When I discovered MSN Messenger my experience of the internet changed. I felt connected. I could have instant conversations with my friends, albeit that I had to type everything.
This evening I installed Skype — my username is garethjmsaunders — as my friend Kelvin and I have been considering using it for online voice conference calls for the Information & Communication Board of the Scottish Episcopal Church.
In a nutshell, this program allows you to make FREE voice calls to other Skype users. (And only in a consumer society can we believe that our calls are free when we are using a £1,000 PC, a £35pm broadband internet connection and who knows how much electricity!!) The technology is called Voice-over-Internet-Protocol, or VoIP for short. Skype will allow you to make calls to traditional landline and mobile telephones, but you need to buy credits first to unlock this feature.
So, Kelvin called me. The quality was great, with a better frequency range than an ordinary telephone. There was a very slight delay but nothing terribly noticable (except when we sang Frère Jacque to test this out!) I really want my other friends to install this now. How exciting is this?!
There are a number of other VoIP services, including ones that give you a real telephone number, even though it simply connects to your PC wherever you may be (I am the Lord of the Dance said … oh, sorry I got distracted). A virtual telephone number, if you like. My online friend uses Sipgate (www.sipgate.co.uk) , while Kelvin uses Voipfone (www.voipfone.co.uk). I must investigate this further.