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Friday, April 17, 2015

Throw Out the Telephone and Start Skyping

For those of us who grew up in the age of communicating by telephone, supplemented by letters, a technology like Skype can seem amazing, because you’re able to see the person you’re talking to, even if he or she is on the other side of the country or world. It’s especially a boon for older adults whose families don’t live nearby, so you can see your grandchildren’s rapid growth spurts, or the drawing they did in class, or their piano recital. You can make contact with old friends who have moved away, and view their new homes and environment.

Although there are several video chat services, Skype has become the dominant one, even entering our language, as in “I just Skyped with my daughter.” Facetime is the other main video chat source but is more limited as it can be run only on Apple products. Skype, however, can be run on PC or Mac desktop or laptop computers, using the latest version of its operating system: Windows, Linux or Mac OS. Both Skype and Facetime can also be accessed on your cell phone. Unlike Facetime, Skype also offers audio calls, instant messaging, screen sharing, file sharing, games and video conferencing (think about getting the whole family together or your college friends for one big chat).

The beauty of both Skype and Facetime is that calls from computer to computer are free; you pay a fee only if you are using a landline or cell phone. Skype, which is owned by Microsoft, offers additional services for a fee, including teleconferences.

For Mac users, the advantage of Facetime is that it is already built into your device, so you don’t have to add anything else on.

Getting Started

If you just want to make voice calls with Skype, you can use the computer’s microphone or buy one; for better quality voice, use a headset. For video calls, you’ll need a webcam if your computer doesn’t have one. A general rule of thumb is that the more expensive the webcam, the better quality you’ll get for voice and visuals.

Make sure your computer meets Skype’s system requirements: one GHz processor at the least. If you're running Windows or Linux, you need 256 GB of RAM; for Macs, it's 1 GB. You'll also need the most recent update of DirectX (PC) or QuickTime (Mac).

Next, download Skype from its website, choosing your operating system (Windows, etc.) and select whether you want the free version or Skype Premium, which includes video conferencing and phone calls to landlines. After creating a Skype name, password and basic information about yourself, you can decide whether your information will be visible to the public (searchable by anybody using Skype), private or visible only to your friends. You’re also given the option of adding a profile picture.

At some point, you’re offered the option of adding "echo/sound test service" to your contacts, which is a good way to make sure your account is set up correctly. Once you've added this as your first contact, click on it and choose "call." This audio-only call plays a recording that allows you to record and play back your own voice. If you can hear both recordings, then you're ready to start Skyping.

Source: "How to Use Skype," How Stuff Works

Throw Out the Telephone and Start Skyping was featured in the March 2015 Senior Spirit Newsletter. 

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors