Life with the new call screener

I mentioned elsewhere that I was buying one of these, and now that it’s been here for 36 hours, I feel I can give it a reasonable assessment.

The actual hookup is ridiculously simple: you run the usual phone cord from the wall jack into the LINE IN jack, connect the phone to the PHONE jack, and connect the answering machine to the ANS MACH jack. It does require an available AC outlet.

The documentation, alas, is not very good. The manufacturer (I bought this from a reseller) would like you to envision this as a complete “household telephone management system,” and their manual focuses on all the positive benefits of the system with various available-at-extra-cost extensions, while I suspect most buyers just want to know the quick-and-dirty negative stuff: “How do I keep this SOB from ringing my phone?”

I did note with some amusement that one number is already keyed into the memory: the manufacturer’s tech-support line.

How it works, with my particular options enabled, on any given incoming call:

  • The number is compared to what’s in the database. The search order: number exact match, number wildcard match, name exact match, name wildcard match.

  • If there’s a match, the database record is pulled up and the specified action is taken. (In this case, the action is: route directly to answering machine, do not ring.)
  • If there’s no match, the call rings through.

This is at the lowest level of screening, which I anticipate will be all I need. At the highest level of screening, only numbers that are in the database and tagged for automatic approval will be allowed to ring through. People who get threatening calls might consider the highest level. (There’s one intermediate level.)

There are remotes which can be added to this contraption; it’s possible to set an incoming call from, say, daughter’s scruffy boyfriend, to ring only at daughter’s extension. (Of course, he calls on her cell phone anyway, but such is life.)

In practice, operation is pretty seamless. If you dial an outgoing number, the machine will display it, in case you want to go ahead and enter it into the database without waiting for a call from it. (Which, incidentally, is how I set up my initial ban list.) Of the three incoming calls so far this weekend, one was a test from my cell phone, which was let through; two were from telemarketers via a wildcard match, who were sent immediately to the answering machine with no ring. The ban list contains wildcards for all four common toll-free NPAs (800, 888, 877, 866) and two numbers which annoy me on a regular basis. Hardware geeks will note that there are eight actual DIP switches on the back, for setting various arcane options. I didn’t need any of them.

Verdict: Pricey, perhaps, but it sure is quiet around here.



  1. McGehee »

    7 January 2007 · 12:31 pm

    I wish my cell phone had something like that, but the closest I can come with the phone I have, is to set an unobtrusive ringtone for a group I’ve called “Banned,” to which I have to add individual numbers that bug me.

    I suppose we could pay extra to Vonage to have something like this on our “landline” phone, but I’d have expected such a feature to be default rather than optional. What the hell good is all this technology if it doesn’t do what people want it to do?

  2. CGHill »

    7 January 2007 · 12:38 pm

    I seldom get annoying calls on the cell, but this is mostly because it’s not on during much of the week: my office is located in a dead zone and the phone can’t be bothered to cough up one lousy bar most of the time, so I figure, why run down the battery?

    And rather a lot of people don’t want you to have what you want. Example: all the exceptions to the Federal Do Not Call list, over and above the long list of scofflaws.

  3. Mister Snitch! »

    8 January 2007 · 12:18 am

    I agree with McGehee. Mainly because I like the way that sounds.

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