Skype is all the rage these days. Be it for free voice and video calls or cheap long distance, more and more people are using Skype instead of a phone to talk to friends and family. But can any computer run Skype? And what external hardware is needed to use the program?
The things that are absolutely needed to run Skype are a working microphone and working speakers. This could consist of a microphone plugged into your computer and your standard desktop speakers, or it could be a headset purchased especially for Skype. You just need some way of talking and listening.
Many laptops have microphones and speakers built in. If you have Skype installed, try a test call to see if your setup is currently working
A webcam is not necessary to use Skype or even to see other people in a video-conference. A webcam is needed for other people to see you. Many laptops have webcams built in, but if yours does not there are many external webcams on the market, many for less than $30.
Skype recommends abroadband Internet connection for audio and video conferencing. A satellite connection could work, but not necessarily consistently. Dialup works only with text messages.
If the computer Skype is to be run on is really old, it might lack the computing power to run Skype. Skype recommends a 1 GHz processor and at least 256 MB of ram.
Without a Computer
For running Skype without a computer there are a variety of phones on the market and even some devices that let you use traditional phones to make calls. Check out skype.com for a decent selection of USB-, Ethernet- and WiFi-based phones.
Some cell phones can run Skype, including the iPhone. Check out skype.com to see if a given cell phone is compatible.