Mark Spencer and Astricon: His Contribution to the World’s First Professional Open Source Turnkey Telephony System

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It’s probably long overdue that this article is written about Mark Spencer and Astricon. Not least before memories become too distant.

2003 and the world was a different place compared to 2013. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was out, The Matrix Reloaded although I only got to see Charlie’s Angels remake. There was no Fonality, no Switchvox, no 101 others trying to be the next best thing that would come and go – alas Trixbox.

Well just code, dreams and some cards to be more precise Sangoma Cards … and Mark Spencer. Oh and a lot of shooting in the dark and I don’t just mean Charlie’s Angels. There was Pingtel (remember that) and there was Asterisk and there was some CRM and CMS software we had left over. A friend showed us Asterisk, we saw what could be done to pull this together and we worked. Then we worked some more. Then we prayed that Asterisk might yet stabilize to version 1.0

By 2004, matters were beginning to get more contentious Michael Moore released Farenheit 911, but no, my movie of the year was not Shrek II – I got to see The Incredibles.

For the first time in the History of the World … well before get too far on that one … hmm … well we’ve still to find out otherwise. Yeup an open source telephony engine, not delivered as another ‘open source project’ but professional, warranted and with the purpose of quick & easy commercial deployment. Something a reseller could be proud to stand behind. The ‘best of both worlds’: Open Source flexibility with the guaranteed to work. This would later transpire to part of the Bicom Systems winning formula of ‘bespoke deployments’ for the ‘cost of off-the-shelf’. It would also see us find other Open Source Telephony Projects such as Kamilio & Erlang that could be brought into a professional wrapper. It would also see the turnkey principal edge towards the desktop and now mobile and towards the automation of service providers.

Then we bought an air ticket to Atlanta Georgia. The hotel we were booked into was wonderful as long as the rooms were still there following the hurricane – we stayed downtown instead.

As the first Astricon conference gathered momentum the questions were asked. Not least ‘could anyone design a general purpose all encompassing GUI for Asterisk?’ The floor was quiet and Mark Spencer had all eyes pointing towards him. We had to get out before the tension of what had to be done got to hot to bear – time for a drink.

We came out of the hotel to find out that the Dukes of Hazard possibly were not real and made our way downtown. There we begun to realize Michael Moore may have had a point that America was changing for sure we could see there was more chance of finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq than somewhere to get a beer to drink in downtown Atlanta. As reality became fantasy we even stopped a cop who after being comforted we had no mal-intent upon approaching him gladly wished to help but then realized he too knew of nowhere to scorch a parched soul. Fortunately a local who walked the area regularly and purposefully approached us and asked “are you looking for somewhere to drink? I’ll take you for a dollar.” He did and we never looked back. The next day …

PBXware was released in a workshop room and then we showed it to Mark Spencer.

I am not sure really what Mark thought of our efforts. We hope though it provided the community with inspiration for many options that followed. That Multi-Tenant Edition we brought forward in 2005, the desktop applications, outlook but – we know though we need to do more and so much is again coming this year – stay tuned.

Thank you Olle & Steve for Astricon.
Still though – a big thank you to Mark Spencer for Asterisk. It helped.

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