Creating a simple asterisk lab, cheap interface cards?

This is my first, post, so I’ll give a brief intro. Phone systems were foreign to me 2 weeks ago, but then a friend offered me a job. He knows I have some programming experience, and asked if I could do a project for him in which I will program asterisk to make outbound automated phone calls to remind people of appointments they have scheduled. I don’t know if I will be able to achieve this, but I am trying and learning. If I fail to get the job, but learn in the process I’ll be happy. These forums appear very professional, and it’s a bit daunting for me to post here. If there are more “newbie” friendly forums I could use, please let me know. I’ve tried searching these forums, but didn’t find any answers. I’m not sure what terms and vocabulary I should be using in my search.

Enough about me.

I have no equipment to test asterisk on. I tried using softphones, but was rather unsatisfied; I couldn’t find a way to have 2 softphone on the same computer talking to each other, but I was able to setup a single softphone extension and voicemail. I believe I can put together a 2 ghz duel core cpu, 4gig ram, desktop for 150$ or so. I understand this should be more than enough for testing? Cost is my concern, and I can build the test system, although I’m open to suggestions.

My main question is what can I use to attach a real phone (or multiple phones) to this test machine I’m building? I’ve been looking in the digium store, and I see many cards with various functions I don’t understand yet. They’re all several hundred dollars, far to expensive for my purposes.

Is there any cheap hardware I could use to create a PBX (I hope I’m using that term correctly?) that can connect to just one phone (regular analog phone you can use most anywhere) then I could at least talk between a softphone on the computer to the real phone.

I’m open to any suggestions on the subject. Ultimately I just want some environment where I can test the programming (calling plans, etc) of asterisk.


It depends on what you ultimately want to achieve, but if it’s for testing your dialplan, etc. an analogue telephone adapter (ATA) could use SIP to connect an ‘ordinary’ phone to your asterisk box. Alternatively you could get a SIP phone, there are a growing number of them on the market. You may not need a any interface cards at all if you can get away with using a SIP DID provider.