Too Much Too Soon
In 1964, the Bell System introduced the Picturephone, asserting that it was “a logical extension of today’s telephone service.” It probably was. Bell predicted that eight million users would be chatting face-to-face within five years.
But the American consumer, apparently defying this logic, didn’t like the Picturephone. It was bulky, the controls were clumsy, the picture was small and the high cost per unit and usage ($21 per minute between New York and Chicago) were off-putting. And potential consumers were reluctant to be seen accidentally by others in the private affairs of their homes. Maybe someone could catch you wrapped in a towel, or… not wrapped in a towel.
The Picturephone was abandoned in 1973 and had proven itself to be one of the biggest failures in communications technology history.
Closing the Gap
More than 40 years later, with some moderate success and acceptance of the video communication concept achieved with business video conferencing and personal webcam chats, it appears that Apple’s iPhone 4 FaceTime and similar technology is finally able to deliver what the consumer is actually ready for. The gap between this technology and general consumer desire has finally been closed. And the public is ready to make a science fact of what had for so long been limited to science fiction.
Raising the Bar?
How can you make something look better when it hasn’t actually changed, or it’s actually gotten worse? Change how it is perceived.
The future is now! Hello? Can you hear me? Hello? Are you still there? If you can hear me, I can’t hear you…
A look way back at the earlier marketing of any technology is good for a laugh. Things that looked sleek and futuristic look clunky and comical when seen through the long looking glass of history.
You have to ask yourself, don’t you? You don’t know. What IS in your phone!?! Let’s look at what made up a 1916 Western Electric telephone in an ad campaign that sought to show folks of the time “the complexity of your telephone.” Listed were (arranged in order of increasing hilarity):
No. They don’t make ’em like they used to. It’s pretty certain smartphones don’t have asphalt in them.
Odd that each of the phones pictured here have a new benefit, but have yet to be combined in one product. Eh-hem! Anyone? Also, rotary phones being placed in the same ad as push-button technology shows that markets tend to transition slowly to new technologies.
Nicknamed “the brick,” the first cell phone came to the market from Motorola. The DynaTac 8000X weighed two pounds, had one hour of talk time and sold successfully for $3,995. In 1984 that was nearly a bazillion of today’s dollars.