Twilight of the telephone?

Surf the Web from your TV. Make phone calls from your computer.

The long-hyped "convergence" trend keeps picking up speed.

So how was the connection on Work & Money's first incoming Internet-carried phone call?


Early in the assigning process on today's lead story, writer Kelly Hearn, sitting in front of a "miked" computer, left a voicemail message that reminded me of my days across the room at the international-news desk.

Kelly came across slightly slurred, like a correspondent on a satellite phone from the Cursed Mountains in Kosovo. His voice had that hollow sound and there were some broken words.

That's OK. Infant technology. Alexander Graham Bell probably had to shout to Mr. Watson.

Technology and service will get better fast, mainly because consumers - many of whom have about had it with big-billing phone companies - will demand it.

They like the price.

E-mail gets fired around the world for the cost of a local calls to service providers. Pulling up to the computer for a real-time, spoken conversation will be a thrill.

There will be costs involved that may ultimately be passed along - that of maintaining networks of phone lines, for one.

But by then, more consumers may be surfing the wireless Web.

Some tech writers expect it will be years before wireless becomes standard in the United States. Who knows? In Japan, skirmishes among phone and cable outfits are being made moot by a wireless rush. By one account, 85 percent of Japanese will have wireless connections to the Web by 2003.

And choppy calls from desktop PCs? As old as the rotary phone.

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(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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