Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Technology Lesson: Introduction to Skype

Old People, do you have relatives living in another country (or on the opposite side of your own)? Do you have a limited calling plan? Do you wish you could video chat with someone but lack an iPhone or web cam? I have good news! It's called Skype.

Skype is a software application (a program you download to your computer, iPhone, or BlackBerry, or other smartphone) that lets you make calls over the Internet. Skype also lets users instant message, conduct video conferencing, and transfer files for free. (I video chatted an interview with someone in across the country and conducted an interview someone in another country! My friend used the Skype app on her smartphone to save money on long distance calls. Calling and connecting user to user is always free and calling a land line or cell phone is $0.17 per minute. (Some rates may vary, and you can sign up for a subscription and save money.) You can find out more about Skype's features here.

Downloading Skype is free. If you have a web cam, you can video chat easily. If you don't have a web cam, but have a digital camera, you can connect your camera to your computer and use that. Skype's Web site encourages you to buy a webcam, but my introduction to Skype in college used a PC and a digital camera to talk to a New York Times reporter (and former student). There's a how-to here.

In our next lesson we'll look at Skype's interface and how to use it.

Additional Resources:
How to use a digital camera as a webcam for Skype, WonderHowTo

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