Bits & Bytes
NOW, YOU CAN PUT A PHONE SYSTEM IN YOUR PC--CHEAP
Personal computers are cheap. Office phone systems, known as PBXs, are expensive. Inside, though, PCs and PBXs aren't all that different. So it was only a matter of time before somebody thought of slipping a specialized circuit board into a PC and making it a PBX. That trick has been pulled off by PCBX Systems Inc. in Santa Ana, Calif. The startup's $1,800 board can handle up to four incoming phone lines and up to 16 extensions. For more lines, customers just add more boards. The PBX program runs in the background, so the PC can still function as an ordinary computer. Software allows for such functions as call-waiting, transferring, conferencing, and selective blocking of access to long distance.
Ronald J. Greensides, vice-president of Sugar House Moving & Storage in Salt Lake City, says he bought a 30-line PCBX for $8,061, not counting wiring and phones. That's about two-thirds the quoted price of an AT&T Merlin system, which he says offered fewer features. PCBX executives figure they have a year or so before they're hit by clones--and price wars. Just like the PC business.EDITED BY EVAN I. SCHWARTZ