-to-business carrier and likely a partner with Twilio. I only mention Twilio because they’re the go-to place for telephone number hosting. But the telecom team at Skydance could be hosting it themselves – perhaps using this as another point of engagement with their productions. I sure hope so! And perhaps they should let people leave messages so we could express our appreciation!
So, to the Skydance telecom team – we salute you! I’m sure there’s a great story behind this. I’d love to hear it if you’re able to talk about it. If you’re a big telecom geek like me, you’re hoping someone noticed these hidden gems and you’re occasionally searching Google for mention of them. Please respond! We’ve noticed and we’re huge fans!
For reference, and to help the Skydance team find this posting, here’s the public North American Numbering Plan information for these five numbers as of 2022-02-13:
Information about number 12294743308:
Company: ONVOY, LLC – GA
Information about number 16465685111:
Company: PEERLESS NETWORK OF NEW YORK,
Information about number 19016540115:
Company: PEERLESS NETWORK OF TENNESSEE,
Information about number 16093372601:
CNAM: TRENTON NJ
Company: ONVOY, LLC – NJ
Information about number 12297858132:
CNAM: MOULTRIE GA
Company: ONVOY, LLC – GA
Note – this is a re-posting of an identical blog post on jollyrogertelephone.com, and LinkedIn. But I wanted to mention a couple more that I recently discovered, so I’ll use this blog posting here to update regularly as I found them – and hopefully to engage with you as you discover them too!
Whenever I watch a movie, I’m always on the lookout for telephone numbers.
By now, I think we all know the 555 prefix is used for fake Hollywood numbers. I learned recently that not all 555 numbers are available for fake usage. Some of you may remember you could call information in another area by dialing NPA-555-1212, so Los Angeles was 213-555-1212, New York 212-555-1212, etc. But in the last 20 years or so, all 411 is pretty much nationwide, and with smartphones, who uses 411 anymore anyway? According to ATIS (the authority in this matter), only 555-0100 through 0199 are reserved for “entertainment and advertising purposes”. The rest of the numbers (other than 555-1212) are reserved for future use. The intention is for a 555-XXXX number to route to the same place regardless of areacode. This gives the industry tremendous flexibility someday to have a nationwide 7-digit telephone number. Although all the telephone companies will have to comply somehow. And the whole industry is moving towards 10-digit dialing anyway.
But someday perhaps this Ghostbusters telephone number will work nation-wide.
Ghostbusters – We’re ready to believe you!
Ghostbusters was made prior to the guidelines set in 1994 to use 555-0100 through 555-0199. This is how we know Veronica Mars was made after 1994. In that show, telephone numbers are displayed frequently, and all are in the allowed range of 555-01xx.
Veronica Mars phones
For the longest time, it was common for telephone system administrators to block calls to 555-XXXX or XXX-555-XXXX. You typically didn’t want your users dialing long-distance to “information”, and XXX-555-1212 was the only valid number. I remember sometime in 2013 or so, I got a call from a manager because he couldn’t call his BMW dealer. It turns out the dealer had an 800-555-XXXX number, which I found interesting. So I had to program the telephone system to allow calls to all of the tollfree area codes (800, 888, 877, etc.) with the 555 prefix. If you manage a telephone system, you probably had to do this also (or you will eventually – you might want to check).
Anyway, back to Hollywood telephone Easter Eggs. I recently saw this “hotline” number in the movie Don’t Look Up.
Don’t Look Up – BASH Hotline
Of course, I immediately paused the movie and called the number (I recommend you finish the movie before doing this), and discovered a delightful series of hold announcements to compliment the movie. This is not something we could do back when we saw movies in the theater, but it’s fun to do it when streaming movies in our homes or on our devices. I recommend you call the number so the show’s producers can track engagement. But if the number is dead, here is the audio. It ends with a very convincing disconnect message at 15 minutes. I don’t know where they got it, but it sounds Genuine Telco.
You’ll notice this is NOT a tollfree number. The IMDB trivia mentions a different hotline number with a tollfree number that routes to an adult chat line service. I’m not sure how this was allowed to happen – Netflix made a similar mistake with the Squid Game when a real telephone number appeared in a scene. But in Don’t Look Up, they apparently procured a telephone number and edited the scene by the time I saw it, otherwise I would have called that chat line also! The new number, a vanity number ending in COMET, fits nicely with the tone of the movie. And the telephone announcements are perfect as well. This must have been rushed, or else they would have included it originally, yes? I noticed they got the same voice talent they used in the movie. The “BASH Narrator” is Liev Schreiber, according to IMDB. What fun to have him record a bunch of goofy on-hold announcements for a fake call center.
And, as an Easter Egg within an Easter Egg, the rate center for 254-632-6638 is Waco, TX, home of the Waco Siege. If you’ve seen the movie, I think that was intentional.
Speaking of more fake numbers, apparently, the Baby Sitter’s Club mentioned a real number intentionally as well. Alas, when I call it now, I just get a fast busy. This makes me wonder about the funding for these Easter Eggs. Does the marketing and promotions budget pay for these? And if so, is it temporary? These movies have a long shelf-life. I assume I will be able to watch the Baby Sitter’s Club many years from now. What happens if some unsuspecting subscriber is assigned that number in the future? Also, if the show is successful, there might be a considerable amount of inbound traffic. This can be a problem if the telephone number is hosted by a VoIP company that charges for inbound traffic (as most do). Don’t Look Up is in Netflix’s top 10 right now. I assume that telephone number is pretty busy. What happens when Marketing pulls the plug on the budget?
I seem to recall a scene in Fletch when Fletch is looking up some medical records of Alan Stanwyk and a telephone number could briefly be seen. I don’t know who has that number today. I wonder if anyone ever calls it? Fletch was made before the North American Numbering Plan Administration reserved fake numbers for movies. Although, Ghostbusters used 555, so I’m not sure why Fletch didn’t. I cannot seem to stream Fletch at the moment, so I cannot verify. I do have the DVD somewhere.
Although it’s not movie-related, I did want to mention my favorite telephony Easter Egg is from a game called Kentucky Route Zero. The game was published in five “episodes”. At one point, the developer, Cardboard Computers, published an “interlude” to the game with a telephone number of 270-301-5797. The CNAM says Gracey, KY but the ratecenter for 270-301 is Madison. Regardless, this telephone number connects you to the most amazing IVR I’ve ever heard. It DEFINITELY fits the mood of the game. The voice and content are absolutely perfect. I applaud the creative team involved in this. If you call it, you’ll understand why I have not provided audio. At some point, perhaps I’ll try to crawl this IVR and record it, but I have not tried. I believe it was set up in 2013 or so, and at the time I write this in early 2022, it is still active. I hope the developers never pull it down. But call it now just in case.
Kentucky Route Zero – Bureau of Secret Tourism
But back to movies…
And, if you are a child of the 80s like me, you may remember that telephone numbers featured prominently in Wargames. In one scene, David Lightman speaks with an operator and requests the local prefixes for Sunnyvale, CA. He then sets up a wardialer to call every number in that area. For this case, the writers could not just use the single prefix of ‘555’. So they fudged the area code when displaying the wardialer at work. The real area code for Sunnyvale, CA was 408 in 1983. But the screenshots show area code 311, which is an invalid code and impossible to call.
Wargames – Impossible area code 311
I’m not sure what the guidelines would be today if a movie needed to show a long list of non-555 telephone numbers. Probably something similar to this – using an invalid area code. For now, area codes cannot start with 0 or 1, nor end in 11. Prior to 1995, the middle digit had to be a 0 or 1, but this is no longer the case. So if Hollywood needs to show fake telephone numbers and wants to avoid the jarringly fake 555, then invalid area codes are the way to go.
But I love the approach that Don’t Look Up has taken – why not hide an Easter Egg in your movie?
So Hollywood – I’d like to make an offer. At the Jolly Roger Telephone Company, we have an extensive inventory of telephone numbers and access to many more. If you’re considering including a telephony Easter Egg in your show or movie, please let me help! Most of our numbers include unlimited inbound calls. Or, if you want a vanity number, we can find one and port it into our network. The rules have changed over the years for telephone number formats, so if you’re making a period piece, I can help you find a telephone number that fits the time. And I can make an AI robot of anyone in your cast of the movie, so your viewers could call into the number and speak with a character from your movie. In the case of Don’t Look Up, callers could speak with President Orlean, or Dr. Randall Mindy, or perhaps funniest of all, Jason Orlean. And as a lover of telecommunications, I will take good care of these numbers and the associated robots as a museum curator takes care of a beloved collection. Stop using the boring and obvious 555 prefix! Let’s hide some Easter Eggs and engage with your audience!
In the meantime, please let me know if you remember or notice any telephony-related Easter Eggs as you watch these shows! Also, for those of you outside the US, what does your entertainment industry do for fake telephone numbers?
Thank you all!
Update 2/13/2022 – The Italian Job
I’m a fan of heist movies, so I’m not sure how I missed The Italian Job for so many years. But shortly after writing this I saw a tollfree 555 number on the NetCom van. As I mentioned above, the npa/nxx of 800-555 is actually assigned, so compliance is important. Here we see 800-555-0199. I remember an internet service provider in the 90s called Netcom. I guess the name was available for use in this movie?
The Italian Job – NetCom van
The winner for best telecom Easter egg in a show is – Reacher!
The best Telecom Easter Egg I have found so far was in the Amazon show “Reacher”. I have posted a specific entry about that here.
A while back, I posted a “Sigma Cookbook” with some sample Sigma code for the Avaya Aura SBC. Recently a reader told me about a document written by John Waber at ConvergeOne called “Super Sigma Scripting” I had the pleasure of corresponding with John who gave me permission to post his document. I will copy/paste some of the text for easy Google indexing. But click this link for the actual document.
Thank you John! This is great stuff!
And good luck to all of you. I am now immersed full-time in the world of Cisco, but if your job is anything like mine, in September 2021, you are dealing with capacity, routing, and remote workforce issues due to COVID-19. This has been a chance for all of us in telecom to step up and help our customers, employers, and colleagues communicate through our favorite network – the PSTN!
Thanks all and good luck! – Roger
Here are some excerpts from the document (for the Google bots!)
Having the ability to create a script that performs sophisticated manipulation of SIP and SDP messages is a super power of Avaya’s Session Border Controller Enterprise (SBCE). Signaling Manipulation (SigMa) scripting gets its power by borrowing concepts from Regular Expressions (RegEx), a sophisticated pattern matching tool invented in the 1950s.
This guide begins with an overview of SigMa and finishes with examples that illustrate using Avaya’s proprietary SigMa scripts to solve common compatibility issues. SigMa is granular enough to work its magic on just Requests, just Responses, or both types of messages. It is designed to manipulate Session Description Protocol (SDP) as well.
The script can be created externally as a regular text file using a utility like WordPad and imported in the Signaling Manipulation screen. Alternatively, the script can be written directly in the SBCE using the embedded Sigma Editor
I just found this letter in our storage unit. When I was 22 years old, I was hacking away at a telephone system at Sears in Antioch, CA while working as the building engineer. For some reason, I was really drawn to that ROLM telephone system and I somehow captured the attention of a local IBM rep. I think she was amused by my enthusiasm – by this time, I had “socially engineered” my way into getting the system password for the PBX. I had already performed a ton of optimizations to it, such as matching all telephone extensions to the department number, building speed-dials to all neighboring Sears stores, and replacing the old Automotive Department telephones with digital multi-line telephones. A few days after our meeting, she sent this letter to the store. She probably had no idea how influential it would be.
In this letter, this IBM account rep called me “innovative”. I was just 22 years old. I was just a kid with an affinity for that big orange telephone system. And this account rep with IBM, who I respected and admired, took the time to write this.
The confidence boost from this letter propelled me into a very rewarding career in telecommunications. I used it to score my next two jobs – one with a Northern Telecom reseller in 95, and the next with a large institutional investment firm in 97.
Over the next thirty years, I have attempted to boost others in the same way. We have no idea what letter of recommendation or encouragement will do for someone. I’m not sure a linked-in recommendation or “good job” comment on Facebook has the same impact today. I suppose today it’s all about the “likes” and the “shares”. But if you have a chance to help someone just starting out in life with a letter like this, I highly recommend it. You have no idea what a few written words of encouragement can do for someone.
Kim Beaudette, if you’re out there somewhere, I thank you for taking the time to write this note back in 1992. You changed my life.
This post will probably only help me. I don’t know if anyone out there is using Flowroute for SMS. And if you are, you’re probably not using Perl. So this is another post that is meant for my future self and maybe one other person on the Internet.
If you’re looking for SMS integration, I highly recommend Flowroute.
I am writing a game to be played at an upcoming TEDx event. The game is played simultaneously over voice and SMS and when the game is over, I wanted to allow players to send messages to each other – proxied through the game engine so the users do not know each other’s mobile numbers.
Naturally, I wanted to support Emojis (and any Unicode) through this messaging, but I was really struggling to get them to work. The messages would look like this:
It ended up being the way Perl was encoding JSON. Using the standard JSON encode command did not work:
my $json = encode_json \%data;
I then found a great article comparing Mojo::JSON and Cpanel::JSON::XS. It turns out I had the same problem with Mojo::JSON
my $json = Mojo::JSON::encode_json(\%data);
But then I tried Cpanel::JSON::XS and hooray!
my $json = Cpanel::JSON::XS->new()->encode(\%data);
Anyway, if you’re struggling with UTF-8 and Unicode and Emojis when it comes to messaging APIs, sometimes the JSON encoding package you use can make all the difference in the world!
I’m very sad to say farewell to my Avaya environment.
In 1999, I left EarthLink Network and made the leap into telecommunications consulting. It was very scary – my wife and I wanted to buy a house and start a family. It was a risky move but I’m glad I did. I had a rewarding career and learned a lot.
In 2010, I began consulting for a financial company in Century City, CA. They had several small offices with an Avaya system in each. I was able to get the gig because I had worked with Avaya systems in the past. Over the next seven years, I worked with them to build an amazing Avaya network.
In 2016, they began to explore Cisco to replace their aging videoconferencing network. It was a compelling return on investment calculation. Due to the complexity of the video equipment, this client was using a video bridging service for 100% of their video calls, which resulted in huge operating costs. Naturally, Cisco was able to convince them to install simple-to-use Cisco video gear and they could eliminate the bridging usage fees.
As their voice consultant, I was not involved in the sales process. But from what I saw, I was amazed. As you read this in 2020 or later, you may not appreciate the genius of the Cisco’s sales process in 2017. They simply gave my client a VMWare server and a bunch of videoconferencing equipment. “Just assign some IP addresses and plug this server into your network”, they said. And amazingly, they were right.
The VMWare server had all the virtual machines necessary to have a working Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) network. A small tweak to DHCP options, and all the loaner video endpoints worked fine!
Say what you will about Cisco, and I was no fan at the time, but that was something Avaya could not have done. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the networking equipment and edge routers were already Cisco. It was a pretty easy sale – the demonstration basically sold itself. My client agreed to replace the videoconferencing network and hired a CUCM engineer to oversee the project.
I could see the writing on the wall. It wouldn’t be long before Cisco convinced them to replace the phones as well. Since the video infrastructure would also handle voice, it would be a no-brainer to add Cisco telephones and shut down all of the Avaya systems. And there was a lot of Avaya gear – and the maintenance and support costs to go with it. And, to be honest, I was the only guy who knew anything about it. Nobody said anything, but they were a bit exposed if anything happened to me, their only voice guy. I knew my days were numbered. I knew that, five minutes after the Avaya was shut down, I’d be politely asked to reduce my billable hours to zero.
Around this time, I got a call from a buddy I met while consulting. He had moved to a large healthcare organization and said there was an opportunity for a voice guy to handle the migration from PRIs to SIP. It sounded like a lot of fun, but it was a full-time job. Many times during my consulting career, I had been asked if I was interested in full-time work. But I always politely and humbly declined. I loved consulting. But at this point I was pushing 50 years old and going into “sales mode” and hitting the Los Angeles streets wasn’t as exciting as it used to be. I loved this client. I loved the people and the network. I like to think that they loved me. But I didn’t know Cisco very well. And they were filling up their network team with Cisco engineers. Alas, my future there as a consultant was doomed.
So, for the first time in 17 years of consulting, the idea of full-time work sounded appealing. Ironically, the healthcare organization was all Cisco. It was a long shot, but I went ahead and applied. It turns out that my friend’s recommendation carried a lot of weight. Also, my potential boss and I hit it off immediately. He was an old-school telephone tech and used to manage the outside cable plant for one of the Bell companies. My hero! And I knew SIP and AT&T IPFlex quite well. So even though I didn’t know the Cisco SBCs specifically, I got the job!
The new job was work-from-home. My client was 60-90 minutes away in Los Angeles traffic. I suppose I could have pursued a full-time job at my client, but saving 2.5 hours of commute time per day was a huge factor.
Unfortunately, my client wasn’t happy with the news, and they seemed genuinely surprised that my crystal ball showed no future there after the Avaya was disconnected. But I had developed pretty good prediction skills and was confident in my decision. I helped with the transition to a new Avaya contractor (several times, as it turned out), and gracefully exited the consulting business.
However, I knew everyone at that place and had all the credentials necessary to remotely support their Avaya network. I was always friendly, as available as possible, and never hoarded information about their systems. For the last three years, I’ve been trying to write up some of my favorite things I did in that network – things like
Automatically building labels on 9630 phones
Config extraction to a database
Automatic station configuration change and history reports (like, what was the extension we assigned that intern last summer?)
Tons of Perl scripting
Help Desk routing based upon an Active Directory attribute (this was done in Asterisk and then passed back to the CM)
Audio recording/playback for conference room testing (again, through Asterisk)
And through it all, I’ve always been able to connect to the Avaya network and look at the existing configuration. I’ve been able to capture screenshots to answer your questions here on this blog. I’ve been able to assist my client with the transition to Cisco by making small routing changes here and there to keep my skills sharp.
Alas, three days ago, on June 24, 2020, my SIP phone sitting here on my desk in my home office went dead. Actually, it just said “Acquiring Service”, which means my client has finally shut off the Session Border Controllers and presumably, the Communication Manager. While I did not expect the system to last this long into 2020, it is still an emotional blow to me.
My first PBX was a ROLM 8000. I cared deeply for that switch from 1990 through 1995. When it was replaced with a Siemens HiCom 300 in 1997, I brought it home to my condo (and wonderfully understanding wife) where I continued to love it as one might love a classic car in their garage. It moved into our garage when we bought a house in 2000. I finally disposed of it in 2010 when we converted our garage to an apartment for my father. That was difficult.
I’m surprised to find myself mourning the loss of this Avaya network in much the same way. I tended that network lovingly like a gardener might take care of a large estate. And now it has been deleted. Decommissioned. It happens all the time. But some of my soul went into that network and it makes me very sad.
I am also sad that I have no more Avaya network for you, either. I cannot simply “try it” when you have a question. And my Avaya skills have atrophied – I find myself looking up even the simplest commands that used to spring from my fingertips from muscle memory.
So begins a new chapter for “Roger the Phone Guy”. No longer Avaya, I will likely lose many of you. I have entered the world of Cisco. But perhaps many of you are also making this same transition. To be honest, it was difficult wrapping by head around Cisco. But I am teaching my new Cisco network some “stupid phone tricks” that I look forward to sharing with you.
Anyway, thank you for all of your attention and kind words for the last several years. I hope to share some amazing things about Cisco and perhaps even help to introduce some of you Avaya-heads to the drastically different topology and vocabulary of Cisco.
So many of us hunger for a decent tool to automate getting useful information out of the Avaya Communication Manager! I have written many scripts using PHP and Perl, but they all have various issues.
It looks like an engineer and python programmer has created a script that uses OSSI, which is a low-level protocol to talk to the CMs. He probably had to do a lot of brilliant hacking to get this to work. I wish I had an Avaya to play with! Alas, my world is all Cisco now (which also has surprisingly difficult challenges with command-line automation).
As I post this, we are four weeks into the COVID-19 “shelter in place” order. Many of us telephone engineers have been involved in setting up remote workers and probably dealing with capacity and congestion. This Python tool should help with that. I can imagine setting up a script that:
Watches for a new “mobility” flag in Active Directory
If set, pulls the extension and mobile number from Active Directory
Launches a script to build the EC500 record in CM with the right mobile number
Lists all EC500 and watches for changes between AD and CM
Removes the EC500 mapping when the flag is cleared
Also, we could all use more visibility into trunk utilization. This Python script should allow us to monitor trunk usage as well.
Here is an interesting image being passed around the Internet. I haven’t found the source of this, but I assume it’s an advertisement during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. I also found the same image with Rocky Mountain Bell as the advertiser, so I assume the Bell System passed this around for any subsidiary to use.
This is a very interesting and surprisingly busy time for telephone engineers. In my day job, I work for a large healthcare company and we have been shifting traffic and installing a lot of hands-free devices so nurses do not have to touch the phone, thus saving gloves.Our team is hard at work to make sure the phones can handle the traffic. Perhaps you have similar stories of having to support a large mobile workforce?
I’ve been looking forward to writing up this tutorial on automatically labeling Avaya IP phones.
This is a huge part of my success as a telephone consultant. I spent many years struggling with Avaya labels and I managed to write this automatic labeling script. It’s a combination of Perl, PHP, and Apache directives. I used it thousands of times over the last four years or so.
This is a sneak preview of what’s to come. I’m really excited to share it with you.