Voice Mail is a relatively new concept and not much has been said about it. It is a very useful tool for the business person and the phreak. The way it works is that somebody wishing to get in touch with you calls a number, usually a 1-800, and punches in on his touch-pad your mailbox number and then he is able to leave a message for you. Business experts report that this almost totally eliminates telephone tag. When a person wishes to pick up his message all he needs to do is call the number enter a certain code and he can hear his messages, transfer them, and do other misc. mailbox utilities.
Most VMSs are similar in the way they work. There are a few different ways the VMSs store the voice. One way is that the voice is recorded digitally and compressed and when heard it is reproduced back into the voice that recorded it. Another method that is slower and uses more space, but costs less, stores the voice on magnetic tape, the same type that is used to store data on a computer, and then runs the tape at a slow speed. Using this method the voice does not need to be reproduced in any way and will sound normal as long as the tape is running at a constant speed. On some of the newer VMSs the voice is digitally recorded and is transformed from the magnetic tape at about 2400 bits per second.
There are many different types and versions of voice mail systems. Some of the best and easiest to get on will be discussed.
These are direct dial (you don’t have to enter a box number). To get on one of these, first have a number to any box on the system. All of the other boxes will be on the same prefix; just start scanning them until you find one that has a message saying that person you are calling is not available. This usually means that the box has not been assigned to anybody yet. Before the nice lady’s voice tells you to leave the message, hit #. You will then be prompted for your password. The password will usually be the same as the last four digits of the box’s number or a simple number like 1000, 2000, etc. Once you get on, they are very user friendly and will prompt you with a menu of options. If you can’t find any empty boxes or want to do more, you can hack but the system administrators box, which will usually be 9999 on the same prefix as the other boxes, will allow you to hear anybody’s messages and create and delete boxes.
These systems are very nice. They will usually be found on an 800 number. These are one of the hardest to get a box on because you must hack out a user ID (different from the person’s box number) and a password. When it answers, if it says, “This is a Sperry Link voice station. Please enter your user ID,” you will have to start trying to find a valid user ID. On most Sperrys it will be a five digit number. If it answers and says, “This is an X answering service,” you first have to hit *# to get the user number prompt. Once you get a valid user number will have to guess the password on most systems, it will be 4 digits. Once you get in, these are also very user friendly and have many different options available.
This is probably one of the worst VMSs but it is by far the easiest to get yourself a box. When it answers you can hit * for a directory of the boxes on it (it will only hold 23). If you hit # you will be given a menu of options and when you choose an option you will then be prompted for your ID number. The ID number on an RSVP system will just about always be the same as the mailbox number, which are always only 2 digits.
The Aspen voice message systems made by Octel Telecommunications is in my opinion the BEST VMS made. To get a box on an Aspen, you need to find an empty box. To find an empty box, scan the box numbers and if one says, “You entered XXXX. Please leave a message at the tone,” then this is an empty box. You next just press # and when prompted for your box number enter the number of the empty box and friendly voice of the nice lady will guide you through all of the steps of setting up your box. She first tells you what you can do with the box and then will prompt you with, “Please enter the temporary password assigned to you by your system manager.” This password will usually be 4 digits long and the same as the box number like 1000, etc. Once you get on their are many things you can do. You can make a distribution list where if you want to leave a certain message to more than one person, you can enter the list number and all of the boxes on the list will get the message. You can also have the system call you and notify you that you have new messages. These systems also have what they call “Information center mailboxes” that are listen only and can also have a password on them so the person calling has to enter the password before he hears the greeting message. Aspen VMSs have a system managers mailbox that will just about give you total control of the whole system and let you listen to people’s mail, create and delete boxes, and many other things.