Few inventions have transformed daily life quite like the cell phone, which has given us long distance telephone service from anywhere in the world and changed business phone systems forever. Still, there’s a romance to the old home phone that’s missing from modern life. Getting lost is all but an impossibility today. If you want some time to yourself you either have to silence your phone or leave it at home and, let’s be honest, no smartphone is quite as cool as these famous phones.
- The Batphone: The ’60s television adaptation of Batman has been overshadowed by “darker” reimaginings of the character on TV and film since, but the Adam West-starring Batman series (running from 1966-1968) was funnier than all of them, and had the good sense not to take a character called “Batman” too seriously. Among the Dark Knight’s many inexplicable gadgets (Holy Shark Repellant Bat Spray, Batman!) was the Batphone, a soviet-red telephone with no dial that led directly to Commissioner Gordon.
- Clarissa’s Phone: Nickelodeon’s ultra-’90s hit Clarissa Explains It All (running from 1991-1994) was hipper than even most adult-oriented shows and films of the era. Star Melissa Joan Hart rocked fashionably mismatched outfits, made ironic video games on her PC, played in a punk band called the Straightjackets and even used a clear telephone that allowed you to see the circuits encased within.
As we’ve seen, packet switching and codecs help make Voice over IP an incredibly efficient means for communications services, but there’s another problem inherent in VoIP that still needs to be overcome. Unlike traditional, landline phone service, there is no dedicated line for a VoIP telephone. Instead, these numbers are hosted on IP addresses, which aren’t static and tend to change with each new connection they’re making. So how do VoIP telephone service providers find VoIP phone numbers?
The process of mapping phone numbers to IP addresses is handled by a central call processor, a database hardware designed to map data using a program called a soft switch. This program keeps a record of users and phone numbers, but if it comes up with a request it doesn’t have the information to handle–if you’re trying to call someone it can’t locate–it hands the request downstream to another soft switch, and, if necessary, another, and another until it finds the right user. With this information it can find that user’s current IP address with a similar series of requests and hand-offs until all this information is sent back to the IP phone, allowing the exchange of data–the conversation–between two end points, you and your clients, for example.
That’s VoIP in a nutshell: information being sent over a large, sprawling network, each node working together to create the most efficient transfer of data possible! Pretty amazing!
We have previously explained how VoIP telephones use packet switching to more efficiently send and receive audio data than using a dedicated phone line. But that’s only one part of what makes VoIP so effective. The other part is the codec, or coder-decorder. A codec converts an audio signal — your conversation — into a compressed digital form to transmit between places before then decompressing, or decoding, that signal on the receiving end. They accomplish this by sampling the audio signal very rapidly — several thousand times per second. Each one of those tiny samples is digitized and compressed for transmission before being uncompressed and reassembled at their final destination. Though there are gaps in between these samples, they are so small the human ear can’t detect them, so the reassembled audio sounds continuous.
Codecs use advance algorithms to do all this compressing, decompressing, sending and receiving, and they’re smart enough to know not to send data if there’s no sound — that is, if nobody’s talking. This way, the codec is only sending data out when there’s something to send, making it even more efficient.
When it is sending data, VoIP telephones are looking for phone numbers based in IP addresses, which we’ll discuss in the third and final part of How Does VoIP Work?
As a reader of this blog, you probably already know the advantages of using a Voice Over Internet Protocol phone system: it’s much cheaper and easier to set up and use, plus it comes with a whole host of great features. But how does VoIP actually work?
VoIP telephones replace the traditional circuit switching of landline telephones with something called packet switching: a method of sending and retrieving data (in this case, your digitized phone calls) only as it’s needed, rather than as a continuous feed, and through a complex network, rather than over a dedicated line.
In packet switching, a computer breaks down data into smaller, bite-sized packets, all with a destination address, and then sends them out into a network: the Internet. A packet goes to a nearby router, which in turn sends it to another nearby router, and on and on until it finally reaches its recipient, at which point all the individual packets, which may have all taken completely different paths through completely different routers to reach their destination, are reassembled to form the original file.
This form of data transmission is incredibly efficient because it lets the network find the least congested and cheapest paths for information to take. With VoIP, telecommunications companies are able to use this same efficient system computers have already successfully been using for years, but with phone calls rather than, say, images and HTML files.
With a business toll free number, you can get an easy-to-remember, custom phone number so your clients and customers can reach you without having to copy down an unwieldy phone number. Still, some of those unwieldy phone numbers have gotten famous over the years by their own accord, mostly because musicians started discovering they can make a catchy hook for a pop song. Here’s a few famous digits:
- 6060-842: Before Tommy Tutone found a number scrawled on a bathroom wall, the new wavers of the B-52s were looking for a good time on “6060-842″ from their classic 1979 debut album.
- 777-9311: Tutone was also beaten to the phone-number-as-refrain punch by the Time, who recorded a girl’s digits via pop song in their 1982 single “777-9311.”
- 867-5309: Only a few months after the Time scored a phone number-based single, Tommy Tutone pulled the same trick to much greater success on their own 1982 hit “867-5309 (Jenny),” which quickly made the eponymous number quite possibly the most famous in the world.
- 1-900-MIX-A-LOT: MC and posterior enthusiast Sir Mix-A-Lot eschewed a business toll free number himself, instead preferring to give out a 900 number as his main contact for any shapely lady fans looking to get in touch. He drops the number on his 1992 single “Baby Got Back.”
The allure of the telephone (and the anticipation, joy and sometimes disappointment it brings) continues to remain an attractive muse to pop culture, and nowhere is that more apparent than in popular music. Telephone service providers and telecommunications companies are rarely the object of the singers’ affections, but we like to think we have something to do with the moments that inspire these songs as well. Here’s a couple of our favorites.
- Blondie: “Hanging on the Telephone” (1978) The rock group The Nerves wrote “Hanging on the Telephone,” a catchy tune describing the familiar pain of rebuffed long distance advances, but it was new-wave outfit Blondie who upped the song’s energy and intensity, turning it into a beloved hit single in the process.
- Jessica Lea Mayfield: “Call Me” (2008) Blondie also has a song titled “Call Me,” which would fit in this list as well, but this “Call Me” is by the folk and country inspired singer songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield, who was only 19 when she released this song about waiting all night by the phone for a call that never comes.
- Carly Rae Jepson: “Call Me Maybe” (2011) Though it was released in 2011, the babyfaced Canadian pop singer Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe” found an admirer in Justin Bieber, who helped turn this refreshing pop throwback into the official song of summer 2012.
With Pop VoIP, you can leave the office assured you won’t miss any important calls and you will always be connected, but what did people do before VoIP business phone systems? They used pay phones! Today, we can stay connected no matter where we go, but before cellphones, smart phones and VoIP telephones, you were isolated from the rest of the world whenever you stepped outside your home or office, except for small oases of telecommunications called phone booths. So it is easy to see why phone booths captured the public’s imagination. Here are some of the most famous.
- Superman’s Phone Booths
When trouble reared its head in the city of Metropolis, mild-mannered newsman Clark Kent would duck into a phone booth to disrobe the street clothes concealing his iconic Superman costume.
Though it looks like a 1960s British police box, TARDIS is actually a sentient spaceship and time machine used by time-traveling do-gooder Dr. Who in the long-running BBC series of the same name.
- Bill & Ted’s Phone Booth
The fate of humanity depends on the music of Wyld Stallyns, a band which will never come to fruition if high school students Bill and Ted fail their history exam in 1989’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Luckily, George Carlin has been sent from the year 2688 to ensure they make the grade, in a time machine that looks like a circa-1989 phone booth, presumably because there were no police boxes in Southern California.
Being stranded without a phone (or without a way to reach someone with a phone) has been a common plotline in films. The restriction of access to the people you need to reach can lead to some great dramatic tension, which is good for movie buffs, but bad for you. You don’t want to miss important calls because you’re away from the office and you don’t want to be unable to reach important associates or clients because you don’t have access to telecommunications services.
But what’s good for you and your business wouldn’t be great for your favorite films which, without the lack of phone access, wouldn’t be very exciting. Consider the perennial holiday favorite Home Alone films. Every installment of the five-deep franchise, beginning with the 1990 original written and directed by John Hughes, revolves around a boy who’s been left behind by his family, forced to fend for himself against burglars. The boy apparently can’t get a hold of his family at the airport and they don’t seem to notice that they left a son (or brother) behind, but had his parents had access to reliable cellphones service, the problem wouldn’t have existed in the first place. He could have called, gotten picked up and enjoyed his vacation, although there wouldn’t be any movie left.
Luckily, there will always be complications in films. As for your real life, make it as uncomplicated as possible with reliable telephone service providers.
VoIP is great for your business phone system, not just for its low cost and reliable service. It also includes a host of features that will help your small business succeed and keep you connected to your clients and important contacts. Here are just a few helpful features you will find on your VoIP telephone:
- Push-to-Talk: Have your network at your fingertips and get instant access to your important contacts, even those located remotely.
- Hold Music: When you need to put your customers on hold, keep them on the line with a custom message or music of your choice.
- Remote Connectivity: Whether you’re out of the state or just out of the office, you will always stay connected with remote connectivity.
- Online Management: View and tweak your account online with a website that lets you easily set up and modify your service.
- Simultaneous Ring: Don’t miss a call because you are out of the office, whether you are gone for the weekend or just stepped out for a coffee. Simultaneous Ring will allow your home or cell phone to ring simultaneously with your office phone.
- Voicemail-to-Email: Always have access to your important messages. Voicemail-to-Email will send your office voicemail directly to your email so you are never out of the loop.
In this season of heavy traveling, it is worth thinking about just how much distance your phone lines are, and are not, covering. The simple truth is that long distance phone service is costly and inefficient, especially if you have either employees or client bases located in many different locations. Like anything else, charges rack up.
But there is an easier way. A virtual phone number makes you ubiquitous. It, in essence, allows you to have numbers with the area code of your choice. Your employees could be anywhere in the world and receive business related phone calls, with no need to be based at the same location, or even in the same country, in order to work as one unified whole. And some additional advantages of a virtual number are:
- Zero Hassle: No need to replace your phones.
- Flexibility: No need to be in your office for you to receive calls, which allows you to stay in touch and on top of things anytime, anywhere.
- Easy to Use and Set Up: No complex background knowledge or technical skills required.
Because you can access all the features of our business VoIP phone system–phone, voicemail, and email–anywhere there is an internet connection, a virtual phone number frees you and your business from the chains of long distance charges.