Tuesday, May 16, 2006

This Age's Dialpad

When I was in college I had toyed around with an online service called Dialpad. This service allowed anyone who had an internet connection, a computer, and a microphone headset to call people's phones. Since it was long distance to call my parents and my friends at other colleges, I was looking for any cheap way to make calls. I bought calling cards at Sam's Club, had a cell phone for a time (but only had nighttime minutes to use), and even made the mistake of using the college's long distance plan. All of them cost precious dollars, however. Dollars I could have been using on video games and CDs.

Dialpad worked ok. It was ad supported and you needed a pretty good internet connection for it to work good, most likely because of the crappy compression algorthims. I eventually gave up on it because it would often drop calls and would be very laggy. In the last couple of years, however, VOIP phones have been all the rage. Skype has been one of the pioneers of the updated Dialpad model.

I know the big initial draw of Skype was the ability to call other Skype users thus bypassing having to have a phone line or cell phone at all (assuming everyone you called had Skype). They had their "Skype-out" service for a fee as well, though, which would allow Skype users to call actual phone numbers.

In a wonderful move, Skype has now made their Skype-out calling service completely free for at least the rest of this calendar year. With the great strides made in compression algorithms and the proliferation of high speed internet, this is pretty damn cool. It's kind of too bad that I just locked into a cell phone plan with as many minutes as I did because with this development, I could have made all of my daytime calls via Skype and nighttime calls on my cell. Oh well. Hopefully everyone else can benefit from this.

The only downside is that by using Skype you are supporting a subsidiary of Ebay, which will always be close to what the epitome of internet evil is in my mind. But you might as well make use of it as long as it is free, right?

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