Science & Technology



Helpware: Alexa, call home

Harold Glicken, Tribune News Service on

Published in Science & Technology News

We have a custom in my house regarding gifts that ensures the recipients get what they want. A neutral third party -- usually my daughter -- asks each of us what we want and tells the givers what to get. Then comes the charade: Each gift is beautifully wrapped, and each recipient acts totally surprised, as in, "Wow, a stand mixer -- I've always wanted one of those."

So it was when I received the gift of an Amazon Echo Connect, a device that enables Alexa-calling from a landline phone. You must have any of the Echo devices and a smartphone to set it up. But once it works, it's a delightful toy that costs only $35 at

You can start with "Alexa, call Sol's Deli." If it understands who Sol's Deli is -- which it sometimes doesn't -- it will dial the number, but only if you've uploaded your contacts to Amazon's servers. That requires a lot of faith that your contacts won't be hacked, however.

Once connected, you can order your hot pastrami on rye just by talking into the Echo device it's paired with. Or you can tell Alexa to use digits to dial Sol's Deli's number. Uh, you can also do that without the Connect just by punching in the number on your landline. If you have an iPhone, Siri will dial the number, too. But that's not the point. We geeks would rather go the extra block for the latest technology, even though trying to explain to the recipient of the stand mixer how the Connect is a fantastic device that no one, short of someone who doesn't have a landline, should ever be without.

Despite all the negative reviews on Amazon, it works. Well, it mostly works. If your contact has a foreign name, the Connect will search your contacts until it finds a match that's probably not even close to the person you want to talk to. If you have a bunch of Bluetooth phones, Connect must be next to the base phone.

Setup can be a bit complicated, and I had to phone Amazon tech support to figure out how to connect it to my home's Wi-Fi. That done, I used the supplied phone cord and splitter to connect the Connect to my wifi router and to the landline phone I was using. If you have two Echo devices, you can't use the second one to make calls. So, I had to decide whether I wanted the Connect in the kitchen or the den.

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No contest, stand mixer said, pointing to the den. Kitchen, den, wherever -- I wouldn't be without one, and if you're worthy of membership in the Geekdom Hall of Fame, you'll want one, too.

About The Writer

Harold Glicken is a retired newspaper editor. He can be reached at and a collection of his columns can be found at

(c)2018 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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