Saturday, June 18, 2022

Bell Telephone’s Picture Phone

I well remember the marketing for Bell’s Picture Phone. It was a remarkable piece of technology, to talk to someone and see them as if they were in the room! Except that they were in black and white, and on a five-inch screen. But to actually have such a conversation, both parties had to pay for the service, which was so expensive that one of you could just get on a plane every once in a while and visit. We were told that someday this would be universal, but who wants to answer the phone and have just any old person see what you look like first thing in the morning? We made jokes about having to comb our hair before we answered the phone …there was no caller ID widely available, so you did not know who was calling. The Picture Phone was not a success, to the surprise of no one at all. Bill Hammack, the Engineer Guy, tells us the story of the Picture Phone. (via mental_floss)


Anonymous said...

Widely discussed in business classes as the archetypical business failure of a solution looking for a problem.

jamie said...

I remember going to a county fair or some such back in the early 60's, where Ma Bell had two double wide trailers set up chock full of up and coming technology. They had displays demonstrating 3 way calling, automatic call back when busy, speed dial, push button phones, some other stuff and, the picture phone. At the time (I was 10) I thought this (pic phone) doesn't belong here because it's space stuff, or too high tech to be included with the other features/products. Unfortunately the demo was lame, as they just showed a film clip of it in operation and you couldn't touch the equipment on display. And the women demonstrators! Early 60's fashion beauties in bofounts and bullet bras. I thought they were the prettiest ladies I ever saw.