The number 23 is significant for a few reasons. Michael Jordan wore jersey number 23, Julius Caesar was stabbed 23 times, and there’s even a movie titled 23. The most relevant fact about the number 23 to the Principia community is that it’s the number of years the current Principia phone system – scheduled to be changed next year – has been in place.

“What’s that you say? An upgrade?” Yes, it’s safe to say that our archaic phone system is in need of replacement. Richard Booth, Chief Technology Officer of both Principia campuses, has been working on establishing a new system at Principia for some time now. Booth said the outdated phones are becoming more difficult to repair as the system falls out of use. He explained: “We’re at risk of having a part breaking [in the current system], and not being able to replace the part, and in essence, not having part or all of a phone system if that were to happen.” According to Booth, the current phone set-up is not sustainable – the original manufacturer no longer exists. “It feels like the room phone is kind of past its prime. It’s no longer where the action is for anybody and . . . mobility is what’s driving all of us,” said Booth.

The current phone system is scheduled to change over in December 2012 to a “mobility integration” system. Booth explained that whether you are a student, faculty or staff member, a wide range of devices will be able to be used to make calls with the extension given to each member of the Principia community. Devices such as basic phones, smart phones, iPod touches, iPads, and computers can all be integrated to send and receive phone calls via one’s extension. “[The devices] can be used to act like a system phone in many ways,” said Booth.

By December, the current phones will be taken out of all rooms and will not be replaced. The phone network of Principia will be run completely wirelessly through personal devices. For those who lack this technology, Booth recommended an upgrade. Since over 98 percent of Principia students at least own a personal computer, there is a very small percentage of people that will have to look into buying a device that can be used to support their Principia phone extension.

The application for this integration is called Jabber. Whether one is on a smart-phone, computer, or Wi-Fi device, he or she will be making and receiving calls through Jabber. According to Booth, the Jabber app looks very similar to the phone app on a smart phone, the only difference is that the Jabber user is limited to calls within the Principia system. Furthermore, according to Zach Retzlaff, the Telecom Director, faculty, staff, and students will be able to use the Jabber app off-campus to make and receive calls using the 4-digit Principia extension. All that’s needed is a WiFi hotspot or a cell carrier’s data network. Christian Richardson, Student Body President and CIS representative for Student Senate, said, “It’s a much more direct way of communication.” With the system gone mobile, students no longer need to be in their rooms to receive a call. They can be anywhere on or off-campus and if their 4-digit extension is dialed, they will receive the call. The new system allows everyone to be more accessible and available, and the ability to reach someone will be even easier.

Richardson worked with Richard Booth in seeking student input about the desired look of the future system. This input was taken into consideration when discussing and implementing the new phone system for next year.

One of the most appreciated features of the new system could very well be the larger storage space allotted for voicemail. The current system allows a maximum of 10 messages to be stored collectively between new and saved messages. Although storage won’t be unlimited on the new phone system, Retzlaff assured us that “there will be a lot more storage available for a lot less cost to maintain it.” Users also will have the option to have voicemails sent to their e-mail, which will include a sound file attachment of their message. This will allow for unlimited storage of voicemail messages.