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New service connects callers to departments

Calling an MIT office, department, lab, center or residence hall is now as easy as speaking its name into the telephone.

IS Telephone Support Services recently completed installation of the Parlance NameConnector system. NameConnector is a voice-activated, telephone auto-attendant which prompts the caller for the name of a department or residence hall and then makes the connection.

MIT's implementation of Name-Connector serves as a backup to the MIT telephone operators. During regular business hours (8am-6pm on weekdays), calls to 253-1000 or to the MIT operator will be directed to the operators first, or to NameConnector if the operators are busy. Outside of business hours, NameConnector becomes the primary response to calls to the operators. NameConnector can also be accessed by calling x2-4111 from an on-campus phone or 452-4111 from an off-campus phone. This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

NameConnector answers with a greeting and prompt, followed by a beep. After the beep, say the name of the office, department, lab, center or dorm you wish to reach. (Names of individuals are not included in the system at this point.) NameConnector replies with its matchup to what you requested. If NameConnector did not recognize your request correctly, press the asterisk key (*) and say the name again. If the second try is unsuccessful, the system replies with a message.

When talking to NameConnector, speak clearly and naturally. You do not need to insert pauses between words, overenunciate or speak louder than usual. In situations with heavy background noise, especially when using cellular phones or speaker phones, you may need to speak louder or get closer to the phone.

MIT's NameConnector registry -- its database -- is based on the Offices and Programs administrative information (also known as the "blue pages") which appears in printed and on-line versions of the MIT Directories and is maintained by the Communications Office. MIT's registry contains the official names of these administrative units, as well as common alternate names and abbreviations or aliases. For example, the registry entry for "Procurement Department" contains the alias "purchasing;" an alias for the Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence is "AI Lab." The registry also contains "tie-breakers" for requests which may apply to several entries. A request for "admissions" brings a response asking the caller to specify "admissions -- freshmen," "admissions -- transfer," etc.

Telephone Support urges callers to report problems with incorrect or unrecognized requests, or with incorrect connections. While in NameConnector, press your telephone's asterisk key and say "problem report line." When prompted, leave a message with your name and phone number, and the department name with which you are having problems. Or send e-mail to with problems, questions, comments or suggestions.

Changes to the Offices and Programs administrative directory information should be reported to the Communications Office immediately upon taking effect; e-mail <bluepages@>. Because the NameConnector registry is based on these "blue pages," it's crucial that this information be correct and up to date.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 17, 2000.

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