Videoconferencing and phones-on-your-wrist are two of the predictions in videos promoting phone innovations from 1993 and 1955.

Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading

September 5, 2014

2 Min Read
'You Will': 20th Century Telephony Predictions

When 20th century innovators looked into the future of telephony and networking, they saw videophones, telecommuting, faxing from the beach, and more.

Two 20th century video clips have been making the rounds of the 21st century Internet recently, containing old predictions for the future of phones and networking.

A 1993 TV commercial campaign from AT&T uses the slogan, "You will." Narrated by Tom Selleck, some predictions are dead-on accurate, including home-office business conference calls, movies on demand and GPS navigation.

My favorite prediction is that you'll be able to send a fax from the beach. Working from the beach was a favorite prediction for futurists in the 90s. Now we can do it -- but we don't. There's no way I'm bringing my $500 iPad to the beach, with all that sand and salt water.

Also: Faxing? Who uses faxes anymore? I guess lots of people do, because you see fax numbers on business cards. But I don't know anybody who's sent or received a fax in nearly a decade.

Other predictions were almost right: The video predicts we'll do e-commerce from cash machines, and video calling from phone booths.

There's a reason why so many of the predictions in the "You will" campaign are accurate; most were already in the pipeline.

Earlier, a 1955 Universal Newsreel predicts the "often-forecast" video phone -- the "telephone of tomorrow."

"At long last, the reason for the primping that usually precedes a woman's phone call," says the announcer. Good grief.

Women have come a long way since newsreel announcers sniggered about "primping." Women in technology can connect with their peers at the Light Reading Women in Technology Breakfast September 16 in Santa Clara, CA.

The cost: $5,000 per phone, or $43,000 today, notes a National Archives blog, which adds that the dial tone and rotary phone were relatively recent in 1955. Previously, people had to phone the operator to place a call.

What are your favorite retro-future telephony and networking predictions? Go ahead and discuss them on the message boards below -- I'll get on with my primping.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

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