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Wednesday
Aug102011

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.

 

 

Sunday
Jul172011

The refrigerator of the future, today! (1959)

We've looked at the multitude of ways that advertisers have used "the future" as a way to position their products as cutting edge or fantastical. Today we have an advertisement from the June 11, 1959 Galveston Daily News in Galveston, Texas.

At first glance, the ad appears to be for refrigerators; showing a child peeking into a fridge while wearing futuristic space clothes. Upon closer inspection we see that while the ad is promoting the benefits of combination refrigerator-freezers, it's actually paid for by the Houston Lighting and Power Company. I really wish I better understood the politics of utility companies from this era, as it would probably help me understand this ad from 1957 as well. (Is that not the most boring sentence you've read today? I'm single, ladies!)

 

 

Thursday
Jul072011

Our Drunken Videophonic Future (1943)

The 2002 Taschen book Future Perfect is kind of like a dead-tree Tumblr; no credits for illustrators, no dates, and no context. I even tried to reblog a page from the book by nailing it to a tree, but my neighbors tore it down. What a bunch of jerks.

With a little old fashioned detective work I was able to figure out that this image in Future Perfect is probably from a 1943 Seagram's Whiskey ad. It reminds me a bit of this job interview conducted across continents. [cue It's A Small World muzak]

Videophone technology has been with us for quite some time, but it's a perfect example of technology that didn't turn out the way that futurists were predicting. When was the last time you got off a plane to look for the video-payphone? So, raise a glass to your favorite transcontinental client, or whatever is supposed to be happening in this drunken, videophonic future of ours.