Skype: Free Video Calling

Skype Logo

Communication involves far more than words. When we hear a person’s tone of voice, when we see their gestures, posture, and facial expressions, we understand them far better, and more easily, than when we simply read an email. The more sensory content we exchange, the better we understand each other. That’s why the telephone superseded the telegraph and television superseded radio. And that’s why I’m excited about Skype.

Skype is an internet-based service that offers free “video calling,” among other things. It can be tremendously helpful, not only for people with aphasia, but for all of us.

Video calling is just what it sounds like: You see the person you are talking to, in real time, on your computer screen. You speak into the built-in microphone on your computer, or into a headset, and you can listen over the headset or over your computer’s speakers. Skype lets you talk to any other Skype user, anywhere in the world, for free.

If you have a computer, you can use Skype. Whether you use a PC or a Mac, you can download Skype and start using it within minutes. The basic equipment you need is:

  • a computer (Mac, Windows, or Linux)
  • an internet connection
  • your computer’s built-in microphone and speakers, or a headset
  • optionally (for full futuristic effect) a video camera
  • the free Skype software

Most current laptops include a built-in camera at the top of their display screen. For desktops or older laptops, inexpensive webcams are available that plug into your USB or other port to provide video capability. If you don’t have a camera or don’t want to use one, you can still make computer-to-computer voice calls over Skype; the sound quality is typically better than over a normal telephone line. And if you have difficulties speaking or prefer to type , you can use Skype for text chatting — even while the other person is using audio or video to talk to you.

Video calling on Skype is free. It’s hard to believe, but Skype lets you hold computer-to-computer calls with other Skype users for free, no matter where they live. I live in California, and when I speak with friends in Hong Kong, France, and New York over Skype, the quality of voice and picture is usually excellent—almost like being in the same room. If internet limitations cause poor video quality, we simply switch to an audio-only call, and that usually works without a hitch. And did I mention that these calls, whether audio or video, are FREE?

Other options. Calls on Skype are free as long as you are calling another Skype user, computer-to-computer. But Skype’s usefulness doesn’t stop there. For a small fee, you can use Skype to:

  • Call a landline or mobile phone
  • Text with a mobile phone user
  • Receive calls from landlines or mobile phones on your computer
  • Video-chat with more than one person at the same time (conference calls).

And these are only a few of the options — the list is growing from month to month.

Prices for these options beat most available alternatives.

Skype basics. When you register with Skype, you’ll choose a user name, which is like your “Skype phone number.” There’s even a Skype directory, which allows you to look up other Skype users by full name, Skype Name, or email address, so that you can add them to your list of contacts. Then you can call them with a couple of mouse clicks.

In future posts, we’ll provide step-by-step instructions on installing and using Skype on your computer. But if you don’t want to wait, simply go to Skype’s website now and follow the instructions on the site. Chances are, you too will become a Skype evangelist.

Shall we Skype?

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