The advances in technology are often staggering. Websites, email, personal computers and cell phones are common, but a few decades ago they were all but unheard of; they've revolutionized how we communicate. One of the many options in communication is available through Skype, a company that specializes in video and audio communication over the Internet. If you have a Mac computer but no broadband Internet, you do have options for using Skype, though they're fairly limited.
What Is Skype?
Skype is a system for using the Internet to place and receive phone calls. The technology is called VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol. Your Internet connection allows you to send and receive data of all types, like text in emails, pictures in websites and videos on YouTube. You could also send and receive sound files, like MP3s. What Skype does is send audio -- your voice -- to another person; at the same time it receives audio -- the other person's voice -- and lets you hear it. It does this fast enough that there's no noticeable lag, and the effect is the same as talking on a regular landline. You can use special phones to make Skype calls or you can use a microphone and speakers with your computer, and you can call individuals or set up group calls. Skype even offers video calling with webcams. You do need a Skype account to make and receive Skype calls.
Dial-Up versus Broadband
A dial-up Internet connection uses a modem to get you online. The modem interacts with your phone line by sending and receiving analog signals. It connects to your Internet service provider, who communicates with the modem and delivers the data that you need, like a website or an email message. Dial-up Internet is comparatively slow, at 56 kbps (kilobits per second). Broadband connections use DSL (digital subscriber line) or cable. DSL also uses phone lines, but it uses digital signals and has transmission rates of up to 6 Mbps (megabits per second), as of February 2011. Cable Internet uses cable lines, like the what you'd use for cable TV. Cable is faster than DSL, and it has theoretical rates up to 50 Mbps, though most cable connections are not nearly that fast.
The requirements to run Skype aren't stringent: you need Windows XP, Vista or the Windows 7 operating system and basic hardware, like a 1-gigahertz processor and 256 to 512MB of RAM. The Internet connection requirements are also not stringent, except for video calling and some group calling situations. For calling a single person, the bare minimum for Skype is 30 kbps for both download and upload speeds. That's not much, as dial-up connections meet this requirements. Broadband choices also meet this requirement. A dial-up modem offers speeds of 56 kbps, almost twice the minimum for Skype. So yes, you can use Skype on a Mac without a broadband Internet connection. However, call quality may be low quality on a dial-up connection. The recommended speed is 100 kbps for download and upload, so a connection at that speed would give you a much better experience.
Skype for Mac
The current Mac version of Skype, as of February 2011, is Skype 5.0. This version supports many features not previously available to Mac users, like group video calling and offline options for instant messaging. The download file for the Mac version is just 19MB. The Mac version also supports Skype-to-Skype calling, where you can call another Skype user for free, and you can also use Skype to send text messages to your contacts.
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