I've been seeing these ads for the Emerson Switchboard that lets you get faxes and phone calls while you are on-line. This is one of those things that sounds too good to be true, have you ever tried it or heard anything about it?
This question was answered on August 5, 2002. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
Most of us become cynical (as well we should) when we see an inexpensive product advertised that claims to solve one of life's major inconveniences.
In the case of the Emerson Switchboard or a similar product called Catch-A-Call, they attempt to deal with Internet users that only have one phone line and want to be able to take other calls or faxes while they are online.
The ads proclaim 'No more busy signals, missed calls, or getting kicked offline! Temporarily splits your phone signal into three separate lines' Computer, Phone, and Fax There's no software needed and no installation 'works automatically!'
The way it works is that that it alerts the user of an incoming call or fax by ringing and flashing, giving the user the option to ignore or pickup the call.
If you elect to pickup the call or accept the fax, it claims to maintain your Internet connection while you communicate with the other party.
You can identify the incoming call and decide not to pickup the call, which will send it to your voice messaging system.
In order for all of this to work, you must have the following from your phone company: Call Waiting, Caller ID, a Caller ID device and Voice Messaging (it won't work with standard answering machines).
Another caveat that you should be aware of is that you can?t stay on the call or fax for more than 20 to 30 seconds or your Internet connection will likely drop.
This means you have about enough time to tell the calling party that you are online and that you will call them back later.
If you want to use this device to simply avoid your callers getting a busy signal while you are surfing, you can essentially accomplish the same thing by having voice messaging services on your phone line and turning off your Call Waiting while you are online.
This will immediately send any caller directly to your voice messaging greeting when you are online.
The real question is do you really want to be interrupted when you are online?
Another thing to think about is that for the price of all the additional services required, you may be able to pay for a second phone line, which would be a much better option.
If you are paying for a second phone line or extra services plus an expensive ISP like AOL, another option that you may want to consider is going to a broadband connection such as a cable modem or DSL that does not require a separate ISP or a second phone line.
Not only is it about the same price, it will be exponentially faster than your dial-up and you are always connected No more waiting to get connected or getting disconnected and no one gets a busy signal because they don't use your telephone line.
About the author
Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on August 5, 2002