Whos calling? Listen to the music

by: Vern Uyetake, How does the Ringboxx work? A phone rings and some kind of sound immediately identifies who the caller is. It could be a quack, a gunshot, the opening bar of a school fight song, a train whistle, a goose honk, sports calls, John Belushi yelling, “Food fight” — any noise that intrigues the owner.

When it comes to saving people aggravation, Home Phone Tunes' Ringboxx may be one of the most important inventions of the 21st Century.

Instead of rushing to the phone only to get a sales pitch from a mortgage company, Ringboxx allows you to calibrate your speed: fast; a moderate canter; or just ignore the ring and keep fixing dinner.

'It's very handy,' said Kasey Holwerda of Lake Oswego, whose family is among the original Ringboxx investors. 'It's kind of fun. It intrigued me to have ringtones assigned to certain people.

'It has the same ability as the (cell phone) where you can tell who is calling without looking at the caller ID. If it's my kids, I call immediately. If it's my husband, I figure I can call him later.'

The Ringboxx comes down to a few seconds of technology. A phone rings and some kind of sound immediately identifies who the caller is. It could be a quack, a gunshot, the opening bar of a school fight song, a train whistle, a goose honk, sports calls, John Belushi yelling, 'Food fight' - any noise that intrigues, amuses or inspires you.

Then more fun follows.

As soon as the ringtone is over, the phone launches into a song associated with the person calling. In the Holwerda family's case, these are the songs picked out by 13-year-old Gunnar, who programmed the system with: Dad Steve: 'Addicted to Love;' sister Kisky: 'Defying Gravity' from Wicked - 'She's really into Broadway musicals,' Gunnar said; mom Kasey: 'Wonderful World:' Gunnar himself: Kanye West's 'Stronger.'

Apparently, the world has been waiting for this product.

'It has been overwhelming,' said Kirk Cameron of Lake Oswego, president and CEO of Home Phone Tunes, who has teamed up with John Scheck to produce Ringboxx. 'We've had unbelievable press coverage.'

Yes, the press loves this gadget. Cameron and Scheck have seen stories in some of the nation's leading newspapers and magazines, including The Chicago Sun-Times, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, Ladies Home Journal, The Business Journal, and others.

Even more impressive have been the partnerships Cameron has already been forming with Oregon State University and NASCAR. Plus, 'MTV called. It's a natural for them.'

Right now the only places to purchase Ringboxx, which has only been available to the public since August, is through its Web site, Amazon.com and the Oregon State University Bookstore.

But over the next few months Cameron expects to have the Boxx (priced at around $49.95) available in many of the retail biggies, including Radio Shack, Frye's Electronics, Wal-Mart and Costco.

That means the Ringboxx will be available for the upcoming holiday season. The theme from Bonanza might be a good Ringboxx ringtone for Cameron himself.

'Christmas will be huge for us,' Cameron said. 'Father's Day and Mother's Day, all the holidays.'

Including Halloween.

For one of the ID ringtones, Cameron selected the opening bars of the themesong of The Addams Family, the spooky and hilarious sitcom that is still popular after over 40 years.

With Ringboxx, Cameron keeps getting surprised - in a good way.

'I expected people to buy 10 tunes,' he said. 'But mostly they've been buying 20.'

In addition, phone companies have been very friendly to the introduction of the Ringboxx.

'Phone companies are losing their customer base,' Cameron said. 'They are all starting to compete, and they want to say, 'I have something you don't have.' This is an entertaining product and it's totally different.'

On the surface, Ringboxx seems mainly to be a product for people who have everything, technology lovers, or those striving for the cutting edge in convenience.

However, Cameron has discovered customers he never imagined having at the beginning.

'Two mothers of blind girls called,' Cameron said, of the product which allows the blind to know who is calling at home before they answer the phone. 'I had no idea that would happen when I put it out there. There are also special needs people who now can answer the phone on certain tones.'

There are no true dark clouds ahead for Cameron, Scheck or the Ringboxx. But there will certainly be competitors, even though Cameron and Scheck own the patents on those all-important few seconds of technology.

Cameron said, 'I was told, 'I can't believe you're doing this.' Then he said, 'Next year you're going to have a lot of competition.''

But with the reception that has already greeted Ringboxx after just a few months, Cameron can't devote any time to worry. Not even a few seconds.

For more information about Ringboxx, go to the Web site www.homephonetunes.com.

Cameron says the Web site has interactive capabilities for purchasing and obtaining information.