Emerson Switchboard: "Does It Work?"

If your computer is still hooked to the internet through a standard phone modem you've probably considered purchasing a second phone line. But that monthly charge adds up, so a lot of people, just try to make it with one line. But you need your phone for traditional reasons too. Well., there's a product out there called the Emerson Switchboard. Its makers claim their device can work with your call-waiting service to give you the best of both worlds...an uninterrupted internet connection, and all your phone calls. But does it work?

The Emerson Switchboard came to us in a plain white box. An AC adapter is an option. But we didn't pay the extra 10 dollars for one. Fortunately, it takes a battery. So we loaded the 9 volt and volunteer John Love and I prepared to test it out.

John talked about the problems he has with his current set up. "Well, we either don't get the calls or it will knock us off the computer when we get a call."

Setup is easy enough. Just plug some phone cords into the gadget, which connect on the other end to your phone, your computer and the wall. You'll want to make sure you enable call waiting on your computer if you have it disabled with the *70 feature.

The instructions make recommendations for other setting changes that maximize the switchboard's effectiveness. In about 5 minutes we're set up and ready for a test run.

John's in charge of the web surfing. And we'll be calling his home number on the cell phone. If it works the way it's supposed to, the phone call will put his web connection on hold, while he takes a brief call.

In short, we tried it five times. None of the calls was longer than 5 seconds. The Emerson Switchboard worked on the shortest of those... probably about 2 seconds. Trouble is, 2 seconds wasn't even long enough for John to identify the person on the other end and hang up.

So, does it work?

"No, I don't think so," says John. "It knocked me off every time except one. So 4 out of 5 times, it knocked me off."

A few days later, John solved his phone line dilemma with a cable modem.

The Emerson Switchboard cost us about 40 bucks. With the AC adapter it's 50.

We saw advertisements claiming the Emerson Switchboard will work with any internet provider. In the instructions included in the device, the maker makes it clear that you're at the mercy of your internet provider which decides how long your connection can be placed on hold. It suggests adjustments on your end. We made them, but it didn't seem to make a difference.