Picture-Phone - Finally!

Release the pigeons, people. The long-awaited Picture-Phone is here, so you can stop awaiting on it, all right? Behold, The Picture-Phone!
Sometimes, when we see these nutty old inventions in Popular Mechanics, they look as though they've been knocked together by an old man in a basement, because they were been knocked together by an old man in a basement. Not so, The Picture Phone. The hardware looks pretty finished because it was developed by Bell Labs. Soon, you could have one too. You only need to install a second phone line to handle the picture while the original line carries the phone call.

The refresh rate wasn't great. You got a new image every two seconds, which may be fine if you're just talking on the phone... maybe? Of course, by looking at the photos, you'd need to keep your face right in front of the camera, which isn't so handy, considering the camera's apparently narrow field of view. That'd be kind of a pain. Of course, Bell Labs would have tweaked the design to be less neck-twisting in time, IF it had caught on.

But what if you need to use the oscilloscope AND make a call?
Why didn't this catch on? Well, in 1956, all men wore suits around the house and women always looked like Betty Crocker, so they were always presentable. I've seen Leave It to Beaver, so I know this to be true. You wouldn't mind going on camera just to answer a call, back in '56. But, as standards of personal grooming slid downhill, dripped off a cliff, and oozed into a puddle at the mouth of a cultural sewer drain, the shirt-and-tie look kind of fell out of favor around the house. If everyone had a picture phone now, you'd be lucky to see someone wearing a trash bag on the other end of the line (depending on who you call). You've seen how people dress when they're shopping for a few gallons of mayonnaise at Wal-Mart? Imagine what they look like when they're "relaxing" at home. Now imagine the prospect of a career as a telemarketer. Not so glamorous, now, is it? be careful what you wish for.

Thankfully, the Picture-Phone had a switch allowing either user to turn off the camera at will. So, Bell Labs did have a certain amount of foresight. It's as if they could smell the winds of change in the air, and they could see the Swinging Sixties right around the corner - a time when people would be ordering some takeout in the middle of "freewheeling activities". You think Chatroulette was a freak show? If Picture-Phones became standardized, imagine being the poor kid at a pizza restaurant taking phone orders on a lonely Friday night in 1972. Imagine how different A. G. Bell's famous  quote may have been if Watson could SEE him while he said "I want you!" Thank heaven for little switches that turn things off.

My smarty-phone can do the see-n-say thing, but I've never used it. Have you? Maybe you've tried it once when you first got the phone, but do you use it all the time? Skype is great for meetings and video podcasts, but do you want to use it by default for all your calls? This Picture-Phone wasn't the last attempt to get people to look at each other while talking, and probably not the first. Has it been assumed by Science that everyone wants to look at each other while they talk? Why hasn't this idea caught on, especially when it's a hundred times better than the Picture-Phone and lives in your pocket all the time? I think it's because most of the time, you just want to communicate, not to "connect" with someone. There's sociology and psychology to consider when thinking about the Picture-Phone, and I think that's still being mostly ignored.

Also, if my phone is in video mode and you're using your phone like a normal phone, I don't want to stare at your earhole, even if you are wearing a suit..

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