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Flashback Friday: Phones of the 1990s

by Sean P. Aune | March 25, 2011March 25, 2011 3:30 pm PDT

flashback-fridayWith the CTIA mobile conference wrapping up in Florida right now, it seems like a good time for Flashback Friday to take a look back at what phones of the “future” were supposed to be like.  The United Kingdom Post Office Research Labs in the 1960s tried to predict what we might see from phones come the 1990s, and while they were off on a few things, they were pretty spot on in other areas.

It’s always fun to go back through these old videos that show a look at the future of technology.  Some of them are hilariously wrong, but some of them are a bit more spot on. This one doesn’t fall into the funny category (aside from the couple discussing their date at the beginning … wow … has any woman ever sounded less enthused about a date?), but into a whole new area of, “they almost got it right!”

The talk about coaxial cables for transmitting data was just about a dead on as the 1990’s were when cable modems first started making it out to consumers.   The bizarre method of transmitting a document by putting photo sensitive paper up to the screen was almost like a rudimentary fax system, something that began in the 1980’s, but really took off in the 1990’s.  Answering machines even make a bit of an appearance in this video as well as pagers.  Heck, they even had you pulling up bank statements from your banks “central processor”.   It was actually fairly impressive when you look at it overall.

Where they went wrong, as so many predictions of phone technology did, was the video calls.  For whatever reason, video calling technology has been around for ages now, and it just never seems to catch on.  Yes, video calls are finally gaining some traction on Skype, and Apple is backing it in a big way with its FaceTime system, but we still aren’t seeing it integrated into our actual home phones in any meaningful way.  Personally, I just don’t want to have to worry about getting a video call when I’m walking around the house in some knockaround shirt that’s super comfortable, but I would never want anyone to see me in it.

Perhaps people will become more comfortable with the concept of video calls some day down the road, but until that time it will just remain something we primarily see in videos such as this one.

Now, back to how unexcited that woman sounds about her date …


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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