What is caller ID?
To put it simply caller ID allows a person to see the phone number of the person calling and most of the time also the name. The number and sometimes name will be displayed on the phone, computer, or caller ID box, along with the date and time the person called. Most telephones and caller ID boxes will save a list of up to 99 numbers so you can check them later. This can be very useful if you are not willing to take certain calls, you can tell who is calling before hand.

How do I use caller ID?
In order to use caller ID you need a few things. First off a phone that accepts caller ID, or a caller ID box, or you can have caller ID software on your computer. However to use caller ID on your computer you need a modem that allows it. Make sure to check first. Second you need to have the service from your telephone company. Just a quick call can usually solve this. Just one little other thing that you might need is an additional phone cord for the caller ID box. You don't need an additional one for your phone because it is built in. And most caller ID boxes will come with an additional cord.

How much is it going to cost?
The monthly charges can range from phone company to phone company. In Halstad, MN it costs $2.50/mo. for caller ID number, and $3.50/mo. for caller ID name and number. From Qwest, the average cost is around $6.95/mo. You can get a caller ID phone for almost the same price as a regular phone, maybe up to $10.00 more. You can usually get a caller ID box for about $10.00 to $20.00 depending on the features you choose to get and the brand name. A lot of phone companies will in fact give you the caller ID box just for signing up.

How does caller ID work?
The phone company uses what is called frequency shift keying or FSK to transmit the callers data just like a 1,200 baud modem would. They send the data using ASCII format to the caller ID box, or phone. All of the data is sent in the first or second ring so you can get it right away. Frequency shift keying works by sending a frequency down the line to represent a 1 or a 0. Just like in binary code. Like 1,200 hertz to represent a binary 1 and 2,200 hertz to represent a binary 0. A modem changes frequencies depending on whether it wants to send a 1 or a 0. How quickly it changes frequencies determines the speed, or baud rate, of the modem. The caller ID box or phone has a modem in it to decode the data and display it on the screen. It also contain a little circuit to detect a ring and a very small processor. If you could here the just after the initial ring you would hear a small beep containing the data. If you decoded the beep you would get all the information sent to the caller ID box. To be more specific it would contain a series of alternating 1s and 0s to help the caller ID box get the timing down, a series of 180 1s, a byte representing the type of message, a byte representing the length of the message, Month, day, hour and minute, each represented with a pair of bytes, the 10 digit phone number in 10 bytes, and a checksum byte

How come people's numbers show up unavailable?
When people call you they have the option of leaving out their number by dialing *67 before they call. You too can dial *67 before you call and have your information blocked if you would like. Or if you are living in the UK you can dial 141 before your call. Another reason for this is because phone companies will hold back the name and number of a unlisted numbers. Sometimes you will also see unavailable if the system a person is calling from doesn't support caller ID or is out of range. You can fight back against unavailable numbers because of Anonymous Call Rejection (ACR or block blocking). This service should be available for free from your telephone company. A lot of the time a unavailable number is a telemarketer this will help stop the unwanted calls.

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I've recently entered into a business agreement with a friend of mine. He sells one form of the product that provides me sustenance, but doesn't really like to mess with the line of the product in which I specialize. I don't even have a license to sell that line which makes him a living. I've never been attracted to that particular aisle, and he feels the same way about Aisle Number 5 where I hang out. That's cool. Different strokes and all that.

In a recent conversation with him, I asked him what he thought about letting me have access to his files and I'd see if those folks on his Aisle Number 3 might be in need of what's over on Aisle 5. I offered to give him 30% of any money I made from business his clients did with me. He trusts me and didn't see any real downside, as long as I didn't piss his clients off by calling them, so I started.

I've been going to his office three times a week and pulling his files each time to get twenty names. He's got around 2,000 clients, so you can see that this will take a while. Gathering the names and information and putting them into a database of my own is the mindless work. I'm amazed that he has all these folks' information on paper. They are all housed in filing cabinets inside manila folders, half a dozen or so to each green hanging file folder. It seems like the Dark Ages to me. I spend about an hour in there gathering up my 20 contacts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and I see him and his partner and his clerical girl coming back and forth to these filing cabinets in order to assist their clients with whatever they need. They hunt and peck around for these paper files and all I can think about is, "Wouldn't it be worth your while to get all this on a computer so you could pull stuff up without having to leave your desk?" He's younger than me, so you'd think he'd have thought of this before I ever did. But he's stuck in some sort of textual time warp, and I don't want to piss him off by harping on it. It's his problem; not mine.

When I get through with this little project, I'll have a more complete data base of his clients than he does. I would think that would bother him just a little bit. As I said, he trusts me. He better.

The creative part comes when I have to pick up the phone and call these folks to discuss Aisle 5. I have to keep up because I don't want to be staring at a list of 2,000 folks to call one day. I have to call the 20 I just put in my data base before I go back to his office, and I've promised him I'll be there at 1:00 PM every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. When you work for yourself, you have to find ways like this to motivation. You have to set deadlines which only you know about, and you have to meet them. No one else tells you if you're getting behind, and no one else slaps you on the back and says, "Good job!" if you're keeping up. This is why most folks cannot work for themselves.

Here's where I have to tell you how much I hate telemarketers. "Well, isn't that what you're doing, dannye? You asshole! You're such a hypocrite!" Back that dump truck up, Mr. Negativity. I am calling folks who have a business relationship with my friend and they know his name very well. When I mention his name, they do not hang the phone up and say, "Get the fuck off my phone, you asswipe!" This is what we would call a referred lead. Telemarketers are doing cold calling. That is when they do not know me from Adam's housecat and I realize just seconds after their call that I'm just another name on a very impersonal list to them. These telemarketers are killing me, because they've made Mr. and Mrs. Consumer pissed off at the phone even before they pick it up. I can overcome this initial animosity, but it makes it a lot tougher to make pleasant conversation.

The basic problem with telemarketing is that it's cheap for the callers but not for those folks on the other end of the line. Tons of these calls every day and night has led to a situation where many folks will pay monthly fees for services to hamper it. And, yet, the telemarketers find ways around these, like random-digit dialing to reach unlisted numbers and jamming of caller ID. Have you been getting more hang-ups in recent years? So has everybody else. Here's the reason. The bastards have devised a predictive dialer that makes several phone calls at once but connects a sales representative only to the first person who picks up. The rest of the folks who pick up hear a dead line, which can be unsettling if you don't realize it's probably just another telemarketer wasting your time. And, once you realize that's what it is, it pisses you off even more. You'll usually get these calls in the mornings. They want to go home early, too.

OK, that rant is over. Now let me tell you what pisses ME off the worst in this situation I'm in with my friend. It's this damn Caller ID every swinging dick and duchess seems to have on their phone these days. I don't have that. I would feel as if I was wasting my money to pay for that crap. I don't think I'm so important that I need to see who's calling me before I pick the phone up. I guess if I was being stalked, I could understand it. But for normal folks? I don't get it.

However, that's their business. Unfortunately, it is now having a large impact on me. A lot of these folks I call aren't home. I don't leave a /msg on their phone; I just make a note to call some other time. And now, over and over, my phone is ringing with someone I don't know saying, "I got home and this number was on my phone. Did you call me?" Or, even worse, "Who called me from this number?" in an arrogant tone, as if I'd pissed on their living room carpet. ARRRRGHHH!! I want to say, "Do you call every fucking number you see on your phone every fucking day when you get home? What if it's a wrong number, asswad? Could you possibly be more of a helpless loser?"

But I don't. I make nice because I promised my friend that I would not piss his clients off. So I say, "I might have called you. What is your name?" Luckily, when they tell me, I can quickly hit "search" on my computer program where these names are stored and, even if the name only appears in the notes somewhere, I can find them within 30 seconds. Can you imagine how long it would take my friend to find them in those cabinets with those manila folders?

I'm thinking of just moving over to Aisle 3 and taking over his business for him. He's spending way too much time on the golf course to make a living, anyway.

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