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My Recent Travels

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I took a cruise to San Juan, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten. I played with phones all along the way. Here's what happened:

Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) used to have TONS of Verizon dumb-phones, and a few Millenniums. Now they have TONS of COCOTS owned and operated by Kellee Communications :(

Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) is a pay phone goldmine. There's Verizon dumb-phones, Verizon COCOTS, Phone1 Hybrids, Verizon Millenniums, and Verizon Charge-A-Calls. The only way it could have been better was if I could have found anything cool while using any of these phones. I got the numbers of all of the phones I could. It really upsets me that in this age of terrorism alert levels and heightened airport security, I felt very uncomfortable walking all around the airport, going up to every phone I saw, and writing the number down. Doing something perfectly legal should never feel wrong.

There were a few weird things at BWI. Some of the COCOTS would drop me to an ACTS prompt after about a 15 second delay when I dialed 411. Needless to say, when I deposited a quarter, nothing would happen. When ACTS timed out, I'd be disconnected. The COCOTS still have James Earl Jones' voice, which is always fun for me to hear. 411 was free on Millenniums, but no other phones. In All of BWI, there were only 3 dumb phones. It almost seems like they forgot to switch this little block of 3 phones over.

10-10-2880 can't be used for anything fun from Baltimore. Their operators don't complete calls to toll-free numbers for normal people, but visually-impaired people can complete calls with no hassle.

When completing a call to a long-distance number on a Millennium, I'd get a recording that said "The number you are calling FROM has been temporarily disconnected...." This prevented me from completing any long distance calls on any of the Millenniums I found.

Ft. Lauderdale International Airport (FLL) had a decent amount of COCOTS. They're all owned and operated by Kellee Communications, as they are now in PIT.

San Juan had Intelicall COCOTS EVERYWHERE! They had very reasonable rates to the US (50 cents/3 minutes). Prompts were in Spanish first, then English. I called to the 'States on one of these COCOTS, and the call went through a toll-free access number. Quality was good, respectable carrier-grade.

St. Thomas had a bunch of empty enclosures :( This was later confirmed. At a hotel 25 miles away from the port, I asked a 28 year old hotel bartender if he could tell me where the nearest payphone was. His response was priceless: "Payphone....I don't think I've seen one of those since the 90's."

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At the ship's port, there were a few circle-shaped phones. They had an antenna sticking out of the top of the phone, not the enclosure. You could only call using a credit card, or collect. These looked similar to phones I saw 5 years ago in the Bahamas. There were 4 buttons on the right side, and the only way you could accomplish anything on this phone was to use one of these 4 buttons to select Credit Card, Collect, or 2 other options. After pressing one of these buttons, you'd be routed to an operator who would complete the call. The rate for a 3 minute call to the states billed via credit card was $24.00!!!!! Unfortunately, I saw a few people using these. I bet these people screw over tons of people who don't ask the operator for the rate before they place the call!

The first thing I saw when I got off the boat in St. Maarten was a large row of the same ripoff phones I saw in St. Thomas. These phones had a cheaper rate (ONLY $14.00 for the first 5 minutes), but it was still a ripoff. Luckily, there was a large row of Millenniums owned by the local telco, TelEm. A 2.5 minute call to the states was 65 cents, and sounded very good. On both sides of the island, there were many more identical Millenniums, as well as COCOTS. I guess the ripoff phones were only in port at St. Maarten.

I was really looking forward to exploring the networks of foreign countries. I also figured that I'd probably find only COCOTS, which I did, and I would be extremely lucky if I found a dumb-phone. Nevertheless, it's always an adventure for me. Numbers and pictures follow:

FLL Terminal B:




FLL Ground Level:


BWI (I don't remember what's what, for the most part):

410-859-9529 (COCOT)

410-859-9828 (COCOT)

410-859-9525 (COCOT)

410-859-8217 (COCOT)

410-859-0373 (dumb-phone)

410-859-4171 (dumb-phone)

410-859-3432 (dumb-phone)

410-859-9577 (Millennium)

410-859-9578 (Millennium)

410-859-9576 (Millennium)

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Haha, very interesting read. You can call Antarctica for less than $8 a minute!


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 Very nice! Are you sure that isn't a Protel Ascension in your second picture, though? In their later years, they tried to get in on the 'big colorful phone with a VFD' business. Here's a photo of one Strom took; http://old.stromcarl...s/lsvgnv026.jpg

I felt very uncomfortable walking all around the airport, going up to every phone I saw, and writing the number down. Doing something perfectly legal should never feel wrong.

Yeah. Unfortunately, peoples' judgement isn't always as forgiving :/ . If it makes it any easier, try making a collect call attempt to something you own that logs numbers. That's what I did for a few interesting airport phones when I had nothing to write down the numbers with.

I had a bit of an interesting experience at an airport in June as well when I got stuck in Houston overnight. My netbook's hard drive had decided to commit suicide on the way over, so I didn't have a whole lot in the way of things to do, and thanks to a very much awesome franchise staff, I'd just guzzled an obscenely large amount of free caffeine.

So where do you go when you can barely hold still, and have all the time in the world? Payphones! Here's a quick background;

The whole airport is served by a DMS-100, and a slew of assorted COCOTs. The terminal I decided to sit down in was almost completely dominated by Elcotel COCOTs, with the occasional Millennium springing up. The rest were all Intellicall phones. Most of the phones seemed to show signs of former RBOC life - the phonebook binders even had Southwestern Bell logos on them. The DMS-100 in question was pretty typical seeming for Southwestern Bell territory, except for one nifty feature; almost every call, no matter where or what you were calling, would always send you back to dialtone when it hung up. The battery drop before this happened was quick enough that even the Millenniums didn't catch sight of it. This enabled me to dial whatever the hell I wanted without any flack from the phone exercise my right to a competitive carrier without intervention. The phones were programmed to work around the local operator, but when you dialed it, you'd get some strange operator service provider, even though they weren't getting local service from a reseller or anything.

The Elcotel phones actually turned out to be pretty weird. One of the first things I noticed about them was the part of the phone where the upper instruction card went seemed to stick out of the phone quite a bit. Eventually, I got curious and started picking at it. To my surprise, it came right off, and underneath was an LCD display - they literally glued an instruction card over the phone's LCD display.

The LCD display itself turned out to be even weirder. It seemed to be added on after the fact, and really just more the be there than to actually do anything. It was completely blank when you hung the phone up, displayed the digits you dialed when you dialed them, and displayed the name of the COCOT company, the time, and the temperature when it thought the call answered. To make matters even stranger, the phone felt the need to tell me that it was most definitely 16something farenheit for a moment on every call, I think before it took a thermometer reading.

For anybody that's been to Chicago's airport recently, do you remember what COCOT company runs the phones there, or why their 800 extender bothered setting the ANI to a FailureJack number in Nevada? When you call it, it goes immediately to a voicemail telling the caller that they were called from a payphone. Anywho, the phones in Houston behave the exact same way. The Milenniums were also owned by the same company - Pacific Telemanagement Services, but the calls would all go through Qwest's 0432 PIC. For any of you who have experience with Qwest's network, forget all you know about it. For some reason, their routings are completely different from other states.

By the time morning came, I was getting a nasty caffeine crash, which seemed to only worsen after negotiating the flight details with the airline.

...and then I found the courtesy phones. See, airlines routinely get a fuckton of people who don't want to spend a night lying on the carpet listening to the CNN Airport feed. As a consolation prize for giving escape a shot, they have a row of trimlines connected to a Merlin that lets people make short long distance calls. By this point, I was just happy to see something I could play with that wasn't a COCOT. The phones themselves turned out to be pretty damn cool.

The airline has a corporate account on AT&T's long distance network, and a direct trunk to one of the local 4Es (038T I think, whichever one the local COs don't typically use) over the 0732 PIC. The 4E didn't let you anywhere near some of the goodies the AT&T network is known for, like ATCs or 959 codes, but it did volunteer this little gem;

For those of you who aren't familiar, if you make a call to 770-988-9664 on 0732 normally, it reads off your billing telephone number (or charge number, whatever you call it - the field that isn't CPN), and then 888-000-9880. I can't help but wonder if this is a pseudo corporate network ANAC of sorts. 366 most definitely isn't an area code, maybe a number on the company network? As for the last four digits of the second field, my best guess is it's some sort of customer network identifier - maybe it's like a CIC for AT&T private networks.

And then, several hours later, I boarded a plane, and promptly fell asleep. The end.

Since we're giving out payphone numbers, here's the number for an AT&T Public Payphone 2000 at the Phoenix airport; 602-337-9252. If you like early Windows versions, take the time to call it, you might have more luck with the modem than I did. Note it's presence on the local Teleport switch instead of the RBOC one serving the airport.

Aside from a screen with horrible touch sensitivity, it wasn't really too much to write home about, but it had it's own prompts for intercepting what it thought was a dialing error. I don't remember whether or not it used a fake dialtone to store and forward your digits, but it seemed to be directly controlled by the OS, I think NT4, or something else very 1996-tastic.

From the same row of payphones, here's an Elcotel COCOT that accepts incoming calls -  602-387-9234

Edited by ThoughtPhreaker

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