Tahoe residents take on area code maze
With the number of area codes in California expected to double within five years, how does a caller keep up with it all?
Add to that the proliferation of long-distance telephone companies offering different best rates for different types of calls, times of calls plus time zones called to and from, callers must find their way through a labyrinth to get the best deal.
Larry Manna of CompuWiz is trying to solve the labyrinth.
He and a team of three fellow cybertechs, soon to be four, have been working for several years to develop a database to maneuver through the tricks, turns and dead ends.
The team consists of Linda Goodman, Ken Downey and Judy McNally, who will soon be joined by Alexander Krivenyshev, a Russian computer wiz. They continue to work on websites and software to pay the bills while working on the “least-cost” software.
The group is working on a database for dialing from laptop computers that would automatically find the correct area code and the cheapest calling card.
“It knows where you’re dialing from and lets the software do the dialing,” Manna said from his living room office in South Lake Tahoe. “It knows how to override itself. … The data base knows free and local call perimeters anywhere in the North American dialing plan.
“We were the first to come up with the concept and get it to work,” said Manna, who began the concept six years ago.
While working out the details of the database – and there are a lot of details – they discovered 1,600 individual local phone companies and more than 30,000 alternative telephone companies with their own credit card systems.
The computer “checks the database to find which of those credit cards has assisted calling, checks the best rates and picks the best one,” Manna said. “The idea seems simple but it’s become a nightmare to try to create it.”
Manna’s team has searched through national databases that, if listed in print, would stretch half a mile.
“The printer wouldn’t print fast enough before the next issue,” Manna said.
All the information gleaned from the databases, 30 megabytes’ worth, has been condensed into 1 megabyte to fit into a laptop memory.
“We’ve been able to do it,” Manna said, calling the feat the “monster mash.”
With the database close to being marketable, Manna is looking for ways to make it better by including international information – Krivenyshev will help with that development – and using caller identification to automatically log times for billing purposes.
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