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What’s the Weather?

The answer’s just a phone call away

Way back when, starting in the 1930s, Americans got quick weather reports by dialing a phone number, usually ending in 1212. In the Information Age, those numbers have been giving way, replaced decade by decade by radio, television, Internet, PDAs and smart phones. The Baltimore-Annapolis area was one of the last places in the country to retain the service, with Verizon finally pulling the plug in June of 2011.
    Now a new company — Telecompute Corporation — is stepping into the void. A Washington, D.C.-based telephone-services provider, Telecompute now offers a time and weather phone number in 44 markets across the country, including the Baltimore/Annapolis region. Where feasible, Telecompute retains the traditional 1212 suffix. Time and temperature are updated in real time; weather forecasts are updated at least four times a day, more often if there’s weather news. A team of meteorologists gathers data from the National Weather Service and other sources, then does independent analysis and predictions.
    In the age of smart phones, why bother?
    Not quite everyone has a smart phone. In Chesapeake Country alone, some 175,000 non-smart phones are in use. Sounds like the folks at Telecompute Corporation have a good idea.
    And it seems to be catching on. In February, the first full month of operation, the local line received more than 15,000 calls. The March count will include a couple of times I tried the line. It starts with a 15-second ad (someone has to pay for the service), followed by current weather conditions and a fairly complete forecast. Then there’s a menu where you can access information like weather for other locations, sports scores and lottery results. Try it: 410-235-1212.