The Technology Nobody Wanted

The President of the USA phoned the President of AT&T using a video-phone – in 1927.

The technology languished, unexploited until, over 30 years later, AT&T decided to make and market a videophone called Picturephone.

It was demo-ed at the New York World’s Fair of 1964 and trialled by 700 people who were asked afterwards for their opinion.

Half of the 700  said it was important to see the person on the other end of the line, but half said it wasn’t important.

In 1967 AT&T prepared a marketing plan for Picturephone.

In 1969 AT&T’s annual report stated: ‘With perhaps one million sets in use, Picturephone may be a billion-dollar business by 1980.’

In April 1972 lack of demand for Picturephone persuaded AT&T to discontinue production.



  1. Even being rude to an idiot diminishes you a trifle, Mike

  2. Why let your heart sink ? The idiot on the other end of the line choose to do it rather than something useful like being a restaurant waiter or bar staff who nowadays seem to all come from Poland, Latvia and Ukraine because nobody from UK seems to want to do useful jobs anymore.

  3. Yes Rich, when I was a kid the phone was kept in a cupboard under the stairs. To make or take a call you had to go into this cupboard and shut the door. I think this was a very appropriate way to keep a phone because it made it unobtrusive and ignorable. Then people started putting phones all round the house – sitting room, bedroom, kitchen etc and the things became an intrusive nuisance.Now my heart sinks when the phone rings because I’ve probably got to be rude to some poor wretched salesperson.

  4. Its certainly one that hindsight makes a lot easier to see. I do tend to find that the telephone itself is (home phone) is a very intrusive device. Only the advent of caller ID renders it tolerable for me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *