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Bell System Recorded Announcements (SIT Tones)

"We're sorry, you have reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer in service . . ."

Ever wonder about the history of these call intercept messages?  In recent years these voice messages are usually preceded by what is called SIT tones which stands for "Special Information Tone".  Here is a brief explanation of these tones from AHK & Associates website:

"The special information tone is provided for those cases in which neither the busy tone nor the network congestion tone (fast busy) can give the required information to the calling party. SIT tones are three precise, sequential tones, typically applied with a recorded announcement to explain the failed call attempt to the calling party.

In the United States we use eight SIT tone sequences, which in turn are a subset of the thirty-two SIT sequences defined by the ITU. The most common SIT tone is the vacant number intercept SIT (i.e.: the number you have dialed is no longer in service)." - from http://www.ahk.com/Special%20Information%20Tones.pdf

There are many websites that go into more detail on the technical aspects of these SIT tones and so I won't bother with the details on this web page.  Instead I want to cover the more "human" side of what follows those tones - the recorded voices.

Perhaps the most famous recorded voice to most of us in the USA is Jane Barbe.  Jane Barbe (pronounced "Barbie") was the woman who did the later voice recordings for the Bell System. Most USA telephone customers know her as the "Telephone Lady". Her voice is heard by millions of people every day speaking for the telephone networks (changed numbers, disconnects, circuits busy), Bell Laboratory computers, The National Bureau of Standards, announcing ETC’s Audichron® time, temperature, and weather services, and many voice mail systems nation wide. Her predecessor was Mary Moore (she sounded like a schoolmarm and said "Fiyiv" and "Nyun" for the numbers 5 and 9 respectively).

Jane passed away in July of 2003.

Another famous recorded voice used by the Bell System was that of Pat Trumbull. It is difficult for most people to discern between Jane's and Pat's voices. 

Click HERE to read an article on the Automatic intercept service machine found in an old Bell Laboratories Record magazine.


The following information and audio files were sent to us during March 2004 by an anonymous visitor to the website.

Update: We received helpful information from Gadi Niram that the following recordings are all by Pat Fleet (formerly Pat Trumbull), except where noted where they are not either.

"BellSouth is now producing its recorded network announcements in house. Someone in Birmingham is doing them.
 
I've always been interested in the phone system growing up and always noted the different [recorded] voices I'd hear. 

[The audio links above are] examples of both the AIS and standard machine intercept recordings I'm referring to so you know exactly who I'm talking about.  Also found above are:


  • Examples of Jane Barbe doing the so-called "CK-22550" series of announcements for Southern Bell and South Central Bell. These came out around 1986. According to the old practices and letters I found that were issued at the time, they were in response to customer complaints of overly loud SIT's on the KS tapes. The KS tapes had their SIT's recorded at about -10dB whereas the CK tapes had levels of -24dB. Note how emphatic she sounds on many of them.
     

  • Examples of Jane Barbe doing the "BS1991 LATA" series of announcements for BellSouth. These came out in 1991 in response to continued customer complaints. Testing revealed that the Automatic Gain Control circuit was jacking up the level by about 8dB on startup. The letter I saw didn't specify what announcer frame was causing the trouble, but mentioned techs adjusting the levels, which leads me to think the Western Electric 13A machine was the trouble (the NT announcers made under the Cook name at the time did have adjustments, but few offices used them and some test calls I made do seem to indicate the 13A does this). Supposedly the SIT levels on these were 10dB below voice, which is normally -22dB, so I guess that would make these -32dB, but I'm not sure Audichron really got this right. The Bellcore practice was changed the first time, but not the second time, so it still calls for -24dB.
     

  • Probably the last announcement Jane did for BellSouth, the NPA split for Mobile, AL. This is in .wav form directly from Audichron, so you get to hear Jane just as the techs heard her.

As we receive more info on this topic it will be posted here.

 

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