What Are Caller ID Boxes?

Caller ID boxes, also known as calling line identification boxes or caller display boxes, are electronic devices that affix to a telephone or, sometimes, to a television set or computer outlet. They catalog and store identification information about calls to a residence. The amount of information provided varies, with some boxes simply recording phone numbers from which incoming calls originate and others providing the name or even the address of the caller.

Perhaps the most traditional type of caller ID box consists of a square device that attaches to a telephone. These outlets may be plugged into the phone with a cord, or the signal may be transmitted wirelessly in some models. More advanced models have placed a small box or chip inside of the phone so that the ID information appears on the phone’s screen.

Other settings can also support caller ID boxes. Increasing numbers of television cable companies, for example, are offering caller ID boxes that are compatible with cable boxes. Internet services — particularly services that merge phone use with Internet use — can offer caller ID capabilities as well. In any event, the service is usually provided by an outside organization, whether it be a cable company, an Internet service provider, or a phone company. The caller ID service often requires an additional fee in the overall customer payment plan.

The caller ID process works by translating the information sent via phone signals. A phone call transmits identifying information, usually in the form of a telephone number. The number can be matched to names in an electronic database. Initially the process of matching names with numbers was used to help a telephone company bill users, but in modern times companies can share this information on a caller ID box. Methods are available, however, for a caller to circumvent identification on an outgoing call, and identification quality also varies depending on what means of transmission the company uses for its services.

Several benefits are proposed by manufacturers and supporters of caller ID boxes. For one, an individual can avoid unwanted calls, such as telemarketers, unfamiliar callers, or even irritating acquaintances and family. In addition, the caller often has the added option to block nuisance numbers like frequent prank calls. On the other hand, anticipated calls can better be cataloged and tracked. The origin of missed calls can be tracked in the absence of an answering machine as well.