You Might Not Hang Up On This Computerized Caller

Computers and telephones are wonderful things, but when combined, the results can be annoying--such as those computer-generated sales pitches that always seem to come during dinner. Now, a tiny New York company called Interactive Telephonics Inc. has come up with a mass-calling device that could actually be useful to consumers.

The device, called, appropriately enough, MassCall, not only dials hundreds or even thousands of preprogrammed numbers at once but also allows people receiving the calls to respond--by pushing the buttons on their phones. For example, a department store could call customers slated for a furniture delivery and ask whether it got there O.K. Any customer who pressed 2, indicating a problem, would get a follow-up call from a customer-service representative. While there are other mass-dialing devices on the market, Interactive Telephonics says none of them gives people a chance to respond. Of course, the system also could be used simply to broadcast annoying sales pitches. The setup, starting at $60,000, consists of proprietary computer boards that do the dialing and software that runs on IBM-compatible PCs.

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