This one will also wake you up and set your thermostat


June 10, 1991|By Jim McNair | Jim McNair,Knight-Ridder News Service

DEERFIELD BEACH, FLA. KZB — DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. -- With so many people working at home these days, it's no surprise that a home telephone system is available that acts much like the switchboard at work.

The RTX-1200, made by RTX Telecom Inc. in Deerfield Beach, is an obligatory product for people who live by the telephone. For $550, it provides many of the high-priced services sold by the telephone company and it acts as a Jetsons-style home management system, doing everything from giving wake-up calls to turning on lights and thermostats by telephone.

RTX, majority-owned by Florida high-tech guru David Rush, introduced the RTX-1200 in 1985 and has been adding features to it ever since. During most of that time, RTX was content to let others sell the telephone system, but RTX hired a marketing director in December and has been pitching the system to builders and retailers of specialty home products.

"It's a little too complex for a K mart because it takes wiring," said RTX General Manager Dwain Jenkins. "It's not like a phone, where you can just take it home and plug it in. It's more akin to a security system."

The RTX-1200 comes in a large, wall-mounted box full of circuits, wires and relays and is assembled by Dictaphone in Melbourne, Fla. It can take one or two telephone lines and can route calls to 12 telephone outlets in the home.

With two lines and 12 stations, six conversations can take place simultaneously, two going out, four inside.

Many of the same services sold by the local phone company are built into the RTX-1200. Call transferring, call forwarding, call waiting, speed calling and last-call redial are standard features. So are programmable wake-up calls and appointment reminders, hold music, intercom calls, conference calls and a help menu in case you forget how to use one of the services.

"It'll work with any phone: rotary-dial phones, push-button phones and designer phones," said Al Ruff, RTX Telecom executive vice president.

Some of the more exotic capabilities require explanation:

* If you're at a restaurant or someone else's house and you need to make a long-distance telephone call, you can call home, enter a four-digit password, then make the call on the second telephone line. No collect call or operator-assisted billing to the home phone is necessary.

* Another service that requires two lines is a paging function dubbed Please Call. If you call from work and no one is home, the RTX-1200 will take your work number and issue a quick ring on the home phone every 15 seconds until someone picks it up. A computer voice will then announce your work number.

* The most recent upgrade to the RTX-1200 allows users to turn on and off electrical systems and appliances, such as home security systems, sprinkler systems, lights and thermostats. The option has a one-time price of $115.

The RTX-1200 can be trained even further. It can be programmed to prevent long-distance calls by shady guests on the patio or in the spare bedroom. And it can be used to speak with people at the front door -- or, get this, to quietly monitor what they're saying.

Mr. Jenkins said the company has sold about 6,000 systems over the years, most of them through the catalog of NuTone Inc., a well-known maker of intercom systems and home products. Small companies such as Kaiser Electronics of Morton, Ill., also sell and install the RTX-1200.

"I put it mostly in bigger houses, 4,000 to 5,000 square feet on up, for doctors, lawyers and that group," said company owner Dave Kaiser. "They hear about it basically through me. I got in good with all the major builders in the area, and when they build a new home for someone, they send them to me."

That's exactly what RTX Telecom wants to do itself. With the hiring of Douglas Gilley as marketing director, the company hopes to sell RTX-1200s to a broader audience.

The company will pay commissions to NuTone in exchange for continued use of the brand name.

"What we'd like to see is a greater level of acceptance and recognition for it," Mr. Jenkins said.

"After all this time, it's still unique," he said. "There's nothing like it. Doug is getting the word out."

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