Correct !
June 25, 2010 2:48 PM   Subscribe

SLYT - shows old early nineties AT&T ad in accurate future prediction SHOCK !
posted by sgt.serenity (141 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
i remember these. amazing how most of it seems commonplace and boring now. oh and LOL PHONEBOOTH LOL
posted by TrialByMedia at 2:54 PM on June 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


And, sonofabitch, some of that stuff AT&T *did* help bring us.
posted by grubi at 2:55 PM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


i like how you have to swipe the easy pass like a metrocard
posted by nathancaswell at 2:56 PM on June 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Apparently, Jenna Elfman thinks it's ok to be a remote control mom, tucking her baby in from a phonebooth (what the hell are they?), not once but twice in that video.

It's interesting how "sending a fax from the beach" is such an outdated concept. Like, I Back to the Future 2 (I think), they emphasize how pervasive fax machines were supposed to be now.

Oh, past. How silly you were.
posted by crunchland at 2:56 PM on June 25, 2010 [12 favorites]


Magnum P.I., techno-prophet...
posted by GavinR at 2:58 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


the big difference is that a proprietary network (owned and operated by AT&T) for all these media and communication functions is imagined. AT&T was very hostile to the notion of the Internet and the Web as we know it today.
posted by Bwithh at 2:58 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love hits and misses. There's a part in Stranger in a Strange Land where the protagonist pulls his flying car over so he can find a phone booth.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:59 PM on June 25, 2010 [63 favorites]


I know it's crazy right a telco heavily invested in technology making wildly questionable guesses about what might be coming down the pipe with no idea or basis for their claims and then most of it comes true it is such a crazy coincidence i cannot believe at&t are not being hailed as prophets omg.
posted by m0nm0n at 3:03 PM on June 25, 2010


Still waiting for a Dick Tracy watch...
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:04 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


What year were these again?
posted by empath at 3:05 PM on June 25, 2010


i cannot believe at&t are not being hailed as prophets omg

You know that those commercials were from 1993, not 1893, right?

All of those things mentioned were probably in the v/c pipeline when they made that commercial.
posted by crunchland at 3:06 PM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


I worked for AT&T in 1996 on their business web hosting service. Their business model was predicated on small businesses paying $300/month for full-service web hosting (staging and production servers, unlimited phone support, etc.) yet creating their web sites themselves. Boy, did they get that one wrong.
posted by tippiedog at 3:06 PM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Professor TA: Any questions? Oakland.
Oakland Student: So where did Jazz come from?
TA: Good q- what? That is the dumbest shit I've ever heard. Where did Jazz come from? BE A LITTLE BROADER NEXT TIME. For any other morons out there, in case you were wondering the NAME of this class is THE HISTORY OF JAZZ. We will be discussing where Jazz "came from" all semester. Try to pay attention next time Oakland. Now. Does ANYONE have an intelligent question?

AT&T ads updated to match the typical college lecture experience.
posted by shmegegge at 3:06 PM on June 25, 2010 [43 favorites]


I couldn't see this video because on my new iPhone 4, when I cover the antenna Flash doesn't work. (Am I doing this wrong?)
posted by chavenet at 3:08 PM on June 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


Dick Tracy watch
posted by Burhanistan at 3:09 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I already dropped this in the iPhone 4 release post, claiming this was the demo. FRIST PSOT!
posted by GuyZero at 3:09 PM on June 25, 2010


Have you ever walked all over your house to find the single spot where your iphone worked?

Have you ever paid for the pleasure of dozens of dropped or garbled calls?

Have you ever had your cell company so quickly credit an entire bill because your service sucked so hard that even they couldn't deny it?
posted by tula at 3:10 PM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


According to the Wikipedia article, these were directed by David Fincher.
posted by luvcraft at 3:10 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Have you ever tucked your baby in from a tiny videophone that you carry in your pocket that also shoots unbelievably high definition video, takes pictures, plays movies, holds all of the music you have ever owned, plays videogames, and connects you to an on-demand resource of media and information more vast than you can imagine?

You will try to, but the network might be a bit spotty where you are at the moment, so it may or may not work.
posted by The World Famous at 3:11 PM on June 25, 2010 [49 favorites]


Also, "Fax from the Beach" was my least popular shooter recipe ever.
posted by GuyZero at 3:11 PM on June 25, 2010 [43 favorites]


You know that those commercials were from 1993, not 1893, right?

All of those things mentioned were probably in the v/c pipeline when they made that commercial.


What do you mean by "v/c pipeline"? That is an unfamiliar phrase to me.

My point was that these commercials aren't all that of a stretch, having been made in 1993, and people flipping out about them on YouTube have very short memories and very poor understandings of historical technology.
posted by m0nm0n at 3:12 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I love hits and misses. There's a part in Stranger in a Strange Land where the protagonist pulls his flying car over so he can find a phone booth.


Devils Rancher
The best came from (I'm fairly sure) the columnist James Lileks.
He had a tv screen cap showing a "No Smoking" sign on the starship Enterprise!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 3:13 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I recently reread Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash and sure enough there's a scene where Rife pulls over his helicopter to find a phone booth. It hits you like watching an episode of House where he uses modern day medical equipment to diagnose a patient as dying of consumption and then treats him with Castor oil.
posted by stavrogin at 3:13 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


So where did Jazz come from?

Have you ever dootly-dootly-dooed on your tenor sax while a guy on a piano goes plinky-plink-plinkity-plink and another guy on drums goes doot-shhhh-doot-shhhhh-doot-shhhh?

YOU WILL.
And the company that will bring it to you? Blue Note.
posted by Dr-Baa at 3:14 PM on June 25, 2010 [23 favorites]


v/c = venture capitalist. And I didn't see your sarcasm. Sorry.
posted by crunchland at 3:14 PM on June 25, 2010


Yes I left out my HAMBURGER. Apologies.
posted by m0nm0n at 3:16 PM on June 25, 2010


My point was that these commercials aren't all that of a stretch, having been made in 1993, and people flipping out about them on YouTube have very short memories and very poor understandings of historical technology.

When these came out, the Mosaic browser hadn't been released yet, and the Pentium was spoken of in hushed and reverent tones. We have come a long way.
posted by Jairus at 3:18 PM on June 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


I loved these ads when they first aired. They actually painted a desirable image of technology integrated into your life. Helpful, rather than leading and overwhelming. I think it was probably the last time I ever felt anything positive about AT&T.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:18 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Still waiting for a Dick Tracy watch...

Do you mean the LG Watch Phone? LetsGoMobile has more info, and Amazon lists MSRP at just under $1k (on sale for a steal at $869.99!) Or you could get the W "phonewatch" from Kempler & Strauss for $199.99.

And BAM! Like that, the future is here, all up in your face.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:19 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


As far as GPS goes, the GPS system was only completed in 1993 and the units were the size of a backpack and only the military could afford them. As an engineering student in '93 when I saw those ads I laughed wondering who'd pay $5,000 to fill their trunk with GPS electronics to get a car nav system. In '93 it was pretty much on par with a flying car.
posted by GuyZero at 3:22 PM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


What's a "fax"?
posted by AwkwardPause at 3:25 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


> In '93 it was pretty much on par with a flying car.

Yeahbut I have GPS in my car in 2010 but the car doesn't fly.

Stupid future!
posted by chavenet at 3:25 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's a "fax"?

A device that allows your lawyer to prove that he sent people something at a specific time and that they received it at a specific time.
posted by The World Famous at 3:26 PM on June 25, 2010 [26 favorites]


I recently reread Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash and sure enough there's a scene where Rife pulls over his helicopter to find a phone booth.

Truth be told, though, Stephenson was right about a whole slew of other things. I'm just hoping that none of his other predictions come true -- his futuristic dystopia seems, if anything, more likely these days.
posted by schmod at 3:28 PM on June 25, 2010



When these came out, the Mosaic browser hadn't been released yet, and the Pentium was spoken of in hushed and reverent tones. We have come a long way.


Undoubtedly. But I don't think that what is presented in the ads is as huge of a jump as the framing of the video makes it out to be: "Amazingly accurate predictions"? Really? Amazingly accurate? I don't see anything listed there that was out of the range of simple extrapolation based on technology of the day. Fax machines, cell phones, GPS, and the Internet were all around then, and had been around for some time. Just because they might not have been known to most people or as ubiquitous technologies as they are today doesn't mean that the commercials are amazing.

I remember when the commercials were on at the time and thinking they were pretty neat. With hindsight though, I don't think the "predictions" were "amazingly accurate." Basically looks like AT&T getting some weird hair up its ass to show off future tech that was already, in some form or another, under development.

Also the fact that the video was uploaded by a user called SocialSEO skeeves me out. No one should optimize my social search engine! Or is that username yet another amazingly accurate prediction??
posted by m0nm0n at 3:29 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Am I too late for the 4:30 autogyro to Siam? I'm worried that my aeromail will not reach the Prussian consulate on time.
posted by crunchland at 3:29 PM on June 25, 2010 [32 favorites]


Jenna Elfman? I swear that was Betty Draper.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:31 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


They weren't predictions. They were previews of products in development. As I recall, that was pretty clear at the time.
posted by The World Famous at 3:32 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Clearly Tom Selleck is a prophet, and his moustache actually an immensely powerful futurological detector hotlinked to tomorrow.
posted by Sparx at 3:33 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Clearly Tom Selleck is a prophet, and his moustache actually an immensely powerful futurological detector hotlinked to tomorrow.

Except for the spider-robots and the self-propelled rockets rounds. But other than those two, absolutely.
posted by GuyZero at 3:37 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Clearly Tom Selleck is a prophet, and his moustache actually an immensely powerful futurological detector hotlinked to tomorrow.

If he's a prophet, I hesitate to say what Lemmy must be.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:47 PM on June 25, 2010


What's funny is the GIANT PDA used to send a "fax" at the beach. And the eazypass that required drivers to get out a credit card and physically swipe it card reader in their car.

But yeah AT&T's plan was to deliver all this stuff over proprietary networks, and take a cut.
All of those things mentioned were probably in the v/c pipeline when they made that commercial.
Which is what makes the comment you're replying too a joke. And anyway yeah these were all being developed at the time. But video payphones = LOL.

I've also seen these same videos linked too in a mocking context, as in "fax from the beach, video payphone, voiceprint door locks, LOL".

I always thought the voice print door locks were the dumbest "invention" Someone could just record your voice to get into your apartment.
posted by delmoi at 3:49 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Am I too late for the 4:30 autogyro to Siam? I'm worried that my aeromail will not reach the Prussian consulate on time.

Have you ever worn an onion on your belt because it was the style at the time?

YOU WILL.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:51 PM on June 25, 2010 [21 favorites]


I always thought the voice print door locks were the dumbest "invention" Someone could just record your voice to get into your apartment.

Well, sure, but first they'd have to wine and dine you and try to get you to say each of the words necessary to open the door. So as long as you remember never to discuss your passport with a woman who is way out of your league on an inexplicable date arranged by a computer, you should be fine.
posted by The World Famous at 3:53 PM on June 25, 2010 [32 favorites]


Have you ever had your phone company participate in a criminal conspiracy to let the government spy on your phone calls without a warrant?

You will.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:54 PM on June 25, 2010 [61 favorites]


What's funny is the GIANT PDA used to send a "fax" at the beach.

SHUT UP! My iPad fax app is going to ROCK!
posted by GuyZero at 3:55 PM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Have you ever posted a double triple post from the beach? You will.
posted by zsazsa at 3:56 PM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Some of that background music sounds uncannily similar to (but distinct from) riffs from Miracle of Life from Yes' 1991 album Union (and the Steve Howe solo project from which a lot of that album's guitar work was derived).
posted by cucumber at 4:04 PM on June 25, 2010


>Clearly Tom Selleck is a prophet, and his moustache actually an immensely powerful futurological detector hotlinked to tomorrow.

Further adventures of the Moustache of Understanding, eh?
posted by kipmanley at 4:13 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


How come my iPhone can't send these "faxes"?
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 4:15 PM on June 25, 2010


I recall those AT&T ads fondly, because they were such mundane visions of the future. No jetpacks. But GPS in your car. Amazing.

I also remember IBM ads from the mid-90s, at the dawn of the Internet. One of them had five businessmen sitting around a table, and one of them talks about ordering something online with his credit card. The other four are shocked at what appears to be risky behavior.

"How do you know it's safe?"
"I know."
"But...?"
"I know."

I remember thinking right then, "Holy shit, online commerce is real."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:19 PM on June 25, 2010


Have you ever posted a double triple post from the beach? You will.

Every few years, we need to remember the past. This is one of those years (until a mod decides it isn't).
posted by filthy light thief at 4:20 PM on June 25, 2010


How come my iPhone can't send these "faxes"?

Probably because you haven't purchased one of the many fax apps available for iPhone.
posted by The World Famous at 4:22 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have to use my hands? That's like a baby's toy.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 4:26 PM on June 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


You can use one of those stylii that's made of a sausage.
posted by GuyZero at 4:30 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I loved these ads when they first aired. They actually painted a desirable image of technology integrated into your life. Helpful, rather than leading and overwhelming. I think it was probably the last time I ever felt anything positive about AT&T.

What's amazing is that we've had all this stuff for a long time, but only in the last few years has it actually become ubiquitous and easy.

I always thought the voice print door locks were the dumbest "invention" Someone could just record your voice to get into your apartment.

To a voice processor, I'm sure a speaker sounds differently than a voice.

What's funny is the GIANT PDA used to send a "fax" at the beach. And the eazypass that required drivers to get out a credit card and physically swipe it card reader in their car.

Looks like an iPad to me. Way to innovate, Jobs.

And I think the credit card in the car thing might have just been artistic license. Swiping a credit card tells you exactly what's going on. A shot of a little magic-tag-box-thingy on the windshield just doesn't sell the story as well. (What they *could* have shown is the moron digging the tag out of their glove box and waving it angrily at the sky, while talking on his DynaTac. That would have been prescient!)
posted by gjc at 4:47 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


WTF! All the people commenting on YouTube must all have been born after Kurt Cobain killed himself.

In 1990 my school toured the local Ericsson factory. They showed us some visions of future products, and one thing that I especially remember was a mobile phone the size of a credit-card (my dad had a mobile phone back then, but it was the size of a brick), and the guy who showed it to us also mentioned video calls, and ordering goods and services, and even paying for it, over the phone. None of us thought much about it, since these visions had been around for ages.

Anyway, fast forward to now, and I see a lot of people on YouTube oh-ah-ing about AT&T making some *amazing* predictions. Shit, I *must* be getting old... Come on now, in some cases, if not most, the necessary inventions for these things were already there in 1993, and the technology was in the pipelines. It was only a matter of time.
posted by livingdots at 4:59 PM on June 25, 2010


And I think the credit card in the car thing might have just been artistic license. Swiping a credit card tells you exactly what's going on. A shot of a little magic-tag-box-thingy on the windshield just doesn't sell the story as well.

Would've been easy to show a scanner light reading a barcode as the car drove by.
posted by Jairus at 4:59 PM on June 25, 2010


In another 15 years, this is how we'll bypass toll booths.
posted by dirigibleman at 5:05 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


not sure why this thread makes me think of it, but the first time i can recall feeling old is when i was riding in my fiancee's 19 year old cousin's car. she was driving while texting on a smartphone and eating a piece of pizza.
posted by TrialByMedia at 5:05 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Have you ever seen Americans torturing teenagers halfway around the world? Spending trillions of dollars on endless wars with unspoken goals?

Have you ever watched a hurricane drown an American city, then watched as the Feds did nothing for days? While the president played air guitar?

Have you ever seen the Gulf of Mexico covered oil from shore-to-shore, ruining the coast for generations?

Have you ever watched people who worked for decades lose half or more of their savings ... to bankers in New York?

Have you ever seen an America that does nothing about these things, while people will go stand in line for a day or more to buy a telephone?

Oh ... you have?
posted by Twang at 5:10 PM on June 25, 2010 [15 favorites]


I think it's interesting to see how much of the UI they got right. That impresses me way more than the other stuff. Most of those ideas were already in the mix by '93. Hell, videophones have been around since the 70s [PDF], fer chrissake. But the "fax-on-the-beach" was pretty spot-on.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:11 PM on June 25, 2010


Have you ever watched a hurricane drown an American city, then watched as the Feds did nothing for days? While the president played air guitar?

Dude, do not distort history like that just to insult the President. It was a real guitar.
posted by The World Famous at 5:16 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love hits and misses. There's a part in Stranger in a Strange Land where the protagonist pulls his flying car over so he can find a phone booth.

Oh, I love these too. I read an oldish sci fi novel awhile ago in which the protagonist, who had traveled in space and lived on another planet, could talk on the phone from any room in his house because he'd gotten a very very long cord for it.
posted by not that girl at 5:34 PM on June 25, 2010


Have you ever watched the movie you wanted to, the minute you wanted to?

YOU'RE A CRIMINAL
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:43 PM on June 25, 2010 [34 favorites]


Have you ever seen Americans torturing teenagers halfway around the world? Spending trillions of dollars on endless wars with unspoken goals?

No, but I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. Also, lighty-uppity umbrella handles!
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:45 PM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Which you can buy here. THE FUTURE IS NOW, PEOPLE.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:57 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


wat
posted by bam at 5:57 PM on June 25, 2010


I used a GPS system called SatNav back in '87. It was about the size of a CB radio. There were only a few Satnav satellites, so you didn't always have a fix on two, but the receiver compensated by having a pretty decent dead reckoning system for those periods. In fact, the dead reckoning was so good it compensated for me screwing up the set-up, something that took me a good two weeks to catch.

The system was pretty accurate, too. I'd set an alarm to go off when we entered Long Beach harbor, and it went off right as we were passing through the seawall.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:57 PM on June 25, 2010


And AT&T, er, BellSouth, er SBC, er Cingular, er AT&T is the *name* of the company that might be around when you get it.
posted by Gucky at 5:59 PM on June 25, 2010


Those who don't remember old posts are doomed to repeat them.
posted by killdevil at 6:05 PM on June 25, 2010


That "GIANT PDA" was a real tablet computing device from AT&T that truly was like 1993's version of the iPad -- the EO Communicator.

The specs are quite impressive for a 17 year old mobile device. 2.3lbs, 640x480 resolution, microphone and speaker. Oh yeah, and a 14.4kbps modem.
posted by eschatfische at 6:27 PM on June 25, 2010


"Have you ever... taken a train and eaten it piece by piece after you've just derailed it with your penis?"

(Sorry, all the "have you ever"s had me have to do the obligatory Mr Show Reference)
posted by symbioid at 6:31 PM on June 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


(I should clarify: The Mr Show reference isn't really about AT&T, just an FYI -- just the intro phrasing)
posted by symbioid at 6:32 PM on June 25, 2010


Yeah, this was all stuff that they paid people to sit around at Bell Labs and think up. This was the old Ma Bell AT&T, not rebranded SBC. They really were The Phone Company. And I wouldn't get too mad at them for wanting to provide it all to you, either -- that's just what they had been doing for decades, and they were blindsided by the openness and flexibility of the internet just like a lot of other stodgy technology companies. It was sort of like the guys who built roads seeing a guy show up with a 4x4. "Don't you want .... pavement? 'Cos we're really good at that."

They used to have an exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry touting all this future telecom stuff. I remember sitting in the videophone exhibit and my engineer uncle stood up to lift the handset of the rotary dial phone, which cut off the video. "No! No! No!" us kids yelled. So this futurism stuff was their stock in trade for a long, long time. That exhibit -- which went away in the 1990s -- was first opened in 1939.
posted by dhartung at 6:50 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


That "GIANT PDA" was a real tablet computing device from AT&T that truly was like 1993's version of the iPad -- the EO Communicator.

Looks like a giant Palm Pilot. Even has a stylus.

Later, they added a phone.

That device looks suspiciously like the "smart" home phones they started selling shortly after that. This was in the early days of deregulation, when several companies were telemarketing for long distance service. They would call you up and try to get you to agree to financing this technical wonder gadget, without ever explicitly mentioning the full price unless you pushed them. IIRC, something like $299. I got one and sent it back after the trial period - not a good idea, sort of like agreeing to a "free" vacation if you just attend the timeshare sales pitch for four hours.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:54 PM on June 25, 2010




I called the AT&T long distance operator one time when I was bored and asked here where Jazz came from. She put me on hold and came back five minutes later and said "New Orleans." Yay for the future!
posted by jewzilla at 7:05 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's a part in Stranger in a Strange Land where the protagonist pulls his flying car over so he can find a phone booth.

I recently reread Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash and sure enough there's a scene where Rife pulls over his helicopter to find a phone booth.


And there's the scene in Neuromancer in which Wintermute tries to talk to Case by ringing each phone in a rank of phone booths, instead of calling the cell phone that Case doesn't have because Gibson didn't think about them when he was writing the book.

What is it about future visionaries and an inexplicable fondness for phone booths?
posted by Rock Steady at 7:08 PM on June 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Technological predictions aside, this made me discover that I have a soft spot for the early nineties' retro-thirties aesthetic.

Huh.
posted by Graygorey at 7:09 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


One the one hand, 1993 doesn't seem like it was that long ago. But remember what the state of the art was at the time:

In 1992:
The first mass produced GSM phone was released.
The first text message was sent
Windows 3.1 was released

In 1993:
The first web browser (NCSA Mosaic) was released.
The Pentium processor (66MHz!) was released.
GPS came on line.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 7:15 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


As I recall, notwithstanding the notable absence of many of the technological marvels that play prominently in our lives these days, 1993 was really, really awesome. You know, for me, anyway.
posted by The World Famous at 7:20 PM on June 25, 2010


What is it about future visionaries and an inexplicable fondness for phone booths?

Somewhere, a replicant dog barked.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:27 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I remember an AT&T commercial from the 80's that featured a videophone. I was quite excited then, and then nothing...
posted by Atreides at 7:29 PM on June 25, 2010


Century 21 Calling.

Soon you'll have all your friends hanging up on you and dreading your calls.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:42 PM on June 25, 2010


Still waiting for a Dick Tracy watch...

My phone does video calling. Its such a gimmicky thing and trivial feature I can't imagine using out other than to show off the phone. Turns out voice is good enough.

I imagine flying cars will feel like this too. We'll spend weeks getting the flying car license, pay off a big ass loan, monthly fees for special parking spaces, and insurance out the wazoo just to wonder why we just don't take the bus.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:43 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"So where did jazz come from?" has and will stick with me forever.

But not as much as the MTV promo line delivered from a young child, "You mean all that time people thought dinosaurs were extinct?"

[slight pause]

"Boy, I bet they were surprised!"
posted by Mike Mongo at 7:51 PM on June 25, 2010


OK, I'm not a business guy, but I believe Bell Telephone, the monopoly in the 50's, morphed into American Telegraph and Telephone company shortly thereafter, another monopoly.

Anyway, I have a copy of Look magazine from 1968 celebrating all of the changes telephones had gone through in the 20th century. The most recent one was a "videophone," which was fully operational at the time, not a prediction. It never caught on, though.

Even today, I would guess that 99.99% of all phone calls eschew the video option, although it exists, and is much easier to activate than it was forty years ago!
posted by kozad at 7:55 PM on June 25, 2010


I imagine flying cars will feel like this too. We'll spend weeks getting the flying car license, pay off a big ass loan, monthly fees for special parking spaces, and insurance out the wazoo just to wonder why we just don't take the bus.

Hover, or non-hover?
posted by Sys Rq at 8:01 PM on June 25, 2010


Have you ever watched a film... on your telephone?
You might think you have, but you really won't with f*cking AT&T!
posted by markkraft at 8:04 PM on June 25, 2010


What is it about future visionaries and an inexplicable fondness for phone booths?

Phone booths were a fixture of modern life for five or six times as long as cell phones have been mainstream, so it's easy to see why they might suffuse consciousness of even forward-looking writers. They also represent infrastructure built out to a wide variety of locations -- no, they're not as convenient as WiFi or mobile voice/data, but those things are invisible, terminals and phone booths can provide a *concrete* representation, a word-made-flash idea of the wide flung reach of technology and civilization and a point of contact. Finally, phone booths are potentially anonymous in a way mobile phones will quite likely never be. Which makes them particularly useful for two things authors might want to do: (a) let characters contact other characters anonymously and (b) set up scary scenes like the one where Wintermute calls Case on them (it/they know where you are? So precisely they can ring nearby phones?).

Reality isn't that vastly different, actually. Sure, cell phones are pretty darn convenient, certainly more so than mobile phones, but with their passing, synchronous anonymous two-way connection is effectively dead. And when you're stuck somewhere unexpectedly and you forgot your phone or the battery's dead, it's suddenly a lot easier to appreciate the erstwhile pay phone.
posted by weston at 8:19 PM on June 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yeah, this was all stuff that they paid people to sit around at Bell Labs and think up.

Absolutely. As the daughter of an electronics engineer who built simulators, I can attest that all these and more were in discussion as fairly definite realities when I was starting college in the late 80s. One of our family friends worked for Bell Labs and was one of those people who literally got paid to sit there and "think up" applications for emerging technologies. I remember 1993 well - I was an adult already - and though we didn't have these technologies in hand, and though a lot of people didn't own a home computer and most people weren't even savvy to the internet, those who did track communications technology were certainly envisioning these concepts. Rather than watching commercials, maybe it would be interesting for folks to get a sense of the time by reading some technology magazines from the period -- Wired debuted in 1993; MacWorld has been published since 1984 and PC World since 1983. Popular Mechanicswas always good for pie in the sky. Sources like that will give a much clearer picture about what was imagined, and certainly all of it was already being designed in concept even before the technology could be delivered.

The poster above who said the startling part of the changes of the last 2 decades is not that advances like these were planned - it's that they swiftly became ubiquitous and fairly affordable technology. Even so, I'm not sure we're adopting any new pieces of hardware or any new communications capabilities any faster or slower than people adopted previous changes in technology. Some cities had public electricity delivery for lights in the 1870s; but the rural electrification project couldn't declare its work finished until 1994.
posted by Miko at 8:34 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I favorited so many comments in this thread so hard. You guys are on point tonight.
TA: Good q- what? That is the dumbest shit I've ever heard. Where did Jazz come from? BE A LITTLE BROADER NEXT TIME. For any other morons out there, in case you were wondering the NAME of this class is THE HISTORY OF JAZZ. We will be discussing where Jazz "came from" all semester. Try to pay attention next time Oakland. Now. Does ANYONE have an intelligent question?
I love this so much.
posted by amethysts at 8:39 PM on June 25, 2010


Cool Papa Bell: I also remember IBM ads from the mid-90s, at the dawn of the Internet.

Ahem.
posted by ixohoxi at 8:51 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


with their passing, synchronous anonymous two-way connection is effectively dead.

It's getting a bit off point, but you know what else cell phones killed? Talking to people you didn't intend to talk to. For example, I never talk to my brother's wife on the phone. If I want to talk to my brother, I call his cell. I don't have to call his house, have her answer, spend a few minutes chit-chatting about the kids only to find out he's not home from work yet, but he'll call you later, oh, I heard about your mother, yada yada. Don't get me wrong -- I liked that. It cemented relationships and built a greater sense of community, I think. Oh, and I just left a message with your secretary about getting off my lawn.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:26 PM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


set up scary scenes like the one where Wintermute calls Case on them (it/they know where you are? So precisely they can ring nearby phones?)

Oh absolutely. That scene literally gave me the chills when I first read it, but it's nothing if Wintermute just calls Case's cell, or god forbid texts him (omg r u with lady 3jane shes crazy lol).
posted by Rock Steady at 9:31 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's getting a bit off point, but you know what else cell phones killed? Talking to people you didn't intend to talk to.

I think it was more a combination of answering machines/voicemail and caller ID.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:05 PM on June 25, 2010


"So where did jazz come from / Good question" is my standard for deciding whether a commercial is pandering.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:21 PM on June 25, 2010


That scene literally gave me the chills when I first read it, but it's nothing if Wintermute just calls Case's cell, or god forbid texts him (omg r u with lady 3jane shes crazy lol).

The way it would play out now would be that for some reason Case wouldn't have a phone, or -- much more likely -- he'd have turned his phone off after a fight with Molly. And as he's walking along, every time he passes someone, their phone rings, the same ringtone, a little bit further into it every time. Maybe it's a song. Maybe the ringtone just says "Case. Case. Case. You need to contact me, Case. Pick up a phone, Case, grab the phone from the redhead in the chair..."

Which would still be scary.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:26 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


My Nexus One has more computing power and bandwidth than did the entire ISP I worked for in 1995. It's only got a 4G MicroSD, so I can't say "and it has more storage, too" - but changing it to a 32G would fix that. And, it fits in my shirt pocket.

In 1993-94, I paid $50/month (until I started working for the company) for "unlimited use" 28.8 dialup Internet access.

In 1998-2000, I paid $50/month for 64k-burstable-to-128k dedicated ISDN.

In 2010, I pay that same $50/month for 12 megabit down, 2 megabit up connectivity from SBC/AT&T (UVerse). That's almost 10x the bandwidth we had to share between 3K customers back then.
posted by mrbill at 10:29 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Haters gonna hate, eh?

I just watched this reel again earlier today for no good reason -- Mr. Selleck's mustache just massaged its way into my brain. There's a comforting thought.

If I'm gonna add some hate, the only thing that tickles me is the idea that the original death star, AT&T, got broken down into Baby Bells in what... '83..? And here we are 20 years later and they seem to be pretty darned leveraged again (Land lines, Wireless, Internet, U-Verse, what have you). Makes me wonder if someone in a back room in '83 just chuckled at the court orders and pinned "to do"'s on their 10, 15 year calendars.
posted by cavalier at 10:31 PM on June 25, 2010


"Good question. Jazz, like all excellent things in life, was invented by our benevolent overlords at AT&T. Now ask me where sex came from."
posted by lore at 11:08 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


one thing they got wrong - all the actors are thin, intelligent and articulate. they don't show any furious obese people screaming about jesus and taking their country back.
posted by camdan at 11:13 PM on June 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell: I also remember IBM ads from the mid-90s, at the dawn of the Internet.

Ahem.
posted by ixohoxi 2 ¾ hours ago [+]


I see your ahem, and raise you an ahem, only this time with relevance to the rise of Internet commerce.

I said, "good day."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:35 PM on June 25, 2010


The video craps out at 1.40 for me; can't get it to play all the way through for love or money.

TEH FUUUUCHORRR!
posted by tzikeh at 12:03 AM on June 26, 2010


stavrogin: I recently reread Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash and sure enough there's a scene where Rife pulls over his helicopter to find a phone booth.

I recently re-read Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, which I recall thinking was very modern and "wired" when it came out ten years ago. In an early scene, our tech-savvy protagonist gets paged by his friend while out at dinner, so he has to go find a pay phone.
posted by neckro23 at 12:20 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The first web browser (NCSA Mosaic) was released.

Mosaic was not the first web browser.
posted by grouse at 12:46 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love hits and misses. There's a part in Stranger in a Strange Land where the protagonist pulls his flying car over so he can find a phone booth.

Eh, that's nothing. The canonical example of this sort of thing is the guys in old science fiction zipping around in their spaceships while using slide rules to calculate orbital dynamics.
posted by Justinian at 12:50 AM on June 26, 2010


Fuck flying cars.

Fuck jetpacks.

Fuck the future in AT&T ads.

I want, nay, I NEED ubiquitous, low cost, and reliable teledildonics.

and preferably people to actually use them with me.
posted by Samizdata at 4:20 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I missed my slipstick. Dad says that anyone who can't use a slide rule is a cultural illiterate and should not be allowed to vote. Mine is a beauty - a K&E 20-inch Log-log Duplex Decitrig [....]
So- 1/2 x 30 x 93,000,000 x 5280 = 1/2 x 8 x 32.2 x t2 - and you wind up with the time for half the trip, in seconds. Double that for full trip. Divide by 3600 to get hours; divide by 24 and you have days. On a slide rule such a problem takes forty seconds, most of it to get your decimal point correct. It's as easy as computing sales tax. It took me at least an hour and almost as long to prove it, using a different sequence - and a third time, because the answers didn't match (I had forgotten to multiply by 5280, and had "miles" on one side and "feet" on the other - a no-good way to do arithmetic) - then a fourth time because my confidence was shaken. I tell you, the slide rule is the greatest invention since girls.
- Have Space Suit - Will Travel
I was partial to my K&E 18" 4080-5 hardwood slide rule, until the "crumbling cursor" syndrome set in. Now I have to make do with my Versalog 12" plastic model. Also, Decitrig? Real men use degrees and minutes instead of this metric decimal stuff.

I kid, I kid! I much prefer the decimal models.
posted by autopilot at 4:21 AM on June 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


1. If someone writes and exact copy of the UI for that fax app for iPad or Android, I will buy it.

2. I doubt AT&T could make that commercial today looking forward from now.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:24 AM on June 26, 2010


The canonical example of this sort of thing is the guys in old science fiction zipping around in their spaceships while using slide rules to calculate orbital dynamics.

That reminds me of the terrifying scene in Apollo 13 when Kevin Bacon figures out they don't have enough air to get back by basically doing equations on the back of an envelope, and when Tom Hanks questions him about it he gets snippy and says "I know because I CAN DO MATH."

It's so terrifying to think there was actually a time when we were tossing people into space in tin buckets and doing it with slide rules rather than computers.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:49 AM on June 26, 2010


Funny how the company with exclusive rights in the U.S. to the iPhone predicted EZ Pass and internet access on the beach, but didn't predict phones in your pocket.
posted by emelenjr at 5:50 AM on June 26, 2010


Which reminds me. I should learn to use a slide rule one of these days.

The REALLY fun part of all this? Watching the video and then reading this thread ON MY iPAD. Zing!
posted by grubi at 6:06 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is another scene in the movie Apollo 13 where a dork (with taped glasses, pocket protector, skinny tie and short-sleeve button down shirt) adds a column of numbers with a slide rule. That inaccuracy ruined the movie for me.
posted by autopilot at 7:05 AM on June 26, 2010


I doubt AT&T could make that commercial today looking forward from now.

Have you ever killed a mutant with your machete over a gallon of gasoline? You will.

Have you ever asked the shaman to bless your machete before journeying into the technolands? You will.

Have you ever used your machete to scrape out a message of warning in your feud-enemy's blood upon the side of a rusted car-husk? You will.

And the company bringing you that machete? AT&T.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:41 AM on June 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


The World Famous: "As I recall, notwithstanding the notable absence of many of the technological marvels that play prominently in our lives these days, 1993 was really, really awesome. You know, for me, anyway."

Yeah - Kurt Cobain was still alive ;_;
posted by symbioid at 8:28 AM on June 26, 2010


It's so terrifying to think there was actually a time when we were tossing people into space in tin buckets and doing it with slide rules rather than computers.

It's terrifying that we were better at tossing people into space using slide rules. :(
posted by GuyZero at 8:41 AM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I doubt AT&T could make that commercial today looking forward from now.

What with the Rapture and all.
posted by crunchland at 8:43 AM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I also remember IBM ads from the mid-90s

I still remember from 1995 when IBM told us that they'd figured out teleportation.

Anyways, I'm still impressed by anything that close to accurate seeing 15-20 years into the future. That was a massive technology gap to be staring across. And yes, AT&T thought they might get to control it all, and probably imagined ISDN, but this was well done, nonetheless. Plus Tom Selleck.

And Fincher's genius here is indeed in making this stuff seem both cool and mundane, friendly, workable. With the video-on-demand shot, we don't get faces glowing with wonder, but the kdis jumping around not paying attention to it. That was perfect.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:51 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


So if you're me and you still have a lot of taped-off-the-teevee copies of MST3K episodes, then you know the best thing about them are the Internet Boom-era commercials. Never has advertising been so maddeningly, incessantly vague. The Internet! It will do something! Something ......wonderful! Maybe! Here are some kids playing, and then a windmill! End on a question!

Watching them these days is like watching dada video art on messages with form but no content.
posted by The Whelk at 9:54 AM on June 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


I would love to see an hour-long tape of just those Internet Boom commericals.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:06 AM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Greg Nog

I googled some of the ones I remember, here is Qwest, which is actually kinda concrete (What do we do, we allow you to have lots and lots of things)

There was one that always drives me up the wall - kids reciting internet "facts" with the tag-line "Are you ready?" but it's proving to be un-googlable (and I'm not at home so I can't ransack my tapes)
posted by The Whelk at 10:20 AM on June 26, 2010


Now I'm on an ad nostalgia cruise, here's the "His name... is Linux" commercial from IBM in 2003.
posted by danhon at 10:53 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]




DAVID CROSS?
posted by The Whelk at 11:04 AM on June 26, 2010




I once saw part of an old 1950s B&W film that was set in "the future." Folks were commuting via fyling cars, but yet "messaging" was reliant on a comely girl on a flying scooter who had to fly up to the driver's side of each car and hand them a handwritten message on a small sheet of paper. Obviously the filmmakers of yore could envision flying cars, but they were unable to predict a world of digital text messaging.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:28 AM on June 26, 2010


Maybe it's just that, even back then, they knew that operating a vehicle and a cell phone at the same time was crazy.
posted by crunchland at 1:20 PM on June 26, 2010


Have you ever been told that your ass is too big?
Have you ever been asked if your hair is a wig?
Have you ever been told you're mediocre in bed?
Have you ever been told you've got a weird-shaped head?

Has your family ever forgotten you and driven away?
Once again, they forgot about J.
Were you ever called homo, 'cause at school you took drama?
Have you ever been told that you look like a llama?

posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 3:12 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


The World Famous wrote: "Probably because you haven't purchased one of the many fax apps available for iPhone."

More like because at&t dropped fax support on their network around five years ago. (yeah, there are Internet-based fax services, but that's not nearly as awesome) Yes, I used to send and receive faxes on my phone. Hell, their voicemail system used to receive faxes for you and you could then call it up and give it a phone number of a physical fax machine and it would send it on. I had to use that a couple of times. That was back before my phone could print to a network printer...

I also used to use my cell phone to dial up my ISP because it was cheaper than paying Cingular's data fees. GSM is spiffy.
posted by wierdo at 3:42 PM on June 26, 2010


Hover, or non-hover?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:01 PM on June 25 [+] [!]


I'll take hover, please.
posted by Doohickie at 9:28 PM on June 26, 2010


Last night this post popped up just before we started watching an Instant Play movie on NetFlix. Interesting.
posted by odinsdream at 6:36 AM on June 27, 2010


I remember thinking those ads weren't all that impressive and not much of a reach at the time they came out. Probably because I was at a technical university at the time and could see that some really hot sh*t was in our future. And I'm not giving AT&T that much credit for bringing us most of those things either.
posted by meinvt at 5:44 PM on June 27, 2010


In another 15 years, this is how we'll bypass toll booths

Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:58 PM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember thinking those ads weren't all that impressive and not much of a reach at the time they came out.

I think that was kind of the point of them. They were not flying car level stuff, but eminently possible. I wonder what similar ads created today would look like? Probably something about smart homes/appliances ("Have you ever gotten a text telling you you are out of milk... from your fridge?"), something about smart cars ("Have you ever taken a nap... on the Interstate?"), and maybe something about haptic feedback ("Have you ever thrown a punch in a video game... and felt it land?").

What else?
posted by Rock Steady at 7:21 PM on June 27, 2010


I was thinking about this thread, and was trying to come up with the best innovations from the last 10 or 15 years. I think GPS and DVRs are right up there, but I sort of think one of the best has to be self-checkout at the grocery store.
posted by crunchland at 7:47 AM on June 28, 2010


Crunchland I think my favorite has to be printing your own boarding pass at home and going straight to security.
posted by amethysts at 8:26 AM on June 28, 2010


I was thinking about this thread, and was trying to come up with the best innovations from the last 10 or 15 years.

Personally, my vote goes for digital audio workstations (which were underway in the early '90's, but have really gained steam here lately) which allow hard-disk recording, and the digital SLR. Man, I do and DON'T miss Kodachrome.

Most widespread has to be cell phones replacing land lines.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:59 AM on June 28, 2010


I'm still trying to figure out what mlife is.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:52 PM on June 28, 2010


@The World Famous:

Of course you're right. Of course, I meant to say "airhead guitar".
posted by Twang at 9:07 PM on June 28, 2010


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