Directory Assistance, And How

FINDING TELEPHONE NUMBERS OUTSIDE YOUR CALLING area is often a chore, especially when you don't know which area code to check. To help, PC411 Inc. in Inglewood, Calif., has a computer service that scans directory information for more than 90 million homes and businesses across the country, all in less than a minute. It returns telephone numbers, addresses, and zip codes to your desktop computer, either individually or in groups. No operators are involved.

PC411 is not alone in providing nationwide directory assistance; AT&T now offers a voice service for 75 cents a pop. PC411's charges, on the other hand, start at 50 cents per search. Because the company runs its own data network, customers can dial in to its computer with a local phone call. All that's required is a software package it sells for $24.95 ($15 of which is credited toward usage), a computer that runs any version of Microsoft Windows, and a modem. Copies of the software are also available at no charge on the World Wide Web--httpl// --and may be freely copied for use by friends.