Federal Reserve

Taking revenge on voice-mail tyrants can help you get the message across

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 December, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 May, 2016, 2:05pm

CYBERSPACE was the big hit of 1995. The variant for 1996 is going to be even more exciting, especially for those of us who are fed up of never getting to talk to humans on the telephone.

Voice-mail started life as something large US companies had in order to show off.

What was isolated to IBM has now spread around the globe. Everyone has it now, from banks to regulators to government corporations and we need never talk to a real human again.

On a really good day, one can find oneself listening to a deputy assistant vice-president's secretary saying: 'I'm too busy to come to the phone, please leave a message'.

The major activities of our day are ringing up people's voice-mail and then listening to their return message on our answering machine. Okay, we are guilty too, but we have decided to do something to end the tyranny of voice-mail.

The usual disclaimers apply on this one, but we are going to reveal how, if a person were so minded, voice-mail messages can be changed, stored messages retrieved for listening pleasure and the whole system be brought into evil repute.

When the message to callers starts, simply press the '#' sign on your telephone - that is all. You are in the system and there are often no further passwords or pin numbers.

Lai See would never ever recommend, advise or countenance interference with the voice-mail messages of important and busy people. So do not assume it is us if all your contacts have giggling fits when they next see you and start going on about 'being in the jacuzzi with Cindy' or 'not being able to reach the phone because of dangerous drunkenness'. Sadly, it is possible that Hong Kong contains people with none of our scruples and they may attempt this cruel trick.

What a cracker CRACKERS pulled by a colleague over the festive table had all the usual stuff inside, including some very poor jokes (sample: 'What gets harder to catch the faster you run? Your health'). Each piece of paper with a joke on it also had 'recycled' written on the bottom.

Good to see them admitting it for a change.

Stop the press! SCIENTIFIC surveys conducted by trained journalists since the days of steam have conclusively proved that it is not true that less news happens over the festive season. For one thing, an ancient but beloved celebrity always dies, with Dean Martin getting his last major coverage this year.

For another thing, government departments get on the public relations trail and really make things happen.

As an example of what we mean, consider the start of this Hong Kong Government Information Service press release transmitted at 14.33 hours yesterday.

'It is a really comfy and snugly thing to sit in front of your television and view your favourite television programme, especially after a hard day's work. 'But you may not be aware that the impeccably clear vision in front of you requires the hard work of others.

'It is our duty to regulate the use of radio communication equipment and to ensure that the reception of television programmes is free from unwanted interference,' said a senior controller of Telecommunications, Mr Andrew Tang, at the Office of the Telecommunications Authority.

The entire release is 890 words long and makes fascinating reading. As it turns out, the department does not get to deal with a lot of genuine interference from secret pirate radio stations. Mostly, the problems they meet are all to do with incorrect aerial set up or poor tuning and the team can deal with the problem over the phone, living up to their slogan of 'serving the community'.

The GIS even made a photograph of a team carrying out an on-site inspection available. No doubt the sensationalists on the news desk will be pushing for publication. Let us hope wiser counsel has prevailed or 'Furious of Kowloon Tong' will be on the fax machine to the editor.