Before Skype and FaceTime: When The Picturephone Was The Future


By Jayne MillerMar 27, 2017


"From a booth set up in Grand Central Terminal, a person could talk to a friend in Chicago or Washington while also seeing them on a small video screen. The friend would also have to go to a special booth in those cities to take the call. The price for the novelty of a three-minute call was $16.

That would be equivalent to $121 in today’s money."

This excerpt comes from the New York Times piece How the Future Looked in 1964: The Picturephone.

It would seem that long before we were making Slack video calls, Bell Telephone’s Picturephone was making the same promise of transcontinental video calls to friends and family, but for a heftier price. The boxy screen and handset, known as "Mod I," went on display at the 1964 World’s Fair, where it mixed and mingled with jet packs, time capsules, and a Dupont musical presentation of "The Wonderful World of Chemistry." 

While New York's Grand Central Terminal, Washington D.C., and Chicago were excited to see Picturephones installed in 1964, 10 years came and went and only a few hundred Picturephones were leased across the country.

The Mod II was discontinued by the late 1970s. By that time, the future wasn't looking quite as much like the Picturephone as it was touch screens and flavored Coca-Cola.


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