Freedom for Prisoners of Voice Mail

    Freedom for Prisoners of Voice Mail 1When you dig down past the megahertz and pixels and scroll wheels, all technology boils down to variations of “time is money” — and nobody knows it better than cellphone carriers. Every time you use your cellphone, you’re spending money.

    No wonder that when you call to check your messages, the carriers make you listen to a woman who has evidently overdosed on Ambien. “You have. Seven. New. Messages. You have. Two. Saved messages. To listen to your messages, press 1. When you are finished, you may hang up, or press 5 for more options. I will now read the Manhattan White Pages.”

    For those 20 seconds, you’re a sitting duck, forced to spend both time and money. The carrier is using technology to squeeze a few more cents out of you every day.

    But now you can fight technology with technology. Two new services, SpinVox and SimulScribe, use voice-recognition software to transcribe voice mail messages into e-mail.

    Why is this a brilliant, life-changing development? Let us count the ways:
    1. You can read message transcripts in a fraction of the time you’d spend listening to them.

    2. You now have random access to your messages. You will never again sit through five chit-chatty messages, unaware that Message 6 is a time-critical bit of urgency from your boss, your spouse or a friend who wants to give away an extra concert ticket.

    3. You don’t have to take notes as you listen, writing down people’s names and numbers. The notes have already been taken for you.

    4. Text is searchable, sortable, copyable, pastable, printable and forwardable. What an awesome
    thing, to have a Find command for your entire backlog of voice messages. Want to pull up that message about the Smithson merger? Just hit Find in your e-mail program, type “merger,” and pluck it out of the haystack.

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