By Lysa McCarroll
Families can be spread out over cities, states and countries, making it difficult to see each other on a regular basis. Some of us are lucky if we can do an annual get-together. Regular phone calls help fill the void. But they don’t convey a “picture” of your loved one in their home environment, like a videophone call.
Video phone calls can seem like the Jetsons come to life for the uninitiated but the novelty quickly fades after a few uses and becomes “normal.” Maybe too normal. Like realizing mid-conversation that you’re still in your bathrobe and haven’t combed your hair! 🙂
But that’s also the beauty of videophone calls. You can see!
Even the most technophobic of people quickly adapt and appreciate the videophone calls. Like my mother. A seventy-ahem-cough-cough computer illiterate with a “what do I need this for” attitude was able (with some phone coaching) to download and install the software, hook up a webcam, and start calling in less than a half an hour.
Setting up a video call system can be a relatively inexpensive and painless process to creating a more connected home. Most of the services are free – – you only need broad band (hi-speed) internet connection, web camera, microphone and headset. Some computers might already have these built in. Usually when you install the software for whatever service you’ve chosen it can figure out what equipment you’ll need – -if any.
When we decided to set up our video connection we went with Skype for the service. It was free and easy to install. Also helped that Radio Shack was running a deal at the same time on Skype head sets with microphone and 10.00 phone card (to call landlines) for $9.99. Hey – – that’s practically free – – are you beginning to see a pattern here?! Kmart had a deal on some Labtec webcams – around $10. With these kinds of prices, what do you have to lose?
There are some extra bonuses as well with using Skype. It effectively gives you an extra “phone”. You can call landlines (computer to phone) for low to no cost. You can call other people who are using Skype (computer to computer) for free. Those people don’t have to have a webcam to take your call. You’ll be able to talk like a regular phone call, but if they don’t have a camera you won’t be able to see them. However, they can see you.
And now, guess who’s singing the praises of video phone calls and thinks everybody should have it?! Most of my moms’ seven kids are “video connected” and she’s a champion of the cause to the few holdouts. Her favorite opening line, “just calling to see how you’re doin’.”
Are you using any kind of video chat? If so, tell us about it! Your likes, dislikes, preferred service, camera recommendations . . . whatever! You can login and post your comments or send me an email, lysa[at]aipathome.com.