I screen, you screen, we all screen

You already know how I do it: with a piece of pricey hardware to block most incoming calls. Here’s a more-amusing alternative:

Ten years ago, Susan and I purchased a talking caller ID box. It’s one of the greatest inventions ever, and I’m not sure why they didn’t completely replace normal called ID boxes. When our phone rings, a pleasant female voice speaks the number aloud, area code first.

Whenever a long distance caller is announced, there’s a little game I play. If I’m sitting in my lounge chair near my laptop, I’ll click on Google whenever I hear the phone begin to ring. At the end of the first ring, the box begins to announce the number. “Four, zero, five … ” During the second ring I’ll type the phrase “area code 405” (or whatever area code was just announced) into Google. During the phone’s third ring, Google spits back the results. Typically I don’t have to click on any of the links; the information should appear somewhere in the first hit or two. That gives me the fourth ring to determine whether or not I know anybody from that area code, and if I should pick up the phone.

Apparently it’s still possible to buy a Caller ID unit with a voice box, though I have no idea whether its voice is pleasant, or even female.

And this, in turn, suggests a new Google application: a Caller ID box which connects to Google and immediately returns the appropriate information. Ultimately it could be incorporated into a VoIP phone or even a Web-enabled cell phone.

Or how about this: the box connects to whocalled.us and sends up a query. If there’s a match in their database, the call is automagically hung up before you ever hear the ring.

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