Phone Issues

For about the last month, I’ve had a problem with the phone in the office.  The keypad works for making phone calls and checking its own voice mail, but not for checking other voice mail or accessing extensions or access numbers at places that I call.

A brief test confirmed the problem: I called my own cell phone and poked the keypad: the tones from the keypad weren’t getting through to the other end.

OK, I know at this stage I’m supposed to call for tech support, but I’m an engineer, and tech support is for losers.  The phone is an IP phone, so I started with the phone’s IP address.  Looking it up revealed a Web control interface.  I diddled around with a couple of parameters; no luck.

The next step was the instruction manual.  Rummaging around, I found the following passage:

The phone supports in-band and out-of-band DTMF functionality. It prefers out-of-band DTMF, but, if the other party does not support it, the phone falls back to in-band DTMF. This standard phone behavior cannot be changed.

Oh, so it ‘prefers’ not to send the tones down the wire with the audio.  So nice of it!

More practically, this suggested that the problem originated not with the phone, but with the network, as the keypad worked just fine in the past.  Perhaps a firmware upgrade might help, but that could cause further trouble, and possibly get me in trouble with the Phone Police.  Time to heave a sigh and write a note to tech support.

Fifteen minutes later, a smiling techie visited my office, changed out my phone, and all is well. “We’ve had a bunch of complaints about this in the last couple of months,” he told me.

So now I have a new phone in my office.  It looks sexier, with multicolored indicator lights and a more detailed display, and it doesn’t require me to push an ‘enter’ button after dialing a phone number.  Other than that, it’s still… a phone.  It’s not going to cook my breakfast, or write my e-mails, or do anything like that.

And so I wonder: why replace a perfectly good phone to fix what is properly a network problem?  Was it really less expensive to replace the phones for everyone in the space?  Do they replace the phone because it looks like customer service?  Or is it just the modern way of doing business?

Is buying new stuff really that much cheaper than actual mental effort?

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