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Skype: Make free Internet computer-to-computer calls from anywhere to anyone

January 1, 2005

in All Articles,Email and messaging

Are you sick of long-distance phone charges? Do you make a lot of phone calls? Are you confused and frustrated with your phone plan, and the fact you have to worry about daytime, night time and weekend minutes? Well, knowing fully I sound like a 2 a.m. infomercial, your worries are over!

It does sound too good to be true, but when a company’s motto is “The whole world can talk for free”, they’d better have the results to back up what they’re saying.

They do. Go to

What is Skype?

Skype is a voice conferencing tool for the Internet. You need a computer and a microphone, and everything else is free. The end result is you can make phone calls with your computer to other Skype users for free.

So, like any 2 a.m. infomercial, there must be a catch, right? Well, I couldn’t find any. When I first heard about Skype, I assumed it was heavily advertised to compensate for the free service. It’s not. I also figured the connection quality would be low, based on previous experience with similar programs. It’s not. What you get is a truly free, high-quality and simple way of making phone calls from one computer to another.

What is it like?

To test the service, I created two different Skype accounts and loaded Skype on two different computers. Next, I needed someone to help me, so I bribed my sister Celia with the promise of free pizza. She came over, ate some pizza, and then sat down at one computer. Wanting to make the conversation as authentic as possible, I left the house with a laptop computer and drove to a nearby coffee shop with free wireless Internet.

I “called” Celia and we talked, trying to find and cause problems with sound quality. And things worked wonderfully. Listening to each other speak was as clear as our (increasingly old-fashioned) landline phone connection. The clarity remained even when we both spoke at the same time, a technique that usually befuddles similar programs. We talked using headset microphones as well as the built-in laptop microphone, and sound quality remained excellent as long as there was little or no background noise.

For comparison, I tested Skype against Yahoo Messenger’s “Voice Chat”, a similar free service from Yahoo. Skype easily outperformed Yahoo messenger in all tests. Skype was clear and static free across the board. Yahoo Messenger has problems with static and “choppy-sounding” conversations, problems previously explained away by imperfections and unpredictability of the Internet. But there are no excuses now, as Skype sets a very high standard.

What do you need?

You’ll need a computer, an Internet connection and a microphone. If you have a laptop, check to see if it already has a built-in microphone. Some desktops also come with external microphones. Otherwise, go to to purchase one for as little as $12.

What else can you get?

If you pay them money, Skype also gives you the ability to use your computer to call “regular” phone lines. The cost for this varies depending on where you call, but is usually less than two cents a minute. Other paid services include voicemail and your own phone number: People can dial using a regular phone, and your Skype-enabled computer will ring.

The Internet excels at getting information to people quickly and cheaply. While a popular use is showing people web sites and delivering e-mail, it can also support two-way voice conversations. Zero static, zero hassle, and zero cost

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