Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Forbes: Special Report on the Future

Forbes currently has an extensive examination of the future, with both past and present perspectives, posted online. Neil Steinberg's look at the videophone should be of particular interest to paleo-futurists.
Somehow, these future marvels of the past--food pills, jet packs, flying cars and, yes, video telephones--have an inertia that reality doesn't seem to be able to completely thwart. They manage to be both old and repudiated, yet somehow retain their cachet as attractive potential future wonders. Video phones remain a real possibility--if they wish, people placing phone calls over the Internet can already see each other using Webcams. It's easy to imagine this becoming standard practice.

Or not. Because no matter how cheap and easy pervasive computer technology makes video telephones, they still bump up against one central issue: whether people will want to see and be seen by those they communicate with.

"People did not want to comb their hair to answer the telephone," said Lucky in an interview with Bill Moyers.

See also:
Picturephone as the perpetual technology of the future
The Future is Now (1955)
Television Phone Unveiled (1955)
Governor Knight and the Videophone (Oakland Tribune, 1955)
Face-to-Face Telephones on the Way (New York Times, 1968)
Tomorrow's TV-Phone (1956)


Gary said...

Telephones are a nearly ubiquitous part of our culture nowadays. I wonder how things would change if videophones became popular? It might be seen as rude to turn off your camera, as you'd be forcing the other person to talk to a blank screen, but this wouldn't be much different from the way phones are now.

But at the same time, I often answer the phone at times when I don't look my best. I work as a substitute teacher, and I often answer phone calls as early as 6:00 in the morning. It would probably be more rude to answer the videophone half naked with crusty eyes than it would be to just turn off the screen. I like being able to talk behind a wall of secrecy as to how I look.

Anonymous said...

People who want it to happen will ignore the problems with the idea because they want that dream.

Unix will become the operating system for the masses about the same time video phones will be the main phone system.

Anonymous said...

Trolling for Macintosh users, Anonymous?