Keeping in touch worldwide
I’ve always been an early adopter of technology. Nintendo Gameboy? Had one flown in from Japan 6 months before the UK launch. Laserdisc player anyone? Yep, had one of those too, and used to get the latest movies sent over from the States, sometimes while the film was still on in the cinema over here. But the one gadget that seems to have completely passed me by over the years is the webcam.
Why? I couldn’t really tell you. I do have friends overseas, but tend to phone or email them. Then, 2 months ago I got an excited call from Toronto. My friend Tim had a new arrival to the household: a Siberian Husky puppy named Kayia.
“Elliot, she’s adorable! Fire up your webcam and I’ll show you!”
There was an embarrassed silence before I explained that I didn’t own one. After Tim had pushed his jaw back up from the floor, he encouraged me to download Skype - a free application that allows you to make audio or video calls over the internet.
Somewhat tentatively I downloaded Skype from their website, plugged in an old microphone and less than ten minutes later, I was chatting to Tim and he was showing off his snoozing bundle of canine cuteness.
I was hooked. For a start, I was shocked at how clear the picture and especially the sound was - it really was like Tim was in the same room as me. And it wasn’t costing me a penny. I decided there and then I wanted a webcam.
I chose the HP HD-5210 Webcam. The room my computer’s in can be gloomy and I was worried about my face being in shadow. This particular model boasts HP TrueVision technology that ensures great-looking images, even in poor lighting. I also wanted a model with a microphone built-in so I could dispense with the old karaoke-style mic I’d used during my first Skype call.
Set up was simple – generally speaking, all the webcams we sell have a universal clip that fits laptops, LCD or CRT monitors, so positioning the camera wasn’t an issue. When I launched Skype - after installing the webcam software - it recognised there was some new kit connected to my desktop PC, and I was given the option of using the QuickCam Pro 9000 and its microphone.
Being a Skype convert I was eager to have more people to chat to. I harrassed my technophobe cousin and his wife in California and soon Skype was downloaded and running! Luckily their desktop Mac already has a webcam and microphone built in so they didn’t have to buy a thing. They were impressed with the picture too – especially as like the Microsoft LifeCam Cinema, this webcam can transmit in 720p HD video (not that I’d wish my mug in high definition on anyone!).
If you’re ready to embrace Skype, but have an older laptop that has no integral webcam, check out the Logitech C310 HD Webcam. Neat and lightweight, this clips onto the edge of the screen and is small enough to go in your laptop bag.
Anyway, must dash – there’s a Canadian canine 3500 miles away I need to catch up with!
Note: there are other free instant messenger programs available such as Google hangouts and Facetime for Apple devices. (Links open in a new window - please note that we can't be responsible for the content of external websites.)