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Entries in videophone (37)

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.


Sunday
Jan302011

Face to Face Phone Calls (1957)

 

In this ad from the March, 1957 issue of Scientific American we see John Q. Businessman making a "face to face" telephone call. The ad declares that thanks to the Hughes Tonotron and other products from the Hughes Aircraft Company people will soon see "on the wall television, electronic control of factory production, and countless other marvels."

Thanks to Brad Fidler for this scan.

 

Previously on Paleofuture:

 

Friday
Jan282011

Watching Television With My Robot Butler (1932)

The December 4, 1932 San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX) ran this illustration accompanying a piece titled, "Looking Ahead Another 50 Years." 

TELEVISION -- The husband at home in bed is able to sweep the mechanical eye through the shopping district and see what his wife is doing. He also has all sorts of appliances for supplying almost anything he needs, including a robot valet, who is seen approaching with his master's suit of clothes.

Early visions of television often imagined live broadcasting without any narrative arc, like from this 1930's collectible card that we looked at a few months back.

Previously on Paleofuture:

Monday
Jan242011

Shopping in the Future (1981)

I'm often shocked at how accurate some 20th century predictions of online shopping were. However, these retail prognosticators frequently miss the mark by assuming that individual goods would need to be photographed or videotaped live for consumers. 

While I can kind of understand how this might make sense with fresh fruit, today we have sites like Amazon and Peapod where a generic photo of the product for sale is displayed. That being said, this prediction of online shopping from the 1981 book World of Tomorrow: School, Work and Play by Neil Ardley was pretty darn close to what we have today.

A store of the future is more like a warehouse than a shop of today. The robots serve people who call up the store on their home computers. This robot is showing a bunch of bananas to a video camera, which transmits a picture of the fruit to a customer. It places the purchases in a box which is then delivered to the customer's home.

Shopping is an activity that most of us have to do every day. While it's sometimes exciting -- if you want some new clothes or a new gadget, for example -- it's often tiresome. You have to trudge around a store, wait in line to pay for your purchases, and then perhaps carry a heavy load home only to find you've forgotten something.

Shopping should be much easier and more enjoyable in the future. Computers and robots will come to your aid and enable you to shop at the very best stores. You won't have to lift a finger, let alone a shopping basket. For shopping will be yet another service that the home videophone computer will be able to provide.

Instead of going out to the shops and stores in your town or city, you contact them through your videophone computer. You'll need to see what you're buying, even if you can't handle it, so the viewscreen of the videophone computer shows you the goods available. You then instruct the computer to order the goods you want and have them delivered to your house.

Your computer "talks" to the store's computer, which in turn orders robots in the store to collect the goods together and pass them to a delivery vehicle. Under the guidance of the computers, this brings them to your home.

In this way your home computer can make sure that your home is always supplied with all its essentials, for it automatically orders new supplies as soon as they are needed. It also instructs your bank to pay for the goods, so you do not need to part with any cash.

Using the computer for shopping is yet one more way in which the computer will make life easier in the future. It will save you time that you spend in a more useful or a more pleasant way. However, many people enjoy shopping, especially looking for unusual items. So, while the computer will do your everyday shopping, you may still go shopping yourself for something special. However, the computer will be able to help you greatly if you want to buy something really exciting -- a special present for a friend, for example. With your home computer, you can purchase virtually anything in the world, for it can contact stories anywhere -- on the other side of the globe if necessary.

 

Previously on Paleofuture:

 

Sunday
Jan232011

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: