I Always Wanted To Know:
How to make free (or cheap) Internet phone calls?
Many computers come equipped today with webcams and microphones but how do you use it to communicate? Can you call traditional phones or just other computers? Let’s start by talking about what hardware and software you’ll need and then how to do it.
Hardware you’ll need:
- Computer with high-speed internet access (cable or DSL service)
- Microphone for voice chat & phone calls
- Webcam for video chat
- Skype software and account (free from http://www.skype.com  )
How to make internet phone calls:
Before we jump into using Skype, let’s talk about the difference between computer-to-computer calls and calls to land line and cellar phones. Calls from computer-to-computer are generally free and only require that both the person making and receiving the call have the same software program to communicate. Calls made from a computer to a land line or cellular phone do not require the receiving party to have a computer or software, but the person making the call will have to pay a fee.
The reason to use a software like Skype is the cost. If you make calls from computer-to-computer, it’s totally free and you can communicate with voice and video. Even when making calls to a land line or cellular phone, the price-per-minute is almost always significantly cheaper than using long distance or international phone service on a regular phone. If you want to make a call to a land line or cellular phone, you’ll need to purchase credits with Skype or subscribe to a monthly service plan.
Once you’ve downloaded and installed Skype from www.skype.com ,it’s a simple process to call someone. If you want to chat computer-to-computer for free, start by adding the person you wish to speak with as a contact. You can search for contacts by name, Skype nickname, e-mail address or by phone number. Once you’ve found who you want to talk to, you can Add to Contacts to save the address. Click Video Call to place a video call, or click the drop-down button next to Call Phone and select Call Skype to make a voice-only call.
The rates to call a land line phone will vary depending on the place you call. The fantastic thing about Skype ,is you can check the rate to any country by clicking here . If, for example, I wanted to call my cousin in the United Kingdom, it would cost either 2.3c per minute to call her landline, 25.9c per minute to call her T-Mobile cell phone, or if we were talking a lot, I could purchase a $39.99 unlimited to all of Europe plan. Comparing this to the $1.69 a minute for international long distance to the United Kingdom AT&T currently charges, you can see how much money you can save using Skype.
Need more help? Skype has a fantastic how-to and support site availible by clicking here . Once you start using services like Skype chatting, I know you’ll love it so give it a try today.
P.S. If your microphone’s sound quality is not that great, consider buying a USB microphone. They convert your voice into digital signal versus an analog one, which can eliminate interference sounds. Many come with noise cancellation features or in headset/microphone combos.
Do you have a general technology or electronics question you always wanted to know like “How does a Microwave work?” or “Why do LED’s last so long?” Write me at Tim@WorldStart.com  and your question may be answered in an upcoming “I Always Wanted To Know.” For specific computer support questions ask our writers by clicking here .