USB <-> Telephone Audio?

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USB <-> Telephone Audio?

Postby Jorpho » Thu Mar 08, 2012 4:10 am UTC

I've never quite understood why voice modems never took off. It seems quite practical to use one's computer as an answering machine and convenient record messages and conversations as one sees fit. Of course, the technology in question was expensive for a long time, I suppose.

But it occurs to me that times must surely have changed by now. Is there some convenient USB device out there into which I can plug a land-line telephone cord, such that I can use my microphone to speak to the telephone, and hear things through my speakers, and so on? I've heard of the MagicJack, of course, but that's different – I'm not interested in anyone's VOIP service, and I'm quite happy with my existing telephone provider.
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Re: USB <-> Telephone Audio?

Postby LikwidCirkel » Thu Mar 08, 2012 5:04 pm UTC

As far as I know, pretty much any "fax modem" will do this, and it really becomes an issue of finding the right software.

There must still exist USB fax modems, although they might be pretty old tech.
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Re: USB <-> Telephone Audio?

Postby Jorpho » Fri Mar 09, 2012 3:15 am UTC

LikwidCirkel wrote:As far as I know, pretty much any "fax modem" will do this
Definitely not all of them, though. It has to have some kind of audio-digitization functionality, and they didn't all used to have that.

Any suggestions...?
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Re: USB <-> Telephone Audio?

Postby Carnildo » Sat Mar 10, 2012 8:31 pm UTC

Jorpho wrote:
LikwidCirkel wrote:As far as I know, pretty much any "fax modem" will do this
Definitely not all of them, though. It has to have some kind of audio-digitization functionality, and they didn't all used to have that.

Every "winmodem" or "host-controlled" modem had the functionality, it's just that the drivers often didn't expose it to user-level software.
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Re: USB <-> Telephone Audio?

Postby Jorpho » Sat Mar 10, 2012 9:43 pm UTC

I'm rather skeptical about that. Why would they have hardware speakers on them, then? It would be an utterly needless expense.
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Re: USB <-> Telephone Audio?

Postby Carnildo » Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:15 am UTC

Jorpho wrote:I'm rather skeptical about that. Why would they have hardware speakers on them, then? It would be an utterly needless expense.

A winmodem has a hardware speaker because the customer expects it to.
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Re: USB <-> Telephone Audio?

Postby Jorpho » Thu Mar 15, 2012 2:09 am UTC

Oh, come on! High-pitched obnoxious modem noises were the bane of many a user's existence back in the day; I can even recall a column advising users to go in and snip the wire leading to the speaker if it couldn't be silenced any other way. If it was easy and feasible to route it through the sound card, I suspect it would have been done – after all, wasn't the whole point of a winmodem keeping costs down?

I'll believe it if someone can show the relevant drivers/software.
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Re: USB <-> Telephone Audio?

Postby Carnildo » Thu Mar 15, 2012 6:20 am UTC

Jorpho wrote:Oh, come on! High-pitched obnoxious modem noises were the bane of many a user's existence back in the day; I can even recall a column advising users to go in and snip the wire leading to the speaker if it couldn't be silenced any other way. If it was easy and feasible to route it through the sound card, I suspect it would have been done – after all, wasn't the whole point of a winmodem keeping costs down?

It wasn't the modems that were the problem, it was the sound cards. Back when winmodems were popular, the typical sound card had one digital-to-analog converter and one or two analog inputs, leading to a two- or three- input analog mixer. Mixing multiple digital inputs (say, a system beep and the modem dial sounds) had to be done in software, and prior to the widespread availability of DIrectSound in Windows 98, sound card drivers almost never supported this. Because modem manufacturers couldn't count on their sounds being played if they routed them through software, they either included a speaker on the card, or ran a wire from the modem to one of the sound card's analog inputs.

A software answering machine doesn't have this problem: you route the digital audio to/from the hard drive when a call comes in, then route it from the hard drive to the sound card at your leisure.
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Re: USB <-> Telephone Audio?

Postby Jorpho » Thu Mar 15, 2012 1:26 pm UTC

Carnildo wrote:It wasn't the modems that were the problem, it was the sound cards. Back when winmodems were popular, the typical sound card had one digital-to-analog converter and one or two analog inputs, leading to a two- or three- input analog mixer. Mixing multiple digital inputs (say, a system beep and the modem dial sounds) had to be done in software, and prior to the widespread availability of DIrectSound in Windows 98, sound card drivers almost never supported this.
One or two analog inputs was enough. There were TV cards and games that used redbook CD audio back in the day, after all.
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Re: USB <-> Telephone Audio?

Postby Jorpho » Tue May 01, 2012 5:54 am UTC

I never did get to the bottom of this.

Any suggestions?
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Re: USB <-> Telephone Audio?

Postby PhoenixEnigma » Tue May 01, 2012 6:07 am UTC

What you're looking for is an FXS to USB adapter. There's a big list here, though I can't vouch for any of them in particular.
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Re: USB <-> Telephone Audio?

Postby Jorpho » Tue May 01, 2012 1:38 pm UTC

PhoenixEnigma wrote:What you're looking for is an FXS to USB adapter.
No, I don't think so...

Using an FXS to USB adapter it is possible to connect a conventional telephone to a personal computer.
This seems to be more akin to the MagicJack I mentioned above. The object is not to connect a conventional telephone to a computer, but to connect a conventional telephone line to a computer.
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Re: USB <-> Telephone Audio?

Postby Yakk » Tue May 01, 2012 8:22 pm UTC

Jorpho wrote:
PhoenixEnigma wrote:What you're looking for is an FXS to USB adapter.
No, I don't think so...

Using an FXS to USB adapter it is possible to connect a conventional telephone to a personal computer.
This seems to be more akin to the MagicJack I mentioned above. The object is not to connect a conventional telephone to a computer, but to connect a conventional telephone line to a computer.

A phone line pushes power, while a phone simply pulls current.

This is useful:
http://www.patton.com/technotes/fxs_fxo.pdf
An FXS port is where you plug a telephone into.
An FXO port is where you plug a telephone line into.

So what you want is USB to FXO adapter. Which are listed on that page. You want one that does as much as possible in software. On the page, most of them are ATAs (ie, they are intended to be used for VOIP).

I don't know if the ones listed will do what you want or not. But at least you have the name of the connection!
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Re: USB <-> Telephone Audio?

Postby Jorpho » Wed Aug 22, 2012 2:37 am UTC

This unexpectedly turned up today:
http://www.dragonext.com/new-usb-teleph ... -edm4.html

A hundred bucks from the cheapo electronics folks in China... and it's still only record-only.

I have to conclude that there's just no cheap and easy way to do this. It baffles me.
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Re: USB <-> Telephone Audio?

Postby KnightExemplar » Wed Aug 22, 2012 3:20 am UTC

Wait... what?

http://sewelldirect.com/VoiceFax-56K-US ... 4AodpR4AGw

Its a USB -> Voice Modem for $16. Thats all the hardware you need. Everything on top of that is just a software problem. The question now is if there is an Open Source group that actually handles this. This software: http://www.concelsys.com/voice_modem_so ... er_apr.htm is $45, so ultimately thats still cheaper than the $100 solution you posted. And that price of software seems reasonable to me at least...

EDIT: Looking into it a bit more, it sounds like you want a TAM modem, like this model: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6825134006 . It apparently comes with free telephone software too.
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Re: USB <-> Telephone Audio?

Postby Jorpho » Wed Aug 22, 2012 4:07 am UTC

TAM, you say? Somehow that has not come up before.

Alas, that one you linked to seems to have no Windows 7 drivers (or 64-bit drivers, anyway).
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Re: USB <-> Telephone Audio?

Postby Jorpho » Sat Sep 15, 2012 6:10 am UTC

Armed with this new information, I headed to eBay and have ended up with a TrendNet TFM-560U.

It seems the popular OEM software for these things is something called Classic PhoneTools. It sort of works – I can get it to place calls, and I hear the response over my computer speakers, but to put it succinctly, it's a rather clumsy application. Can someone suggest a free/open source alternative?
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Re: USB <-> Telephone Audio?

Postby roflwaffle » Sun Oct 07, 2012 3:12 pm UTC

Have you looked at vgetty?
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Re: USB <-> Telephone Audio?

Postby Jorpho » Sun Oct 07, 2012 5:06 pm UTC

Nope, can't say I've heard of vgetty until now; thank you for the suggestion. I don't suppose there's a Windows version of it somewhere, is there?
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