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Crossing a telephone with a TV set in 1968

In this most gloriously futuristic year of 2011 we somehow find ourselves awash in videophones. In a way, they snuck up on us. And they most certainly didn't show up in the ways that people had been predicting them for decades. The videophone was to change the way we looked at home schoolingjob interviewsmedical diagnostics, and even dating.

One of my favorite examples of videophone predictions is from the 1993 AT&T concept video, Connections. After getting off a plane and meeting her family, a young woman wants to call her fiancee. But rather than reaching for her mobile phone the second the plane lands, she ventures to find the airport's video-payphones. Video-payphones, indeed!

With Skype, iChat, Google Hangouts, Facebook Video Chat, and Facetime, videophone technology is all around us. But most people rarely see the need. That is to say, it's not important to always see the person you're communicating with. I'll video chat with the odd friend or co-worker on occasion, and it's great to see family back in the Midwest on holidays, but more often than not it simply feels unnecessary, even though the technology is so easy and inexpensive.

The 1968 ad below depends on expensive infrastructure that hindered the widespread, pre-internet adoption of videophone technology. Produced for Western Electric, the ad can be found in the book The Golden Age of Advertising: The 60s.


Western Electric is crossing a telephone with a TV set.

What you'll use is called, simply enough, a Picturephone set. Someday it will let you see who you are talking to, and let them see you.

The Picturephone set is just one of the communications of the future Western Electric is working on with Bell Telephone Laboratories. Western Electric builds regular phones and equipment for your Bell telephone company. But we also build for the future.



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Reader Comments (7)

Not only that, Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing blogged this--and repeatedly referred to Western Electric as "Western Digital".

August 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHarold

Who is Cory Doctorow?

August 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLloyd

I am a douchebag hipster "author" and a "copyfighter" and a "other made up term!" Thanks for asking.

August 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCory Doctorow

It's more a link to this very same blog entry. The reference to Western Digital rather than Western Electric was a minor mistake on a company name.

Anyway, I remember these ads and really, really wanted one of those phones. The thing looked so 21st century to me! Even the touchtone phone--my family still had a rotary phone at the time. The monitor part still looks very modern despite the black and white picture on the screen.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterbG

Somehow, it seems logical that Cory Doctorow would be a fan of this site.

Still, a bit of a shock to see the post. I'm suspecting that it's real, since nobody else tends to use words like "copyfighter".

Anyway, if that really is you, Mr. Doctorow, I've enjoyed a few of your books, on a jailbroken iPhone, back when they showed up in one of the default Cydia repos.

And yeah, Lloyd, google him. His stuff is pretty good.

August 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJust some guy

I find it interesting that now many prefer to text instead of using the phone to talk, instead of going to video phones we have almost gone in the other direction passing digital notes to each other.

September 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterE. Vance Shearin

Funny how I can do a "face time" picture conversation with my wife on my iPhone...but just prefer to talk or text. Yes, picture phones are here, and many people carry them around...but don't care!

September 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEd

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