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 schooling, job interviews, medical 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.