News & Reviews

How To Demo Phone Apps Painlessly

Computer Telephony Magazine - May, 1996
by Harry Newton

There I was spending $120K renting "state-of-the-art" zillion-lumen projectors and rock-concert audio and half my beloved "Secret Vault" presenters at CT Expo '96 were sticking garbage mikes above even worse speakerphones and doing "class act" demos.

It was disgusting.

A couple (including Wildfire) were intelligent. They brought stuff along from a small company called JK Audio (Sandwich, IL --815-786-2929 / 800-552-8346). JK Audio's stuff is incredible. I have no hesitation recommending it to anyone who's doing demos on a phone and wants to pump the sounds into a massive theater sound system (like the one I had) or a simple $100 Sony amplified speaker (like many of the exhibitors had at their booths).

JK Audio has two boxes. The one I bought for myself (Yes, I actually paid cash) is QuickTap. "Blind Freddie," my mythical technical idiot, can use this thing. It is a little black box, about half the size of a cigarette box. It fits in your pocket. It has three "holes." Two are the size of a handset RJ-11. Plug the handset into this box. Plug this box into the phone. It comes with a foot-long cable.

The third hole is a 1/8" output jack -- the size that comes at the end of your headphones. Plug your amplified speaker/s into this one.

I did. I called several people. I called a couple of interactive voice response machines. I could hear both sides of my conversation crystal clear. And I mean crystal clear. Compare the quality of QuickTap's sound output to sticking a mike in front of a speakerphone. It's like comparing a $10,000 Bose to a $5 scratchy AM receiver.

QuickTap is so good because it has access to the transmit and receive signals in the handset separately and therefore can do a better job of balancing both sides of the calls. I mean "better" when compared with the $20 Radio Shack device I wrote about a couple of issues ago, which I no longer recommend. The Radio Shack device is a tip and ring device. It sits between the phone and the CO or PBX. It can't balance both sides of the conversation because it simply doesn't have access to them separately.

The other good thing about QuickTap is that you can use it on pretty well any telephone -- from simple tip and ring to proprietary digital phones. Unplug the handset cord, plug QuickTap in and bingo, you're live. No hunting around clients' offices for tip and ring phones. And you can still use your handset which is real handy for remote speech recognition demos, like Wildfire. QuickTap is $59.

JK Audio also makes a $150 thing called THAT-1, which is like QuickTap with a couple of added wrinkles. The big wrinkle is an RCA jack which lets you send audio up the phone line, e.g. a demo to someone distant.

THAT-1 also has a pushbutton which selects between your handset microphone or the external audio as the audio input source. The pushbutton is useful as a microphone mute button. The THAT-1 also has a volume control knob which lets you adjust the volume going to your amplified speaker or PA system. THAT-1 was the device Wildfire used at CT Expo. The volume control knob meant they could more finely adjust their line input to my $120K gigantic sound system without having to shout to people several hundred feet away.