Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 147 / DECEMBER 1992 / PAGE S12

PhoneDisc USA. (data base) (Software Review) (Compute's Getting Started with Multimedia Applications) (Evaluation)
by David English

All the phone numbers in the United States on a single CD-ROM? Well, not quite. It's actually most of the telephone numbers in the U.S. on 3 CD-ROMs. Still, that's pretty remarkable and quite useful when you want to track down a long-lost friend or relative, or need to find a particular kind of business in a particular part of the country.

The CD-ROMs are called PhoneDisc USA (DAK Industries, 8200 Remmet Avenue, Canoga Park, California 91304; 800-325-0800; $129.90 with purchase of any DAK CD-ROM drive).

Here's how it works. You get three CD-ROMs: Eastern Residential (36 million residential phone numbers from the eastern part of the country with accompanying names and addresses), Western Residential (a similar selection covering the western part of the country), and U.S. Business (7 million business listings drawn from across the entire country).

DAK's promotional literature claims that the two residential discs contain 80--percent 90 of the listed households in the United States. Knock off about 5 percent for obvious duplications and you should theoretically have about a three-in-four chance of tracking down your fugitive.

My luck was somewhat below that (my own parents weren't listed even though they've lived in the same house for over 40 years). However, I was able to track down several of my old college chums. (It helps if you have some idea where they live, and they don't have such everyday names as John Smith.) You'll also have to cope with the problem of women who marry and change their names.

Just browsing through the names can be a real eye opener. In the eastern part of the country there are 19 households listed with the last name Ix, 82 listings with the name James James, 6456 listings for John Smith, and one Zxao.

Even though the residential CD-ROMs are indexed by name, you can limit your search by street, city, zip code, state, or phone number. That means you can quickly eliminate most of the sound-alike impostors and zero in on your real target. I wasn't able to easily come up with a list of all the people who live on my street, because the program's interface insisted on my giving it some name--even if it was only the first letter. To perform a comprehensive street search, I had to run 26 searches--one for each letter of the alphabet.

The business CD-ROM doesn't suffer from this restriction, as you can quickly switch among four different indexes: business name, business type, address, and phone number. You could search for all the restaurants in your zip code in a matter of seconds.

PhoneDisc USA usually costs a few thousand dollars and is sold to businesses that need continual access to this kind of information. DAK is selling it for just $129.90, but there's a big catch--you can only buy it with one of DAK's drives. DAK's prices are usually rock bottom, so if you're in the market for a CD-ROM drive, this could be an excellent combination.