2009.04.29 Yipes! It's Skype

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

At the moment, there are 13,418,808 people using Skype and I think I should know at least one of them.

For those of you who don’t know, Skype is an internet telephone service. You download Skype software, your friend or relative does the same, and now you can talk to them via your computer for free. Anywhere in the world.

It’s really an amazing concept, not only for what it does but also for its entry into the always-changing field of communications.

Not so long ago, you had to use a telephone company to talk to your niece in Africa. I suppose I still do. I haven’t been able to locate her on-line yet, but I leave voice messages for her via Skype. I think she had a call from Margaret Thatcher and me last week.

I’ve had Skype downloaded on my computer for more than a year, but I never got around to using it until my brother Tom visited a few weeks ago. I finally started and now it’s the current obsession.

I talk to my brothers at least once a week. We seldom went beyond e-mail in the past. Last weekend we tried a conference call—three brothers and my parents all at once. Very confusing. Someone always talking on top of someone else.

A friend here in Morenci—another Skyper—suggested using the military form of communication. Say “over” at the end of your sentence. That might help some, but I think one person should be assigned to direct traffic.

It didn’t take me too long to decide to go beyond the basic free Skype-to-Skype feature. I decided to pay $8.40 for a three-month subscription so I can call anybody on any phone via Skype. I make a lot of long-distance calls at the Observer to far-away places such as Fayette.

There was a hitch, of course. My long-lasting Macintosh at work is old enough that it isn’t ready for modern communication. I had to buy an iMic to allow a microphone to work with it. Half-price on eBay. Then I took the next step, electing to look like a dork by purchasing a cheap headset with microphone.

Now when a customer walks into the Observer, I might appear that I’m ready to take someone’s order for the purchase of 500 words or maybe a dozen paragraphs.

I don’t like the idea of wearing a headset, but I like that fact that I called softball coach Kay Johnson at her home last week and it didn’t cost me the usual long-distance fee.

At the moment, there are 13,766,135 signed in with Skype. That’s another 350,000 from when I started writing this. That’s back when I wrote that I must know at least one of those 13.7 million. No one on my slim contact list is signed in but me.

This reminds me of when I go to New York City and I stand back at a busy subway station and watch people by the thousands stream by. It always seems like someone I know should pass by eventually. Sure, the odds are slim, but there must be someone.

It’s the same thing for me with Skype. There’s a “search for users” feature where you type in a name or e-mail address. I know that I have friends using Skype and every so often I think of another name from the past and type it in. Not much luck so far in my Skype fishing expeditions.

I’ve located one old friend from childhood who lives in Florida and we had a good conversation a couple of weeks ago. I now talk with a friend just a few miles away whom I’ve actually seen in person only three times in three years.

I forgot to mention the video. My computer at home has no camera like so many modern laptops have, but I have a little webcam attached to the top.

Now, when I call my brothers, we make stupid faces and stick objects into our nostrils. Tom has a great routine where he stretches one cheek and then lets it snap. Dan enjoys hovering near the camera as though he’s about to climb through and appear on the table in front of me. Colleen and I danced for Maddie a couple of nights ago.

I never thought of Skype as a potential means of juvenile behavior, but it’s working just fine.

Almost a quarter million more users have signed in since my last report. I’m going fishing for names.

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