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Entries in att (16)

Monday
Apr182011

Talking of Tomorrow (1962)

Talking of Tomorrow is a short animated film that was produced for Bell Labs and released in either 1960 or 1962. Directed by Jetsons writer Chuck Couch, the film tells the story of a business executive from the future who works for an "interspace engineering company."

This executive works in a soundproof room attached to his house and doesn't have to worry about commuting or traffic jams -- yet still wears a suit, tie and hat to work. Why dress up if you're working from home? Because, of course, Mr. Future Executive lives in a world of videophones!

Business, school and play in this retrofuturistic utopia all depend on the highly advanced communications technologies brought to you by Bell Telephone Labs. Documents -- or "business materials" as they call them -- are exchanged by "telephonic machines." Lasers transmit phone calls and TV shows from space. Data processing machines... um... process data.

Kids get school help from tutors via videophone, wristwatch radio telephones are all the rage with teenagers, and windowshopping becomes that much easier with picturephone.

The character design of Talking of Tomorrow instantly reminded me of both the Pink Panther shorts as well as the Rocky and Bullwinkle series. Perhaps someone more educated in animation history can scan the credits and tell us where those connections might be. 

NOTE: You can watch the video at the AT&T Archives site, but I didn't like how it looked while embedded, so I ripped my own copy from the DVD set of Invaders from Space and Atomic Rulers.


Thursday
Feb102011

Cooking in the Future (1990s)

This clip from an early 1990's AT&T concept video shows a futuristic world of voice recognition, networked computing and nearly sentient robotic sous chefs. And yet our protagonist's computer doesn't even know the word "HURRY." But what our machines lack in vocabulary they more than make up for in obnoxious pop up coupons right on your phone!

 

I digitized this from a VHS tape but sadly don't have an exact date or name for it. You see, in the early days of the Paleofuture blog I started researching and digitizing every retrofuturistic artifact I could find at a frenzied and obsessive pace. So obsessive in fact, I would often forget to go to class. In my haste, I would sometimes get sloppy and not label every DV tape or image file. Any ideas about the exact title of this AT&T concept video are much appreciated.

 

Previously on Paleofuture:

 

Friday
May182007

Writer and Producer of Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future


As a writer and producer for the 1993 video Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future, Henry Bassman has a fascinating link to the paleo-future. Bassman worked at AT&T for almost thirty years. While there, he worked on technology videos, the introduction of cellular telephone systems, UNIX, optical communications systems, advanced microprocessor technology, among many other things.

I sent Henry a few questions and he was kind enough to send back some answers.

1. Who was the audience for Connections and how was it distributed?
The audience was highly diverse -- from young adults in universities to successful business people. We wanted to demonstrate our technology vision for the future of communication and enlist people into signing up for that future. We gave away hundreds of copies, offered them to schools and other institutions on loan and sold copies.

2. How were the “technologies of the future” conceived?
First I convened a group of technology-savvy communicators since scientists and engineers tend to be poor prognosticators. We developed a number of scenarios that we thought were possible. I developed those scenarios into one or two paragraph capability descriptions and circulated them among AT&T's leading scientists and engineers in Bell Labs, Lucent, and AT&T headquarters. We winnowed out the ones the experts said were unlikely in our 12-14 year timeframe, made changes in others and came up with a list of potential new capabilities. Then I went to Universal Studios and Disney Studios to interview writer/directors and production companies. We chose Universal because they gave us the most creative script ideas.

We wanted to demonstrate that people and their basic needs would not change in our timeframe but that new technology would help them achieve those needs in a more fulfilling and less stressful way. Then we wrote a script that incorporated most of the scenarios we had developed. We showed people going through their normal lives - working, getting married, fishing, having community conflicts, going to school and used what we knew to be the technology possibilities to accomplish those purposes. We even demonstrated how something as mundane as buying a rug could become a more satisfying experience with technology of the future. We did not include people having their refrigerators restocked automatically for example because we guessed a) there was too much investment in brick and mortar for supermarkets and b) food shopping is as much impulse buying as planned buying. Besides, for many people a trip to the supermarket is an outing rather than a chore.

3. What technology did you hope would catch on but didn’t?
I sure wish I had a dungeons and dragons game. That would be cool. Incidentally I based the game concept on Adventure, which used to come with every UNIX tape. I also wish I had one of those intelligent agents who I could command verbally to do all my dirty work. I still do most of my input via keyboard. Only the agent would look more like Pamela Anderson than Sidney. When Sidney says "I am sorry Ian, I am not permitted to divulge that information," it came straight from UNIX permissions.

4. What technology featured in the video was the most prescient?
The ubiquitous use of computers for networking, accessing information, accomplishing work, shopping and socializing. This video was made several years before Netscape. There was no common awareness of the Internet. Internet is not even used in the video. At the time even email required some sophistication to use. Some people thought we were exaggerating the central role computers would play in people's lives, but you can see we may have even underestimated in that regard.

5. Were there any technological advancements you thought about including but were too far-fetched for the time?
Teleportation was not included because it defies physics. "Beam me down Scotty" is a wonderful fancy, but not possible based on our present knowledge of physics.

6. It seems that the networks AT&T envisioned at the time were much more centralized than the current version of the Internet. Was AT&T working on the infrastructure of such a network at the time?
The voice telephone network and the video networks are still centralized and to some extent hierarchal. The phone companies are just now talking about building Internet Protocol infrastructures. Cable television is also centralized as is satellite television and radio. My understanding is that the Internet is a backbone network that operates in a non- hierarchal way but is accessed by ordinary users such as ourselves through these traditionally hierarchal networks. Large businesses bypass the traditional networks with private digital networks they either build themselves or lease from network providers. So, communications continues to be controlled by the network owners who provide access for a fee. Once on the network, you can use as much as you want and can for the access fee. Even then, providers, like Comcast, reserve the right to restrict your amount of usage or terminate service if you use too much.

7. Is there any more info you’d like to give about Connections?
Making the program was a highlight of my career at AT&T. I made lifelong friends during the project and felt more creative and unrestrained than at any time in my AT&T career. I am delighted that people are still watching the program and that we hit the mark on some developments that have already come to pass and others that are still in the future. I am sorry that we failed to see how ubiquitous, convenient and affordable wireless telephony would become. A mobile phone was extremely expensive to buy in those days; it was bulky and the minute by minute rates were very high. Today I own five mobile phones (one for each member of my family) and would not leave home without my Palm Treo, which is a hybrid telephone/computer. Who knew?

See also:
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (1993)

Friday
Apr202007

Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (1993)

After spending the past two weeks looking at the 1993 video, Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future, I think we've learned a lot about the paleo-future. Most interestingly, we've learned that the communications networks of tomorrow will be highly rational, controlled systems brought to you by AT&T. Below are all nine parts of the 14-minute video. Enjoy.

Part 1


Part 2

 

 

Part 3


Part 4


Part 5


Part 6


Part 7


Part 8


Part 9

 

See also:
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 1, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 2, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 3, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 4, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 5, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 6, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 7, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 8, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 9, 1993)

Friday
Apr202007

Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 9, 1993)

Thursday
Apr192007

Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 8, 1993)

Part 8 of our 9 part series looking at the 1993 video Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future begins with some rather mundane character development and moves into the final resolution of the dispute over a new housing project. "Mountain Climbing Bear" also makes a cameo.

It's noteworthy that we don't get to see the entire car he's driving (I guess their budget wasn't that big) but we still get the picture that we're in the future. Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion.

 


See also:
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 1, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 2, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 3, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 4, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 5, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 6, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 7, 1993)

 

Wednesday
Apr182007

Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 7, 1993)

With concepts like "linking to the Education Center in Washington, D.C." AT&T clearly had ideas about the infrastructure of the Internet that didn't quite pan out.

Part 7 of the 1993 video Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future gives us a glimpse of a computer-centered classroom where kids can learn at their own pace, thanks to digital teachers.

 


See also:
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 1, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 2, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 3, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 4, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 5, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 6, 1993)
The Road Ahead: Future Classroom (1995)