Retrotisements – Telephone technology

With the release of the much-ballyhooed iPhone just around the corner, I thought I’d take a look at a few other telephone innovations of the past.

Satellite phone service

Phone calls over satellite? Nonsense!

While satellite phone service is no big deal now – and has in fact been eclipsed by cell phones in terms of sheer usage – this 1960 ad from Douglas (pre-McDonnell) recalls a time when the technology was very much new and exciting (the first American satellite, Explorer I, had only been launched in late January 1958).




Other than jet-powered cars, few things scream “FUTURE!” like videophones. This 1968 ad from Western Electric (the manufacturing arm of AT&T) promised to bring the future to the present through the introduction of the Picturephone, but for a variety of reasons it flopped. Even though the technology itself has improved a lot in the nearly four decades since then, the idea of a videophone has never really captured the imagination of the buying public (although it is used more often in the business world for video conferences).