Facetime's Great Great Grandfather Worked Just Fine Without Wi-Fi

When iOS 6 is released in a few months, iPhone Facetime users will finally be able to place video calls without the need for a Wi-Fi connection. It's an improvement that was a long time coming, particularly when you consider that AT&T/Bell had offered a picturephone service over 40 years earlier.


Believe it or not, back in 1970 in Pittsburgh, Bell System rolled out a trial of a state-of-the-art videophone service to customers that worked over phone lines. But like any bleeding edge technology, it was expensive. Service was $160 per month, which equates to just over $1,000 in today's dollars. And that was for just half an hour of use. Each additional minute was 25 cents, so it's not surprising that by 1974 there were only five subscribers in the entire city. Not exactly the runaway success that Bell had predicted. [YouTube]



Yesterday my wife took a Skype video call from her dad on her iPhone while we were on the freeway (I was driving). Video and audio quality was great over 3G (AT&T, 5-7 mbps in our area). He got to see his daughter and his granddaughter who was in the back seat. He's getting quite old and doesn't see us very often (lives far away) so Skype has been wonderful for him.

Though we don't use video calling much, it's times like these when I realize we are really living in the future and some of the things we can do with technology are simply amazing. Too bad many of the folks in that video clip probably aren't around to see this.