Computer spokesman: 'George calling'

We received a telephone call from George the other night. At least, we think he said his name was George. George didn't apologize for having dialed us up during the dinner hour. But he did mention that he was a computer, and he wanted to ask us some questions about the insurance industry and tax laws.

George's call, we might note, was not unique. We heard from another computer a night or so back. He identified himself as the spokescomputer for a retail store and he wanted to tell us about a new sale. He also rang us up during the dinner hour.

Now, a chat with a computer during the dinner hour may be dandy for some folks, but we confess to a slight tinge of annoyance. Have you ever tried to tell a three-year-old that, no, that wasn't Grandpa on the phone, that was just a computer - a computer named George?

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Interrupting a family's dinner makes one yearn to turn over the computer spokesman to a prerecorded answering machine.

The Federal Communications Commission has no rules for regulating recorded telephone advertisements. Regulation comes under the purview of state agencies, many of which seem quite tolerant of such practices, since the use of such prerecorded ads appears to be rising around the United States. One hapless person we know of even heard from a computer at 3 o'clock in the morning - extolling the virtues of his telephone system, of all things. Whatever happened to the good old days when all you had to deal with was ad-cluttered mail?

No offense meant, George.

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