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Make the answering machine behave

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

Make the answering machine behave 

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1988, The Syracuse Newspapers

Small problems sometimes aren't any easier to cope with than big ones, especially when they happen at the worst possible times.

Take that answering machine, for example. You hear the phone ring, but before you can get to it the answering machine is reciting its spiel. Then when you pick up the phone you hear a "screech" when your own voice is amplified over and over again through feedback.

Or take that extension in the upstairs bedroom. You fire up your computer and call your information network and start transferring those all-important files when somebody else picks up the other phone, and zap! there goes all that data. The same disaster would happen if you were using your facsimile machine when the extension was picked up.

Until now, there was no easy way around these pesky phone problems. But a recent development by a Dallas company promises to make life a little more pleasant for anyone who has electronic devices attached to multiple telephone lines.

The solution turns out to be simplicity itself: The company, Effective Solutions, has designed a small plastic device that works like a smart Y-connector in the phone line. You plug the little connector into the wall jack and then plug your primary phone line into one of the two jacks on the device. The secondary line goes into the other jack.

A circuit in the device, which Effective Solutions calls the Squelch, automatically senses an active phone line in the primary connection. It then shuts off the connection to the secondary line.

Here's how it would work to control the answering machine. You would plug the answering device into the secondary jack of the Squelch. Then, if you wanted to talk to someone who is getting the answering machine's pitch, you'd pick up the phone on the primary line—and that would cut the phone connection to the answering machine.

Thinking that its caller had hung up, the answering machine would reset itself for the next call while you talked on the other phone. As soon as you hang up, the Squelch reconnects the line going to the answering machine.

In the computer or fax hookup, you'd do the opposite. Rather than attach your computer or fax machine to the secondary line, you'd plug it into the primary phone line and leave the extension on the secondary line. Any time the computer or fax dialed out, Squelch would cut off the extension.

Of course, more than one extension could be plugged into Squelch's secondary jack. All you'd have to do is use standard Y-connectors.

Another use for the little line-zapper is the protection of privacy. Executives who plug a Squelch into their phone system can be assured that their secretary won't be able to pick up the extension and eavesdrop, even accidentally. And parents will know that their kids won't be able to cut into adult conversation or business calls made from home.

Those who would like to create multiple levels of telephone priority could even chain Squelch connectors together. That way, the extension at the very end of the line would get cut off if the next one up used the phone, and that one, in turn, would be squelched if the one higher than it used the phone. In fact, all extensions down the line would be cut off if the primary phone was in use.

Squelch is just coming on the market this summer. If you don't see it in a store near you, call or write Effective Solutions at 14902 Preston Road, Suite 212-310, Dallas, Texas 75240. Its phone number is 214-386-5042.

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