AT&T's 1992 VideoPhone was a terrible ... video phone

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/09/18/atts-1992-videophone-was-a-terrible-video-phone.html

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That’s pretty visionary, down to the Zoom call and the remote learning. Still waiting on the medical records, but that’s not really AT&T’s fault.

“Phone booth.” Heh.

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Wim Wenders used that in Until the End of the World. Totally did not pan out. Albert Brooks used the videophone in a funny scene with Debbie Reynolds in the movie Mother. Now I see this same scene done on TV shows with cell phones, but it’s not as funny.

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I remember that one commercial predicting Netflix (or rather, predicting digital cable’s On-Demand service) and thinking it would be Utopia. This was airing at about the time DVD-based tivo (essentially a DVD player with separate read and write heads) was being developed at Phillips and even that seemed magical. “You mean I can set the timer to record The Simpsons at 8pm, and if I get home at 8:05, I can start watching from the beginning before the show is even over? And if I zip through commercials, I could catch up to live tv by the end?” SORCERY!

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For anyone who enjoys comparing these past predictions to the present, here are a few more:


This ad from IBM is along the same lines:

And here’s one from 2011 that doesn’t quite capture the same feel:

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Have you ever sold out to sell reverse mortgages between segments on cable tv news shows…

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But it was interesting how even the remote learning seemed to be in some sort of library or classroom; I guess the idea would be that it would require technology that you wouldn’t have in the home. Same thing with renewing a driver’s license at an ATM – the idea that you likewise would be able to do it at home wasn’t predicted. But some predictions seemed to be spot on – the prediction of streaming video is almost exactly like what we have today, and barring the silly cyberpunkish graphics, the GPS driving directions was pretty realistic.

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A lot of the nearby school systems have done exactly that as part of their remote learning set ups. It covers people who don’t have access at home, but also people who aren’t able to focus for any reason in their home environment.

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That shot of the silver fox CEO in his beach cabana walking away from the camera saying “I have a few more ideas” gave me a barf-flavored mini heart attack.

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Picturephones were way cooler in the sixties.

They were on display at Expo 67 in the Bell pavillion, I think I went more than once.

And someone will now say they were on display at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. But either I never saw those or they made no impact on me at that point.

Picturephones were covered in science fiction, and cartoons. Heinlein didn’t invent the cellphone and he couldn’t imagine having pictipures on his portable phones.

But lots of thought about not wanting to answer the phone without turning of the picture. A standard switch back then. And a real issue right now when they become “normal”, like that guy in the shower behind a woman doing zoom.

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Yeah, being on Zoom all day sucks, but this technology has allowed people to keep their jobs, families to connect with distant (or not even distant but immune compromised family), organizers to ensure their community was fed and cared for schools to (occasionally) make the right decision to protect teachers and students and even friends to feel less alone all in the midst of the biggest health crisis in 100 years. There has rarely been such fortunate confluence of appropriate technology and great need meeting at the same moment.

Getting there…

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I had a pretty strong gut reaction to that too.

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Wonder how many revisions the music composer had to do before the lawyers declared it safe from a possible infringement claim from Peter Gabriel!

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Strange. I keep hitting the like button, but the number only goes up once… :slight_smile:

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Is Leonard Nimoy supplying his voice to AT&T’s ads? Not sure, but it seems he did some commercials/infomercials: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4pBk3-fduU

I mean he did a ton of commercials, so did everyone in the trek cast really:

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Thanks! I’m not from US/Canada. And more of a TNG person anyway. Spock still very much rocks though. Do you think it’s his voice in the AT&T ads? youtube doesn’t find anything when querying “Nimoy At&T”

It’s quite possible. He’s one of those actors that rarely turned down paying gigs.

When I listened to it, I thought it was Tom Selleck. My husband thought it was a voice actor who sounds like Selleck.

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People can do voiceovers without being a spokesman. So a good voice could make money without being credited with it.

Cree Summer mostly faded after “A Different World”, except she has a long string of credits voicing cartoons. Though, she started voicing Inspector Gadget (along withe her father Don Francks).

I know someone who’s done rv and movies, and local theatre, but a lot of her credits are for video games.