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'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]

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Susan Fourtané 9/8/2014 | 3:35:19 PM
Re: Hold the phone SachinEE, 

Because you can work from the beach if you want to do it. For some people it can be much better than working from the office, or home office in summer. And why not? 

SachinEE 9/8/2014 | 2:13:36 PM
Re: Hold the phone @Danielcawry: Nokia patented the ClearBlack display which gives deeper blacks and contrast levels and also better viewing angles, not to mention the ability to give great outputs under the sun. 
SachinEE 9/8/2014 | 2:09:49 PM
Re: Hold the phone The problem with technology is that you can make anything out of existing components which you think will help you in different situation, e.g. the beach fax. 

There are so many numerous ideas and so many hilarious ones get to see the light of the day makes me think about the future of technology. While rough and tough technology that will help us all stays under the "Top Secret" files, we get along with technology that is not even meant for practical use.

Besides, why go to the beach if you plan on working?
Susan Fourtané 9/7/2014 | 6:28:52 AM
Re: Hold the phone Daniel, 

Maybe it's not for everyone. I haven't tried it myself, but I am not a beach fan either as I try to avoid long exposure to the sun to keep a healthy skin. :) 

But, I know someone who went on a surfing trip to Italy this summer and, at the same time, kept a beach office. While not surfing, you could find him under a beach umbrella in the company of his laptop, as per the photos on FB. 

Susan Fourtané 9/7/2014 | 6:17:20 AM
Re: The Jetsons? mhh, 

How lovely. I need one of those masks. :D 

danielcawrey 9/6/2014 | 4:41:11 PM
Re: Hold the phone The problem with working at the beach is that it is too sunny to even see a laptop screen. Not to mention that sitting in the sun is not necessary the best way to be able to have the stamina to work an eight hour day. Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather work from home or a coffeeshop. 
Kruz 9/6/2014 | 5:52:54 AM
Re: Hold the phone Why did it take that long to have this become a reality :) ?
DanJones 9/5/2014 | 4:33:43 PM
Re: Hold the phone BTW the 1st one-way video call took place in 1927.
mhhf1ve 9/5/2014 | 4:30:14 PM
Did any of these things actually come from AT&T? I guess the iPhone launched on AT&T first... but does that really count as "coming" from AT&T? I credit Apple more than AT&T.

mhhf1ve 9/5/2014 | 4:25:22 PM
The Jetsons? I'm waiting for those masks that people on the Jetsons used for when they wanted to take a video call... but just woke up and didn't have time to comb their hair and whatnot.

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