Sunday, March 06, 2011

Skype Worth a Second Look

There have been so many revolutionary changes in technology that it is difficult to keep up. How we watch TV, plan a trip, conduct our banking or shop for everything from books to broccoli … all have changed. Many of our most mundane daily tasks are now heavily dependent on technology. Even making a phone call has changed. I’m sure many can remember when making a long distance call, especially to a foreign country, was an expensive proposition. No longer is this the case.

Recently, my globe trotting wife had some teaching gigs in Australia requiring her to be “down under” for several weeks. This is the second time that she has been there, traveling around the country teaching various fiber techniques. The last time she was gone for almost two months. I remember that we talked on the phone every few days but always tried to keep the calls short because they were expensive. This time not only do we talk sometimes twice a day, but the calls are video calls and they are free.

We are using Skype. I have discussed this service in this column before and many of you may already use Skype to keep track of your kids or grandkids. So if you already know about it you can quit reading.

Skype is an Internet based communications program that allows you to use your computer and the Internet to communicate with others on the Skype network or to make calls to regular land lines or mobile phones anywhere in the world. If you are contacting someone who has a Skype account there is no charge for the call. If you are using Skype to call a regular telephone number there is a charge albeit much less than traditional international long distance rates.

Judy and I are using the free service which allows us to make video calls. Judy has a
small netbook computer with a camera built in and my computers at home and at work also are outfitted with small web cams. All of these computers have the free Skype program loaded.

Making a call is as easy as clicking on the person’s name in your Skype directory. For Judy and me we just needed to get used to the time difference. When I was just beginning my day in Cincinnati, Judy was going to sleep in Tasmania and it was the next day.

Signing up for Skype is easy. Just go to and follow the directions. You will need a high speed Internet connection, a PC or Mac of most any flavor, a web cam if you want to make video calls. If you wish to make only voice calls all you need is a microphone either connected to your computer or built in to your lap top.

Skype has been around for many years and millions of people worldwide use it daily to
stay in touch. It is worth a look.



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