Our home intercom has been connected to a computer for about fifteen years. The auxiliary input of the intercom is connected to the audio output of the server. We almost never use the other intercom inputs.
The computer has been supplying us data about the outside through canned announcements and text-to-speech. What sort of data? Here is a list of all the announcements I can think of:
- when the garage door is opening, closing, or has been open for quite a while;
- important changes in our stock portfolio, at the end of the trading day;
- when the real mailbox is opened;
- a reminder the night before, and on the morning of recycling pickup day;
- trash day, of course;
- who is calling on the telephone (see below for the latest about this);
- birthday and anniversary reminders;
- a morning announcement, starting with either change-ringing or Stephen Fry;
- followed by the astronomical events for the day, a brief weather forecast for the next few days, and the top news headlines;
- an announcement when the International Space Station is passing overhead, but only at reasonable viewing angles and times;
- an announcement of iridium flares, also at the right heights and times;
- a chime at the top of the hour, but only during waking hours. The chime is different if the home Internet connection is down;
- a recording of big ben at noon;
- breaking news headlines;
- detection of evil activity on the secured internal network;
You would think all this would result in a lot of clamor, but it doesn’t. Occasionally an announcement comes at an inconvenient time, but we miss some of these services when we are away.
The job of announcing incoming calls is a special one. Some numbers are well known, and we play special recordings for them. For most of the rest, the text of the caller ID string is played, and usually works pretty well. These announcements have been very handy to identify the person who is interested in the call.
But there are a number of problematic numbers…