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Email replaces the stork

El Camino Hospital, in the heart of Silicon Valley, is offering families a more high-tech option for birth announcements: video email.

Remember those old, staid birth announcements with that old-fashioned thing called photographs? Forget them.

El Camino Hospital, in the heart of Silicon Valley, is offering families a more high-tech option: video email.

Teaming up Array Microsystems, a Silicon Valley start-up trying to promote its video compression chip, the hospital will be offering patients the chance to send video birth announcements via email to friends and relatives and anyone else on their email list.

Six new parents already took advantage of the new service, which was introduced Monday. And that was without any formal notice or publicity, according to Array spokesman Jim Bohac.

The email will be offered free through January 31. After that, the hospital plans to charge a nominal fee to its cover costs, hospital spokeswoman Leah Blum said.

The idea for putting Array's $500 chip into action was birthed by Bohac, whose wife is almost eight months pregnant. "My wife's expecting at the end of January," he said.

Bohac figured he'd want to send video birth announcements to his relatives across the country. Then he thought that other folks probably would too.

"This is one way we could show we could graphically show you what you can do with email," he said.

The plan is for a technician--currently an Array employee--to shoot a 15- to 20-second video of a family as it leaves the hospital. That videotape is compressed into a 500K file using the Array chip and then sent as an email attachment.

The hospital also will send the player software so that people who aren't on the technical forefront still can see it. "The technology is easy to use," Bohac said.

Blum said the hospital was happy to offer the service. "We just saw it as a great opportunity," she said. This is a service that only this hospital is offering in the country, as far as we know. It's a perk. Especially since we're located in the heart of Silicon Valley, it just makes sense."