Not one to let a new trend pass me by, I've recently learned to "Skype." This cutting-edge techno fad has only been around since 2003 -- a mere 10 years -- which is about how long it takes me to try something new. But since my husband is away on a business trip, I thought I'd give it a look-hear.

First, let me explain what Skype is, in case you haven't tried anything new in 10 years either. Skype is essentially a "videophone" that allows you to see your caller simply by using your computer. I've always wanted one of these, ever since watching "Buck Rogers" and "Star Trek." As a kid, I was sure Walt Disney was working on this telecommunication of the future. After all, I saw prototypes at Disneyland's "House of the Future" back in the '50s.

Now, five decades later, Skype, not Disney, finally came up with a device that lets callers not only hear each others' voices over long distance but also see our loved ones dressed only in their underwear, our friends drunk at a party, or our relatives' cats. And it's all free-ish!

All you need is an Internet connection (not free), a computer with a microphone and speakers (not free), and a "webcam" (not free). Once you have the equipment, then you simply follow these easy steps:

1. Download Skype and create yet another account and forgettable password.

2. Click on one of your "contacts." No one on your contact list? Bummer. You'll need some "contacts."

3. When you finally get a contact, check to see if he is online.


Advertisement

4. Click "video-call" and listen to the catchy Skype tune while waiting for your friend to answer.

5. When he does, smile (make sure there's nothing in your teeth), wave (the Queen's wave is best since the viewing screen is limited) and say, "hello" (in fact, say it several times to make sure your friend can hear you.)

6. While you chat, play with the options to increase the aesthetics of your call. Adjust your volume, change the light, add color, include bizarre backgrounds, draw on mustaches, etc.

7. If you can't see your friend, click a bunch of keys, check your settings, call tech support, go to the Apple genius bar, or hang up and use your regular phone.

That's it. Now, whenever my husband is on a business trip, we Skype. Our conversations go something like this:

Me: "Hi!" (Remove glasses.)

Him: "Hi!"

Me: "How was your day?" (Hide new purchases.)

Him: "Oh, fine. Yours?

Me: "Fine." (Lean out of view and sneak a sip of wine.)

Him: "What's new?"

Me: "Not much. What about you?" (Play solitaire while waiting for answer.)

Him: "Same. Just watching sports on TV."

Me: "Ah."(Turn on TV and watch anything but sports.)

Him: "Your hair's sticking out."

Me: "Thanks." (Pat it down.) "Have you put on weight?"

Him: "Ga--be--du--mo--You're breaking up."

Me: "Yeah, you too." (Matt Damon is on "Ellen!")

After a few more words of garbled jibberish, I shake my head, which means "this sucks" in Skype language. We hang up.

Pretty amazing stuff. I can't wait until the next new invention. Maybe 3-D holograms of our loved ones beamed right into our homes, so we can sit and drink wine and watch the news on TV together, without saying a word. Just like real life.

Reach Penny Warner at www. pennywarner.com.

---