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Telephones of Tomorrow (1962)

Brian Horrigan, co-author of the retrofuturism bible Yesterday's Tomorrows, pointed me to this amazing advertisement from Bell Telephone System which appeared in the November, 1962 issue of Boys' Life.

The comic follows "Chip Martin, college reporter" as he learns about the future of the telephone. Shut-in kids of the year 2000 are learning from home via videophone, men have a telephone on their wristwatch, and the housewife need only press a button on her carphone to start dinner at home.

Chip has returned to Bell Telephone Laboratories to learn more about future communications. A lab scientist says...

Today, Chip, we'll look at telephone advances of the more distant future...

Here's an exciting development... the picturephone... a television telephone that will let you see as well as talk to the person you're calling...

And here's how a shut-in youngster in the year 2000 may be instructed at home from a central education center, with the help of a picturephone. 

The housewife of the future, chip, will expect a telephone in her car as standard equipment, from this phone she could automatically start dinner cooking by pressing a button.

And this is "SIBYL," Chip... our computer-like machine that helps us predict the future of communications. Through "SIBYL" we can simulate the action of new devices and services without spending the time and money to build them.

In the more distant future everyone may have a telephone with him wherever he goes.

And even wear it on his wrist.

Yes, and whatever the future holds, we'll constantly try to anticipate changing wants and needs -- so we can be ready to serve the customer of the future with better communications. 

And, better communications will bring people closer together.


Previously on Paleo-Future:


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Reader Comments (11)

Pretty accurate predictions.

January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStéfan

The obsession of the 60s with "Picture-Phones". Technologically, no problem, most smartphones contain this option. But it never got quite popular.

Quite accurate the prediction that technology will be first tested in a computer simulation before building a prototype.

And very accurate that everybody will have a telephone with him (a phone on the wrist would be rather impractical, btw). What they didn't predict that this telephone will also have a built-in camera, storage for a whole encyclopedia, 100 music albums, geolocation and navigation system, book reader, and access to a world-wide information network. And the renaissance of "telegrams" (= short text messages)

And massive failure of taking society change into account. They just extrapolated the typical female career of the 60s: Become a housewife, major occupation is cooking dinner.

January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteffen

I wonder how well Sibyl predicted the break0up of the Bell monopoly.

January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWill Schenck

How ironic that many people quit wearing a wristwatch because they have a phone with the time on it. Skype is probably the most like the picturephone.

"Through "SIBYL" we can simulate the action of new devices and services without spending the time and money to build them." What the heck does that mean?

January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRetro Hound

Okay, picturephones, but 'Sibyl' didn't predict the demise of the coil-corded handset.

January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSian

When I click on the graphic, I get a large version in a popup window... but the window has no scrollbar, so I can't read the bottom row-and-a-half of the comic.

January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaximusNYC

@MaximusNYC Weird. What browser are you using? I have scroll bars in Chrome for Mac.

January 24, 2011 | Registered CommenterMatt Novak

Where's part I?

January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJack Aubrey

Ah, the picturephone! Along with the flying car, a classic emblem of The Future!

What strikes me about this ad is that, aside from the picturephone and the wrist phone in panel 6 (such a cliche that it hardly counts), nothing else in the ad is at all futuristic. The clothing styles, the "housewife of the future," the kitchen range and "Sibyl" are all 1962 vintage. The car in panel 4 looks slightly future-ish, but no great departure from the concept cars of the time. And shouldn't Chip have a few body piercings, be taking notes on a laptop and sharing all this great information on Facebook? Of course, if they were that spot-on, people back then would have thought whoever put together this ad was nuts. Just shows how hard it is to imagine the future.

January 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

So then what the hell are they doing these days, with their billing-by-the-kilobyte schemes?

January 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGonzobot

Distance learning from a "central education center"?
My dystopia senses are tingling...
But wait, it's actually happening!

February 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrain-endless

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