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gration enables third-party developers to create a wide range of business-specific applications that build on the combined advantages of telephony

and computing . As a result of these majOr system dif ferentiators, sales of Meridian Norstar introduced into the market just over a year ago - have exceeded all pre-release ex pectations . Indeed, Norstar is well on its way to achieving Northern Telecom's target of capturing significant shares of the US$1 .1 billion North American 2-to-1 00 station-set market by 1991 , and of the $3.2 billion global market by 1994. The 2-to-1 00 station-set market is characte rized by single-site standalone businesses, multi-site businesses, and franchises, as well as branch offices and departments within large organizations. In North America alone, this market accounts for 98 percent of all business locations and more than one-third of all business com munications dollars. Market studies have indicated that the decision to buy a telephone system is made every five to seven years ; decisions are made quickly, based on the business' experiences with key tele phone systems and on supplier reputation; the needs of users vary greatly, as does their understanding of the capabilities of telephone systems to improve their busi ness; and users are confused about where to buy their systems - from telecommunications operating companies, equipment dealers, retailers, or manufacturers.
Product family Meridian Norstar, distributed through operating companies and dealers, is designed to address the changing needs of this market. The product family (Box 1, and Figures 1 and 2) includes a portfolio of digital telephones, key service units, and peripherals designed to serve the under 100 station-set market. To end users, the telephones are the system. Users' perceptions of the tele phone and the manner in which it delivers services are indeed the yardsticks by which end users measure the quality and capability of the key system. Conse quently, to ensure that end users could easily access the functionality of the system, extensive effort went into the design of the sets . The Norstar terminals portfolio consists of the Meridian M7208, M7310, M7324, and M7900. Each Norstar telephone has

an integrated alphanumeric display that guides the user through feature operation The displays are standard in every tele phone model. In addition , each set provides a high-quality built- in handsfree capability, provides access to the same call-processing feat ures, and offers a choice of two languages. Complementing the telephones are two key service units (KSUs) Compact and Modular. The Compact KSU supports 16 telephone sets and six central office lines, and offers more than 100 cali-processing features The Modular KSU supports 24 digital sets and eight central office lines, and can be expanded through the addition of station modules and trunk modules to meet a business' growing needs. Each station module adds capacity for up to 16 digital station sets, and each trunk module can add up to 12 trunks, in increments of four. Up to six modules - in any combina tion of trunk or station modules - can be added to the Modular system, to a maxi mum of 128 ports (that is, trunks or lines). The system software for both the Compact and Modular systems is delivered through plug-in cartridges, a characteristic which facilitates delivery of futu re features and releases .
Design challenges The conceptual foundation for Norstar dates back to 1984, when a Northern Telecom team began investigating market requirements for a successor to its analog Vantage key system, while a BNR team started assessing opportunities to exploit advances in digital technology for new product offerings The results of each team's individual efforts culminated in a focused goal: to apply new technology in an innovative way to create a major discontinuity in the traditional key system market. The combined research of both teams showed that in order for Northern Telecom to achieve world leadership in the key system market, three major design goals would have to be met. Meridian Norstar would have to: embody absolute simplicity for end users, installers, and distributors; meet very aggreSSive cost targets, providing the benefits of digital technology in small line sizes at the cost of traditional analog systems; and deliver an enabling architecture that would provide flexibility in call processing, support terminal-based featu res , and allow

the integration of personal computers and PC applications within the telephone system. With this set of objectives, design of the Meridian Norstar product family began early in 1986, and the comme rcial product definition for Compact was finalized several months later. The Compact system, including the M7310 and M7208 telephone sets, was introduced into the market 18 months later, in the spring of 1988.
Simplicity The first of the design objectives - absolute simplicity - was the most fundamental design driver, The marketing team's extensive research indicated that, above all else, users wanted a key system that was easy to operate. From the findings, it was concluded that users were dissatisfied with existing key systems because they were complex and difficult to use. In fact, many of the features that users found most desi rable in a key system were, ironically, the ones least frequently used because of their complexity Designing a user interface that would eliminate the confusion and complexity associated with traditional key systems presented a major challenge for BNR - a challenge that was met through feature design that makes extensive use of the visual displays on the sets (Figure 3). The three-party conference feature is a particularly good example. Market studies led to the conclusion that although confer encing is one of the five most desirable features, it is also one of the five least frequently used in traditional systems. The complexity of the conference operation, coupled with the high probability of dropping a call, d iscourages use of the feature in most key systems. In the first implementation of the conferencing feature for Norstar, BNR followed the traditional approach of activating the conferencing feature through a very specific sequence of actions. However, usability tests, which are de scribed in more detail in Box 2, showed that significantly more flexibility was requi red. As a result, BNR modified the design, exploiting the display on the telephone to simplify the user interface and a variety of user interface options. Users can implement the feature in whatever sequence makes most sense to them, with the display on the sets assisting them in completing the conference. Moreover, in the Norstar system, users

One of the major design goals for Meridian

Norstar was to deliver absolute simplicity to distributors, installers, and end users
6 Telesis 1989

A. The Meridian M7208 features integrated handsfree, eight program

mab le keys with liquid crystal display (LCD) indicators. and a single-line, 16-character display. All external lines are accessed by designated keys on the set.

B. The Meridian M7310 offers a two-line, 16-character display with three soft keys to guide users in ac cessing features. The set also has integrated handsfree and 12 dual-function programmable keys with a shift key to access a total of 24 commonly dialed or frequently used functions Its 10 programmable keys with LCD indicators can show the busy status of outside lines .

C. Like the M7310, the Meridian M7324 telephone has a two-line, 16 character display with three softkeys and integrated handsfree. In addition, it has 24 programmable key lamp pairs that can indicate the status of up to 20 outside lines. Equipped with an add-on module, it can be used as a central answering position (see Figure 2C).

D. The Meridian M7900 features a 200-by-320 pixel. touch-sensitive display that uses fluorescent backlighting to eliminate glare and present an intense. bright image. The large display makes this set extremely easy to use . The display can also act as a window on a PC application , showing. for example. a customer record.

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do not drop calls. In traditional systems, when the user joins two calls together, the calis are "stacked" together on one liquid crystal display (LCD) indicator, so the user cannot diHerentlate between the call s In Norstar, the user actually makes two calls, which are highlighted on the LCD panel by two separate indicators, and then joins the calls together using another key. Even when the conference is in progress, the two indicators remain separate, so the user is always aware of the status of both calls. The displays are also used to provide confirmation of a user's actions. When the user activates the call forward or do not disturb features, for example, the name of the feature appears on the display. In the case of the cali forward feature , the name of the person to whom the calls are being forward ed is also included. In addition to benefitting users, displays reduce the number of calls that distribution channels receive from users who report that they are unable to receive incoming calls on their telephones, but who actually forgot that the do not disturb or call forward feature had been activated. At the same time that designers ensured the simplicity of feature operation, they also satisfied other users, such as installers. For example, once the Compact or Modular KSU is mounted on the wall , trunks and telephones are connected to it, using standard jacks. At this point , the system is fully fun ctional at its default settings A system can then, at the convenience of the business, be tailored to meet particular configuration requirements. The names of users on the system, for instance , can be programmed into the system to appear on the intercom lines. The end user can conduct this system-tailoring from one of the Norstar telephones, such as the M7310 or M7324, simply by following menu-driven programming steps provided on the telephones' displays. Installation is further simplified by the fact that the telephone sets can be plugged into the KSU, using polarity-insensitive single-pair wiring. Relative to competitive offerings, this char acteristic alone typically reduces by 50 percent the time it takes to install station sets on a system . System administration has also been simplified by the fact that Norstar terminal s have been designed for easy location change s - an important feature for small

Box 1~ Meridian Norstar product family

The Meridian Norstar family of products includes: the Compact system , for the up-to-16 station-set market; the Modular system, for the up-to-1 00 station-set market; four fully digital telephone sets - the M720B, M7310, M7324, and M7900 (Figure 1); a PC Interface Card, which enables PCs to be integrated into the system; a PC ToolKit, which contains the software and documentation that devel opers need to build new revenue generating applications; Dial-by-Name Directory, a BNR-devel oped PC application that allows users to place calls by entering, from the tele phone dialpad, the characters in a per son's name; Call Detail Recording, a BNR-devel oped PC application that enables a PC

to record and monitor all calls from a Norstar system and provide reports on system activity; an Analog Terminal Adapter, which allows analog devices, such as facsim ile and answering machines, to be connected into the system (Figure 2A); a Data Communications Adapter, which supports computer-to-computer communications (Figure 2B); a Central Answering Position, which adds 48 key-lamp pairs to the M7324 (Figure 2C); and a Busy Lamp Field, a panel of LC~ indicators that can be attached to a Meridian Norstar M7310 telephone to indicate which lines are busy (Figure 20).

businesses, where accommodation for growth and change is critical. Location changes for traditional key systems can be extremely comp licated because they require system reconfiguration, the assignment of new numbers, and the as sistance of the distribution channel. With Norstar, every telephone set carries its own unique identification so that the system always knows where each telephone is located. This identification is stored on a Northern Telecom cus tom large-scale integrated circuit (C LSI) included in every telephone . As well, once a set is personalized with specific features and options, it can be moved with its user to another location within the Norstar system and can simply be plugged into a wall jack. All features and options are maintained , including the user's telephone number. When a new or unprogrammed Norstar telephone set is plugged into the wall jack previously in use by a Norstar telephone , it takes on the features of thc previous set. In this way, telephones can be replaced without reprogramming . Simplicity was also carried over to the design of end-user documentation. The extensive use of displays and system

prompts enabled 8NR to adopt a minimal ist approach to documentation. Because users are guided by message prompts through system configuration as well as feature operation, the design team was able to provide a short quick-reference card, which field trials have proved to be more useful than traditional 30- to 40-page user manuals. Cost effectiveness The second key design challenge was to develop a cost-effective architecture capable of delivering a fully featured digital product in small line sizes, at a cost competitive with traditional analog sys tems. The key system market is an ex tremely competitive and cost-sensitive market. Although the digital technology of Norstar delivered increased benefits, the product had to be priced competitively with leading analog systems, some of which are manufactured off-shore. This goal of cost effectiveness, a severe design cons traint that represented per haps the most diffi cult design challenge, was met through the extensive use of BNR custom-designed silicon, and through system modularity.
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The goal of cost effectiveness was met through

the extensive use of BNR custom-designed

silicon, and through system modularity

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Ifigure 2. Auxiliary equipment


,__ _ _ ft,~

A. The Analog Terminal Adapter allows analog devices, such as credit-card termi nals, answering machines, and facsimile machines, to be connected into the system throug h the digital telephone loops The Meridian Norstar system recognizes the analog device as a Norstar telephone, allowing the device to interwork with many of the system's features, such as call waiting, call forvvard , conference/tran sfer, and hold,

B. The Data Communications Adapter supports computer-to computer communications over digital lines inside the Norstar system, and analog lines outside the system. It provides a 19,200 baud internal link and either 1200- or 2400-baud external access, The Data Communications Adapter comes complete with a standard RS 232 port to connect a personal computer (PC), The combination of the adapter and a PC makes simultaneous voice and data cal ls possible over a single , outside analog telephone line,

c. The Central Answering Position (CAP) module attaches to a Norstar M7324 telephone to add 48 key-lamp pairs, The function of a CAP module is similar to tha t of a Busy Lamp Field , enab ling the user to monitor the status of co-workers' tele phones and di rect incoming calls to the appropriate people,

D. With the Busy Lamp Field (BLF), an attendant position can be establ ished wherever required, such as at a rece ptionist's desk, The BLF, a panel of LCD indicators , simply snaps on to any M731 0 telep hone, The panel shows which telephones are busy, The BLF indicators correspond to the dual-memory buttons programmed for inside autodiaL No add itional power or wiring is req uired,

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Box 2. Meridian Norstar user-centered desigri

by Hans Bergman and Chris White
No matter how bri lliant a product's technology or how useful its applications, a product will fail in the market if the intended users cannot or will not use it. To ensure that Northern Telecom 's products are market successes , a group within BNR is dedicated to making human needs a prime focus during product design and development This multidisci plinary group consists of user-interface designers, hardware ergonomists , industrial designers, consumer research ers, usabilrty engineers, and documenta tion specialists. Recently, the group was tasked with ensuring that the sophisticated architec ture and technology that underpin Meridian Norstar and make it reliable, expandable, and cost effective, are complemented with features that can be learned and used easily with a minimum of training and documentation . Behind the easy-to-use Norstar features were many hours of research, dedicated to investigating and refining the ergonomic aspects of the system - in essence, tailoring the Norstar technology to human characteristics. Among the areas studied were handset design, placement of but10ns on the telephones, and feature design - exploiting the liquid crystal display (LCD) to deliver absolute simplicity. This work involved identifying users' needs, testing users' reactions to models and feature operation, modifying the system where necessary to meet those needs, and retesting the system to ensure user acceptance.


provides helpful messages to g uide the user through steps of feature operation; confirms that the user has performed an operation correctly, or identifies the cause of an error; reminds the user that such features as do not disturb or call forward have been activated ; and simplifies system-programming activities for the installer and the system coordinator. In addition to confirming the value of a display, th e usability testing process identified a number of potential trouble areas . For example, when a proposed sequence for programming memory buttons was tested, some users experi enced difficulty with the programming method - a two-step process that did not highlight the difference between feature buttons and other types of buttons, such as automatic dialers. This information was fed back to the user-interface designers who, in turn, modified the procedure so that each type of programming was treated as a separate activity. When the new method was retested, users learned the operation faster and made fewer mistakes. In certain cases, such cycles of testing and redesign were repeated several times , with improvements being added at each stage.

reactions to the usefulness of the display and the message prompts . These re sults, as well as the videotape analyses, were then reported to the other members of the Norstar design team . The usability test results and subsequent recommenda tions played a large role in steering the design strategy early in the development of Meridian Norstar. The usability tests also complemented the findings of the consumer researchers , who asked representative business users to evaluate the Norstar terminals at different design stages. These findings, as well, indicated that users would benefit significantly from a telephone equipped with an alphanumeric display. Among its many advantages, a display: enables the user to verify the telephone number being dialed, and to see the names of people calling- from other Norstar telephones wi thin the system; notifies the user of changes in the status of a call- showing, for example, that a call has been redirected by the call forward feature , or that two calls have been joined together to create a confer ence; User-interface designer Chris White talks with BNR usability testers (shown on the monitor on the right), while viewing two people in the BNR laboratory who. without the aid of a user guide, work together to discover how to operate Meridian Norstar

Feature definition and design

In addition to making the many Norstar

Usability testing
Of the various techniques used to ensure acceptance of Meridian Norstar, one of the most successful was a BNR usability testing method called co-discovery learning. This method involves videotap ing two people who, without the aid of a user guide, work together to discover how to use a product. Although two users experience the same problems as one working alone, the conversation between the two makes it much easier for design ers to understand what difficulties users are encountering , and therefore makes it easier to pinpoint problems. For example, to explore the benefits of a display, the usability testers placed pairs of users in front of models and simulations of the Norstar telephones , and videotaped the pairs as they at tempted to operate basic and advanced telephony featur es. Upon completion of the tests, users were interviewed for their


Telesis 1989 two

telephony features as easy to use and understand as possible, the user-interface designers were also faced with the chal lenge of providing convenient administra tion controls to allow installers, system coordinators, and end users to customize system behavior easily and confidently. Assisted by the usability testing results, the user-interfac e designers simplified the operation of features, organized the presentation of administrative options, and modified the message prompts on the display. With the display firmly established as the foundation of an easy-to-use interface, additional ways of gaining easy access to the system's features were investigated. Working closely with the user-interface designers, industrial designers incorpo rated programmable buttons , indicators, and display buttons (softkeys) into the telephones. The programmable buttons enable those users who require fast, direct feature access to store the access code, thus eliminating the need to remember a long list of codes . Because each programmable button has an associated indicator, the status of features - such as ca'i'l forward or do not disturb - can be displayed. More over, the display buttons allow the system to present useful features at appropriate times, providing easy access to such features as transfer, send message, page, and ring again, at precisely the point during operation when the user is likely to need them. For example, when the park feature is used to hold a call for someone else to pick up, the telephone presents a "Page" display button that can be used to an nounce the call. To extend access to the full range of Meridian No[star features, designers incorporated a button labeled "feature." The user can activate any feature by pressing this button, followed by a numeric code entered on the dialpad Frequently used features - such as conference, call forward , and last number redial - were assigned short codes that are easy to remember and dial. Based on users' reactions and sugges tions, improvements were also made to the operation of traditional features . For examp le, because users tended to be come anxious about disconnecting a caller accidentally when placing a call on hold. the user-interface deSigners modified the traditional hold feature. The Norstar system places the first calion hold automatica lly, thus eas ing any apprehension the use r may have about disconnecting a call. The user-interface designers also

extended the normal scope of the ring again feature . On some telephone sys tems, this feature - which can be acti vated only when the caller receives a busy tone - notifies the caller when the line of the person being called is no longer busy. However, with Norstar, the caller can also activate ring again when a call is not answered. Therefore, the caller is not only notified when the line is no longer busy, but he or she is also alerted the next time the destination telephone has been used and is available to receive calls. Other new features include message lists, wh ich enable each user to store and display the names of other users in a Norstar system from whom messages have been received, and to whom messages have been sent. During development of these new features, as well as during re-evaluation of traditional features , the designers wrote short sample guides to explain in simple, nontechnical language how to operate each feature . Whenever the designers encountered difficulty in writing these descriptions, they re evaluated the proposed operation of the feature and often arrived at a more straightforward design approach that could be described more easily.
User documentation These early attempts to describe the features in simple language also pro vided input to the documentation speCialists, who produced the final user guide - a six-page task-oriented manual that captures essential information about using the Norstar system. Accompanying the guide is a quick-reference card that lists the most important access codes. This short user guide is a Significant deviation from traditional 30- to 40-page manuals. However, it has been evident for some time that documentation accompanying traditional telephone systems often fails to meet user needs. For years , users have been telling the industry they want short, succinct documentation because they don't read lengthy guides. In fact, customer reports to operating companies and other equipment distributors indicate that bulky reference materials actually intimidate end users and dissuade them from finding the information they need. For this reason, BNR designers adopted a minimalist approach to documentation, and included a basic introduction to the telephone, along with information the users could not learn as easily by dis covery

Visual image In addition to ensuring that features and documentation were user-oriented in design, industrial designers ensured that users were the focus behind all deciSions made on the size, shape, and image of the telephones and the key service unit (KSU). The final appearance of the Norstar product family evolved from industrial designers' concept sketches and preliminary models of various design ideas, which eventually were transformed into very detailed three-dimensional concept models for evaluation by end users and choosers of telephone systems. The need for the final design to suit a number of different environments while being accepted by a wide range of user tastes was a demanding objective - one that was met by the industrial designers in cooperation with hardware ergon omists. Using the industrial design models, the ergonomists polled repre sentative users on such ergonomic factors as the visibility of the display under various lighting conditions; proper keying angles when the phone is located on a desk or mounted on the wall; and users' first impressions of the product. The ergonomists also examined compo nents of the system to determine if users would feel comfortable using the tele phone They conducted experiments to assess hardware installation, and interviewed installers to learn about their difficulties in installing traditional systems. BNR consumer researchers also played a major role in providing user feedback to initial ideas, and mechanical engineers ensured that the design was manufacturable and capable of meeting stringent product integrity requirements. As a result, the final design and compo nent layout for the Norstar telephones enables users to interact with the tele phones easily and comfortably. The emphasis on all aspects of user needs throughout the design and devel opment of the Norstar system ensured a high degree of user acceptance of the product - as evidenced by the final user trials. As well , the extensive use of prototypes, simulations, and usability verification early in the project provided valuable feedback to deSigners, permit ting adjustments to be made with minimum impact on development sched ules, and ensuring that the Meridian Norstar system would meet present and future user needs.

TeleSIS '989 two


Box 3. Meridian Norstar provides full computer interworking

by Paula Preston A major attribute differentiating Meridian Norstar from traditional key telephone systems is its unique ability to fully integrate personal computers. PCs can be used to deliver new appli cations and features that - from the user's perspective - are fully inte grated with Norstar, even though they are implemented on an "outboard" en gine. PCs, connected to a Norstar system through any of the system's POr1s, can participate in all aspects of Norstar operation, including call processing, system administration, and maintenance. BNR has made it possible for third parties to harness this innovative capa bility with the development of the Norstar PC ToolKit. Using this ToolKit, third parties can create a wide range of powerful new applications that build on the combined advantages of telephony and data processing. Dial-by-Name Directory and Call Detail Recording are two examples of such applications . The Dial-by-Name application, which provides an elec tronic phone book, allows users to make calls by entering, through the telephone dialpad, the name of the person they are calling. Usually, only a subset of the characters in the name needs to be entered . The PC scans the directory to retrieve the individual 's telephone number and then , on request, initiates the call. Call Detail Recording enables a PC to record and monitor all calls from a Norstar system, as well as to provide repor1s on system activity. Nor1hern Telecom has also developed Hourglass - a Norstar PC application that provides time-management services to lawyers, accountants , and others who bill for their services on an hourly basis . Hourglass users can track time spent on a project simply by pressing the "Timer" key on the Meridian Norstar te lephone . The foundation lor the Norstar sys tem's unique ability to suppor1 applica tions is provided by the system's innova tive architecture and functional messag ing system, discussed in more detail in the accompanying article. All high-level functional messages received by the key service unit (KSU) from a terminal are automatically broadcast over a 16-kilobit per-second (kbit/s) signaling channel (called the O-channel) to all other termi nals on the system . Because every terminal receives all functional messages, PCs can be easily integrated into the system. PCs and other intelligent terminals cooperate to deliver enhanced functional

ity, using the Norstar Functional Messag ing Protocol (FUMP). There are three classes of functional messages: call processing messages are the primitives used to implement telephony features; X feature messages allow PCs to access terminal input/output facil ities; and administrative/maintenance messages allow intelligent devices to perform , for example, system and terminal admini stration.

PC Interface Card
The physical and logical connection between personal computers and the Norstar system is provided by a BNR developed Norstar PC Interface Card , which occupies one standard PC bus slot. Personal computers equipped with the PC Interface Card can be connected to a Norstar system via a standard Norstar time compression multiplexing (TCM) port. The PC can share the port with a t~orstar telephone. Firmware in the PC Interface Card provides PC applications with access to both D-channel functional messaging and 8-channel data. The PC communicates with the card via interrupts for the D-channel and direct memory access (DMA) for large data transfers associated with B-channel traffic. The user can install this PC Interface Card, as well as applications software, by

Using the Norstar PC ToolKit, third parties

can create awide range of business-specific


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I. : . .

stration and maintenance, is used to configure the system and the terminals. The ability of Norstar to fully integrate intelligent terminals into the system makes it an ideal platform for applications development. PC-based applications can be created using the Norstar PC ToolKit, which is available under licence to third parties. The ToolKit contains all the soft ware and documentation that developers need to build new, revenue-generating Norstar applications. The ToolKit includes the SCl, debuggers, performance analysis tools , and detailed documenta tion explaining the Norstar architecture , FUMP, and the SCl interface. Third-party developers can use the ToolKit to create new horizontal-market applications for a broad range ot busi ness environments - the same market served by the Dial-by-Name Directory and Call Detail Recording applications . Substantial opportunities also exist in vertical-market applications targeted at specific industry sectors, such as the medical, hotel/motel, and travel industries. BNR is also utilizing the unique capa bilities of the Meridian Norstar M7900 terminal (see Figure 1 in the article) to develop new applications that enhance productivity. The M7900 terminal features a touch-sensitive full-screen graphics display. With the local intelligence of the M7900 terminal , portions of applications can be downloaded and run in the tele phone terminal . To simplify application development for the M7900, tools are provided that allow interactive layout of M7900 screens and that automate the preparation of software downloaded into the M7900. BNR is further enhancing the com puter interworking capabilities of Norstar by ensuring the system's connectivity to a broad range of computer hardware and
operating system platforms, Today's business PCs and applications, for example, rely predominantly on the MS-DOS operating system. To service this market, BNR used the MS-DOS en vironment for its initial Norstar PC interworking hardware and software offerings However, the market's leading edge is moving to high powered graphics-intensive PCs and workstations, and to multitasking operating systems, such as UNIX and OS/2. BNR is developing interfaces to provide connectivity between Norstar and the new hardware and software computing environments. following the simple and comprehensive step-by-step instructions provided in the Norstar documentation. Automatic procedures and on-screen instructions simplify installation and operation of these products. To ensure ease of use, all applications maintain a consistent user interface.
Software Applications are supported by two layers of software in the PC - a low-level device driver and the System Control Library (SCl). The low-level device driver software gives the PC full access to the Norstar system's functional messages, manages the PC Interface Card, coordinates the execution of multiple PC-based Norstar applications running simultaneously, and provides a pipe between FUMP mes sages and the SCl. The SCl interface provides application writers with a procedural interface to FUMP for applications written in the "C" programming language. The SCl contains three major classes of proce dures - X-feature, call-processing, and aclministration procedures - which correspond to the three classes of functional messages. The first, X-feature procedures, controls input and output facilities of Norstar telephones. The X-feature messages enable intel ligent terminals to control the displays, indicators, and tones on the telephone set, and to accept input from the dialpad and other buttons on Norstar telephones. Call-processing procedures, the second class of procedures, are used to perform direct call management, in Which the PC - on behalf of the telephone performs such functions as call origina tion and answering . The third class of procedures, admini

Box 4. Manufacturing Meridian Norstar

by Mick Walkley
Successful product development has always demanded both design excel lence and manufacturing expertise. To deliver customer satisfaction in a world of technological change and competitive churn, however, the relationship between the design and manufacturing processes must become dramatically different from that of past decades. With Meridian Norstar, combining design and manufacturing principles into practice went as smoothly as if the 2,000 miles and two time zones between BNR's laboratories and Northern Telecom's Norstar manufacturing facility didn't exist. The key to the smooth transition was the partnership between the Norstar deSign and manufacturing teams from the outset of development. It was this partnership that made it possible to provide customers with industry-leading functionality and reliabil ity at a manufacturing cost that makes Norstar price-competitive. Despite different operating environ ments, both teams drove to their objec tives with a single focus - to produce a simple-to-use, fully digital 'key system that was priced competitively to compete effectively in a commodity market satu rated with analog systems, many of which were manufactured off-shore. The ability of the teams to accomplish this goal can be credited to a comprehensive product development strategy, based on a design approach that would facilitate production in an automated manufacturing system. Essentially, the two teams were guided by five challenges: Although the system had to be fully featured, the number and type of elec tronic component counts had to be kept to a minimum to ensure that the parts could be manufactured with preCision in an automated product environment. The layout of printed circuit packs (PCPs) for the digital telephones and the key seNice unit (KSU) had to be designed to accommodate the transition from older standalone manufacturing processes to future integrated flexible manufacturing systems. Computerized testing had to be devel oped and integrated into the production process to ensure Norstar would meet extraordinary quality and reliability reqUirements. The manufacturing cycle time had to be reduced to less than 48 hours, without compromising product quality, so that distributors could keep inventory to a minimum, thus giving Norstar a strategic competitive advantage against



off-shore producers. And, a manufacturing facil ity had to be built that could produce Norstar in a wide range of models, colors, and languages, in random-volume orders, without increas ing the cost of the product. Confronted with the initial challenge of simplifying the electronics while at the same time fulfilling the mandatory require ments for full functionality, BNR chose to make extensive use of custom silicon - to pack the complexity of several functions onto a single chip. The quad codec chip, for example, combines four filter codecs that traditionally I ave resided on several h PCPs in a backplane-oriented design . (For more information on the silicon develop ment effort, see the article on page 20.) This custom silicon - the major factor that enabled Norstar to meet its cost and performance objectives - is linked to other components on the PCP with high-speed skinny-wire connections. This design can be configured, manufactured, and installed more easily than the traditional baCkplane approach. With fewer components and less physical bulk in Norstar, manufacturing engineers were able to develop facilities that can automatically switch from one product model to another, without the high costs of machine set-up inherent in designs with very different components.

To achieve the second product develop ment challenge - a flexible PCP design Northern Telecom engineers provided such specifications as the clearances required for the spacing of components on the PCPs, and the selection of parts that can be as sembled automatically using surface-mount technology - the most advanced PCP assembly method available today. Surface mount technology involves placing elec tronic components on the top of the PCP instead of inserting lead-wire terminations in holes. In the original Norstar designs, only the custom silicon was surface-mounted, be cause the state of this technology was not sufficiently advanced for the very high volumes anticipated for Norstar. With the subsequent maturing of this technology and the drive to reduce costs for the customer, the PCPs in the Norstar sets were rede signed so that all silicon components could be assembled using surface-mount technol ogy, which was incorporated into production this year. To maintain Norstar quality and reliability throughout the rapid manufacturing process - the third challenge - the BNR and Northern Telecom teams developed technical specifications that had to be met, and programmed these requirements into microcomputers and custom test equipment in the production systems.

B ~


A. A robot near the start of the highly automated electronics assembly system places a custom silicon chip onto a Norstar set printed circuit pack (PCP) . In this operation. the robot selects the chip from a carousel and holds it over a red-filtered light so that a high-resolution vision system can relay the Chip leads' exact characteristics to a computer. B. In the same operation, another vision system observes the PCP area that will receive the chip, and measures and relays infor mation about the PCP's characteristics to the same computer station, whose graphic image shown here is of the PCP "land pattern" for the chip . The computer performs a "best-fits" analysis between the chip and the PCP. instruct ing the robot where to align the Chip for a precise fit on the PCP. C. With all electronic components placed, the PCP is essentially a functioning telephone set or KSU. and can be tested to ensure it meets functional specifications. For KSU functional testing (shown here). Northern Telecom constructed a rapid instrumentation test bed using BNR specifications and a bank of five Hewlett-Packard processors. D. Following the functional tests of the KSUs' and sets' electroniCS, final assembly operators, in separate processes, add the PCP to the respective KSU or set housing. At the left. Meridian Norstar telephone sets are shown near completion of the final assembly process, which includes 34 operations and incorporation of several sub-assembly modules. Also during final assembly, operators subject all sets and KSUs to further testing .


TeleSIS 1989 two

J ~-



For instance, during the final assem bly of the mass-produced Norstar sets, functional tests ensure that the terminals meet the acoustic-design intent and possess the audio quality of laboratory prototypes that have been tested in a full-scale anechoic (no echo) chamber (see Telesis 1989, no. 1, pp.34-43). To ensure this quality, BNR and Northern Telecom engineers introduced to the final assembly process a new acoustic tech nique called time-delay spectrometry (TOS) . The TOS system includes a microcomputer th at can run advanced signal processing algorithms, which "cut off" surrounding factory noise and sound reflections, to simulate a much quieter environment. An operator loads the set into one of the acoustic test systems, which is partially surrounded by a sound buffer, and then triggers the TOS system to test the set's speaker and microphone across the re

quired frequency range . The system also confirm s the required electroacoustic isolation between the speaker and micro phone - a crucial step in ensuring the superior hands free performance of Norstar. In addition to ensuring quality, this computerized testing has also helped Northern Telecom meet the fourth chal lenge - reducing manufacturing cycle time to guarantee shipment of the product within 48 hours of the receipt of an order. Meeting this challenge required that Norstar suppliers conform to a stringent qualification process . Before any compo nent supplier is selected by Northern Telecom, the component is qualified against BNR specifications . Prime vendors are asked to form a vendor partnership with Northern Telecom, with the vendor committing to zero-defect quality and absolute delivery on the day requested and Northern Telecom commit ting to procure that item exclusively from the vendor. The vendor and Northern Telecom develop the relationship with systems in place for advanced planning, procurement, and invoicing to yield the lowest costs for each party. The fifth and final challenge Northern Telecom engineers had to meet was to use the relatively Simple and robust design of the Norstar system to ensure that small orders could be met with the same ease and economy as large orders, both intermixed on the same production line. Clearly, the assembly of PCPs for the sets and KSUs would have to be as

automated as possible , yet sufficiently flexible to handle variations in the systems ordered . To meet this need, the production processes within the plant follow the Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS) concept. The system to assemble the Norstar set PCPs, for example, contains 54 computers that control the materials handling system between processes, and manage alignment, insertion, and testing of assembled parts by some 17 different manufacturing processes The sophisticated computing network in the plant's FMS was designed with a simplified human-machine interface for the factory operators. At the beginning of a shift, the FMS operator loads into the host controller the part numbers and quantities of Norstar sets that have been ordered, and in the sequence in which the products are required. These details are automati cally programmed by the host controller into the FMS computing network, chang ing from product to product, and adjusting automatically for the different electronic and other components. This process runs 23 hours a day (one hour is for planned maintenance). five days a week. The process was conceived and designed by Northern Telecom engineers, constructed by a machine systems house, and brought into full production in just two years. The Norstar manufacturing facility consumes nearly three million compo nents daily. Most of the parts inventory from other I'-Jorthern Telecom facilities and outside suppliers passes through the plant in less than five days. Currently. the plant can turn around large and small orders for Norstar sets in less than 24 hours, allowing Northern Telecom and its distributors to minimize their inventory costs - an impor tant element in holding down product costs for customers . The partnership between design and manufacturing will continue to playa cri tical role as BNR and Northern Telecom target Meridian Norstar to international markets. each market with differing standards and technical requirements that will impact the product design . Continuing dialogue between the teams at all devel opment stages will help ensure a smooth transition to the global arena.

Tolesis 1989 two


The custom large-sc ale integrated circuits (CLS ls) in Meridian Norstar, in addition to achieving the cost argets, were the fundamental veh ic le for setting a new bench mark in key system fu nction ali ty. In all, nine BNR-designed CLSls are used In the system, eight of which were developed specifically for Norstar. Two of the chips - the quad codec chip, located in the KSU , and the digital station-set chip, located in th e telephone sets represent major achievements in sys tems-level integration and mixed analogi digital functionality. (For more infor mation on these chips, see the article on page 20) As well as exploiting si licon technol ogy to maximum advantage, BNR achieved cos t effecti veness through modularity - an important system attribute in the small-business market, whe re new enterprises form, grow, and change rapidly. Because businesses need to tailor their communications system to their own particular size and system requirements, Norstar had to be as flexible as the enterpr ises it was de signed to serve . Consequently, BNR began by design ii1g the system fer bus inesses v.'!th re , quirements for on ly 16 station sets or less. The strategy was to ensure that the design was cost effective even at the low end of the market. Getting the cost right at the low end was a fundamental dec ision that guaranteed the market entry of Norstar. This unique design strategy meant that once the small Compact system was developed, the same architecture and building blocks could then be used to build the larger, Modular system Norstar Modular allows users to begin with a system that supports eight outside li nes and 24 telephone sets. The station set and trunk modules - which allow the system to grow from 32 to 128 ports each carry their own power supplies , so that the incremental cost of the largest system is borne only by the largest system users. Similarly, memory is delivered in a modular fash ion, accord ing to capacity req uirements


A. Mary calls Bob .The liquid crystal

display (LCD) on Mary's telephone reads "CALLING BOB." When Bob does not answer, Mary presses the button labelled "LATER."

B. The display now offers the "RING AGAIN" option in case Mary wants to be notified the next time Bob uses his set. Mary presses "NO."



asks "SEND MESSAGE?" Mary sends a

message to Bob by pressing the button '
under "YES."

c. When Mary presses "NO," the display

D. The display reads "MESSAGE> BOB."

Enabling architecture In addition to cost effectiveness and si mplicity, the third key design challenge BNR faced was the creation of an enabling architecture that wou ld facilitate flexibi lity in cali-processing deSign,

E. After a few seconds, the display returns to its original setting, showing the time and date.

F. The display on Bob's Norstar telephone reads "MESSAGE FOR YOU. " To see who left him a message, Bob simply presses "MSG."

The key to achieving PC integration

was in the design ofaunique hardware and

software architecture

Telesis 1989 two

(Figure 4A. Call setup

FIgure 4B. Broadcast architecture .

When Terminal A calls Terminal B in a Norstar system, A originates the call; by sending a high-level message to B. Terminal B starts ringing, and confirms with A that it is alerting. When the handset at B is picked up, a message is sent back informing A that the call has been accepted . Terminal A confirms the selection. At this point, the digital switch in the KSU establishes a voice connection between the sets.

When Terminal A calls Terminal B, the high-level messages passing between them also travel to all other terminals on the system. A control message initiated at one of the terminals, or from an external line, is automatically broadcast to all other terminals on the system. Logically, the system behaves as if every terminal has its own processing power, generating and sending its own high-level messages to every other terminal; in physical terms, however, the processing power can be located in the KSU.

terminal -based features, and the integra tion of personal computers (PCs) This capability is not possible with conventional designs . Fully integrated into the Norstar system, the power of PCs allows for complete flexibility in adding new features in packages customized to specific user needs. For distributors, PC integration and the development of new applications repre sent an incremental business opportunity to generate revenue after the ori ginal sale. The key to achieving PC integration is in the design of a unique hardware and software architecture. Unl ike traditional key system designs, the Norstar KSU does not dictate the operation of call processing. Instead, with Nors tar, the system behaves logically as though intelligence were distrib uted to each termin8 1. This c8pability was achieved by combining a broadcast architecture with functional messagi ng to fac ilitate communication between intelli gent sets. What this log ical distribution means in practi ce can be illustrated by considering what happens when a call is set up on a Norstar system (Figure 4A) . Wh en Terminal A calls Terminal S, A originates the call by sending a high-level

message to B. Terminal B then starts ringing and confirms with A that it is alerting. When the individual at B picks up the handset, a message is sent back informing A that the call has been ac cepted. Terminal A confirms the selection. At this point, the digital switch in the KSU establishes a voice connection between the sets. Log ically, these high-level fu nctional messages are initiated In the terminals and . travel between them . In fact , when Termi nal A calls Terminal B, the high-level messages passing between them also travel to all other terminals on the system (Figure 4B) . Eac h control message, initiated at one of the terminals or from an external line, is automatically broadcast to al l other terminals on the system. From the viewpoint of its logical struc
ture, Norstar's architecture behaves as if
each terminal had its own processing
power , generating and sending its own
high-level messages to every other
terminal on the system . In physical terms,
however, the proceSSing power of the
terminals can be located in the KSU. By
sharing processing power from the center, Norstar allows for lower costs without compromising system functionality.

Because every terminal receives all functional messages, PCs can be easily integrated into the system , Using one of the system's standard ports, a PC can be connected into the system by employing a Norstar PC Interface Card (Box 3), and can interact directly with all aspects of the Norstar architecture - including call processing , user interface on the sets, and system administration and maintenance.

Hardware architecture
The hardware architecture for Meridian Norstar is illustrated in Figure 5. The key to the hardware design is in the extensive use of custom silicon, which has made it possible for BNR to introduce digital functionality directly to the desktops of small business. At th e heart of each digital set is a cu stom large-scale integrated CIrcuit called the digital station-set Chip. This silicon chip integrates four interacti ve functional blocks: the codec; the micro processor interface; the hands free control; and the interface to the communications loop that links the telephone to the KSU . Integrating these functions onto one c hip not on ly reduced the cost of the system, it simplified the manufacturing process and

TelesIs 1989 wo


Figure 5. Norstar Modular hardware architecture

Digital line multiplexer chips

improved system performan ce and reliability. For example, the integration of the handsfree control with the co dec actually led to improvement of the handsfree performance of the sets . In addition, the physical size reduction improved system performance in areas of high radio interference. The Modular and Compact KSUs include a number of CLSI devices. These

devices, described in more detail in the article on page 20, include: the quad codec chip , which contains four filter codecs for analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversion in the KSU; the digital line multiplexer chip, which transmits and receives digital information over the loop between the KSU and telephones ; the time switch chip, which handles

digital circuit-switching functions, provides three-party conferencing, and guarantees that the dial tone is always available to all users on the system, regardless of traffic; the system communications interface chip, which provides the communications channel between the Motorola 68000 based processor and the main switching bus in the KSU; the digital tones chip, which generates

Plans are in place to globalize the Meridian

Norstar family ofproducts to serve specific international markets

18 Telesis 1989 two

sig naling and service tones; and th e trunk signaling chip. The key to the hardware design is in the use of a skinny-wire digital interface that carries 32 simultaneous vOice and signal ing channels. This technology means that the system can be expanded using high speed skinny wires between system modules, instead of the traditiona l backplane and shelf configuration that have characterized conventional key telephone systems , Bidirectional 2B+D digital communica tion between the KSU and Norstar sets is carried in "ping-pong" fashion over the standard wiring up to a distance of 900 m (2953 ft,), using a technique called time compression multiplexing (TCM), Each TCM path carries two 64-kilobit-per second (kbit/s) B-channels and one 16 kbit/s D-channel. The B-channels carry digitally encoded speech or data, The 0 channel carries system control and signaling messages,
Platform for the future The silicon building blocks, together with the broadcast architecture, functiona l messaging , and user interface, have established a solid technology platform for evolving the Norstar product family toward further networking products and applica tions . For example, the digital architecture of Norstar and the 2B+0 distribution make the product ISDN-ready, a capability that can be deployed when ISDN services become generally available, Plans are also in place to globalize the Norstar family of products to serve specific international markets, Currently, the North American version of Norstar, or the same product adapted for a 220-volt power supply, is being sold in some 24 countries worldwide . Versions modified to meet local requirements have been introduced in a number of countries, including Ireland and Norway, and are under development for many other markets. Worldwide, the Norstar product family represents a new generation in key system design, Meridian Norstar has introduced digital technology cost effectively to the desktops of small businesses , has ensured absolute simplicity for the end user, and has provided an enabling architecture that allows new functionality and applications to be integrated easily into the system. These charac teristics have combined to make Norstar an easily imp lemented , cost effective, and fully digital solution for the

communications needs of small busi nesses around the world, both now and in the future ,

Hans Bergman is manager of BNR 's strategic CPE user-interface group. Before joining BNR in 1982, Mr. Bergman worked as a consultant on human factors issues for the process and nuclear industries, and taught graduate courses in experimental psychology at Utrecht University (Nether lands) Since joining BNR, Mr. Bergman has worked on several proJects, including user-interiace design and the evaluation of such products as Meridian Digital Centrex , SL-1 attendant consoles, TOPS,MP, and Meridian Norstar. Brian Jervis received a B.Sc. in com puter science in 1972, and an MSc . in 1974, both from the University of British Columbia. Upon graduation, Mr. Jervis joined BNR to work with the CAD develop ment team, in specific areas of product definition, system design, and develop ment. In 1978, he left BNR to work with Canada Systems Group on the design and development of various real-time systems. He returned to BNR in 1982, and has since held several management positions, including director of computing technology products and director of Meridian Norstar development. Mr. Jervis is currently assistant vice-president of the Norstar and terminals technology group Paula Preston received a B.Sc. in mathematics and eng ineering in 1978 from Queen's University (Kingston , Ontario), and joined BNR in 1981 as a software designer for office automation systems. In 1983, Ms. Preston was promoted to manager of data management systems and electronic mail development for Meridian office products. In 1986, she joined BI\JR 's Design Interpretive team, where she was responsible for the design and development of user-interface design tools, voice-prompt production and development, and PC application develop ment. Ms. Preston is currently responsible for Norstar PC interworking and application development. Nick Tsiakas received his diploma in electronics engineering (1966) from the Poly technica l Institute of Athens (Greece) He joined BNR in 1973 as a member of the OMS start-up team, working on trunk and line-circuit development In 1980, Mr. Tsiakas was promoted to manager of the OMS Meridian business set and li ne-circuit

development and, In 1984, to manager of Meridian digital and business sets devel opment In 1986, Mr. Tsiakas was given the challenge of putting together the original Norstar design and development team and , today, he is director of Meridian Norstar design , responsible for both North American and international development. Mick Walkley received a B,Sc. in mechanical engineering from Portsmouth Polytechnic (England) in 1969 and subse quently worked in military research and de velopment and high-volume electronics manufacturing in the United Kingdom. In 1977, he joined Northern Telecom's Belleville, Ontario facility as an engineer,
. and was later promoted to manufacturing
engineering manager. Mr. Walkley trans
ferred to BNR in 1982 as manager respon sible for the development of substrate technology , and in 1985 was appointed director of manufacturing technology, responsible for BNR's prototype manufac turing facilities. He returned to Northern Telecom in 1987 as director of manufactur ing, Business Products Division, Calgary, Alberta . Chris White recei ved a BA in English (1973) from York University (Toronto), followed by a B.Ed. (English, mathematics) from the University of Toronto , After working as a high school teacher and a software consultant, Mr. White joined BNR in 1981, At BNR, he has worked with videotex applications, voice-data termi nals, and intelligent te lephones , with a focus on improving the human-machine interface, In 1985, Mr. White assumed his current responsibility, as the prime user interface deSigner for the Meridian Norstar project.

Telesi s 1989