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The History of the Videophone In Sci-Fi

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the I-want-my-flying-car dept.

Communications 97

bejiitas_wrath writes "Ars Technica has an interesting story about the history of the videophone in Science Fiction. Star Trek has always depicted the video calling when hailing ships and planets, but even the 1935 movie The Tunnel depicted video calling from one continent to another and even video calling from airplanes! And huge public video screens showing the news and current events. Now we can use Skype to call one another over the Internet and video call with mobile `phones, but the video quality is nowhere near the quality shown in the film 2001 or the aforementioned Transatlantic Tunnel film."

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97 comments

Call me a Luddite... (1, Troll)

Dr.Bob,DC (2076168) | more than 3 years ago | (#36542702)


The radiation coming from video displays has been proven to cause cancers and other health issues.

A few years ago in the Journal of Chiropractic Research there was a letter from a chiro who noticed an interesting trend: many of his patients who suffered from the worst cases of back pain and other maladies worked at places like Best Buy and Circuit City. Places where row upon row of TVs glow all day long, flooding the area with radiation. Also remember those types of big-box buildings are made with reinforced cement and metal facing. The radiation can't escape and fills up to the ceiling, filling the place like a pool of inescapable electromagnetic radiation. The poor workers inside are marinating in this toxicity all day.

So, if we're to be using videophones and video chat (like Facetime), the increase of people suffering from vertebral subluxations is certain to increase. Rather than using a videophone to call your neighbor, why not just walk over and chat face to face? A nice talk over a cup of organic, free-trade coffee with organic milk is certainly more social than looking at a screen! Not to mention all the radiation you'll be avoiding.

Take care,
Bob

Re:Call me a Luddite... (1)

sseaman (931799) | more than 3 years ago | (#36542780)

I'm curious, did you somehow post that comment without looking at a screen?

Re:Call me a Luddite... (1)

Dr.Bob,DC (2076168) | more than 3 years ago | (#36542928)


I have my LCD display brightness turned down very low and the lights in my office off. Most days there is only natural lighting through the glass as my office window faces the sun.

I've been fighting with my landlord to change my lighting to incandescent from fluorescent as I don't want the mercury seeping through the glass and into my or my patients' bodies.

Re:Call me a Luddite... (1)

PIBM (588930) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543242)

You should take the matter in your own hands and fix it up yourself, think about the childrens you would be saving!

Re:Call me a Luddite... (1)

smbarbour (893880) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543746)

You are aware that visible light is also electromagnetic radiation (as well as infrared and ultraviolet - both provided in gratuitous amounts by the sun... far more than produced by any artificial light source)

Of course the back pain reported by workers of electronics stores has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they are likely moving heavy objects (probably without taking proper precautions to prevent injury) and are on their feet for most if not all of their shifts.

Ignorance does not improve the credibility of your field.

Re:Call me a Luddite... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36542950)

What radiation? We're not using CRTs anymore.

And I'm allergic to dairy, you insensitive clod!

Re:Call me a Luddite... (1)

Steve Newall (24926) | more than 3 years ago | (#36542974)

OK, you're a Luddite.

I believe that the issue you are referring to is the radiated emissions from cathode ray tube (CRT) screens. As these are all but obsolete now, this should no longer be a problem.

Re:Call me a Luddite... (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543680)

not to mention they all but fixed that 20+ years ago

Re:Call me a Luddite... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36543106)

Occam's Razor says:

It's much more likely that they developed back pain from lifting the heavy objects (TVs et al) than it is that the developed it as a result of radiation produced by the devices, as the former only assumes the existence of heavy devices while the latter assumes their existence, their production of radiation, and a mechanism by which the radiation could cause back pain.

Also radiation isn't water, it doesn't behave anything like a "pool".

Re:Call me a Luddite... (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543108)

I'm not surprised that a professional practitioner of pseudo-science would also be taken in by pseudo-scientific articles.

Try thinking about it this way: if a magnetic bracelet on your wrist is helpful to your health, then being surrounded by electric or magnetic fields (the only kind of "radiation" other than light you would be exposed to by these devices today... and not even much of that) should be even more beneficial to your health!

Re:Call me a Luddite... (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543134)

With the amount of junk I eat and the amount of booze I drink a bit of radiation is the least of my worries. Oh and sometimes I eat red meat whilst injecting opiates.

Re:Call me a Luddite... (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543158)

Praying on people with fertility problems to peddle your pseudo scientific BS (as per your sig) is below reprehensible. These people have enough problems without having to deal with false hope from the likes of you.

give me that old time trolling... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36543292)

Dr Bob, FTW! kudos, sir.

Re:give me that old time trolling... (1)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543820)

Few trolls have the staying power and consistency of Dr Bob.

It'd be a most impressive record if:
A. there weren't over 9000 better things one could do with one's time
B. the nagging feeling that he actually believe some of this

The best is when he actually manages to accidentally troll himself. That's always great.

Re:Call me a Luddite... (1)

S.O.B. (136083) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543268)

Hi Bob, The Chiropractic Spambot,

Go peddle your snake oil on the street corner.

Re:Call me a Luddite... (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543706)

they suffer back pain cause they pound concrete chasing after customers all day every day sometimes for double shifts you dingbat

Dr. Bob! Oh, Dr. Bob! (was Re:Call me a Luddite..) (1)

siglercm (6059) | more than 3 years ago | (#36544990)

Hilarious! Anyone else remember Dr. Bob: http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Dr._Bob [wikia.com] ?

Re:Call me a Luddite... (1)

sorak (246725) | more than 3 years ago | (#36545078)

Compare the number of monitors turned in in your typical best buy to the number of monitors turned on in a typical cubical farm (if best buy is winning, it isn't by much). then consider the difference between a Best Buy Employee and a Desk Jockey. The Best Buy employee stands 3 feet away from a monitor that is turned on, and lifts PCs that are unplugged. A desk jockey sits a foot from a monitor that is turned on, stares directly into it most of the day, and does little heavy lifting. I would suspect that if monitors were the cause of Best Buy health problems, then they would have killed most of the people in my workplace by now.

The real issue: (3, Insightful)

sean.peters (568334) | more than 3 years ago | (#36542762)

Mostly, people just aren't that keen on video calling. It's honestly kind of a pain: you have to keep looking at the screen, avoid scratching your face, or doing anything else while you're talking. With a plain old audio call, you can lay around on the bed in your underwear while simultaneously reading slashdot during the boring parts of the conversation. We've had the technology to do video calling for quite a while - people just aren't that into it.

Re:The real issue: (1)

vawwyakr (1992390) | more than 3 years ago | (#36542878)

Yeah I have almost no interest in this tech at all. We have workers spread around different offices/locations and my manager is always suggesting we setup our video conferencing equipment, but I have no idea why. I'm not communicating anything useful with my face while we're chatting on the phone about tech topics. It's utterly useless, maybe for some couple who are living separately for some work or something I could see it being better than sexting but otherwise why the hell would I want to see someone while I'm trying to talk to them?

Re:The real issue: (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36552028)

Perhaps it is so that he can call at random intervals and see that your actually working, rather then having to take the walk and have some peon send a "warning, PHB on the loose!" across the company network?

Re:The real issue: (1)

grub (11606) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543018)


We have a regular IT Managers' teleconference which we call in to with the option to go video. Even with a nice Cisco (nee Tandberg) VC system and 60" display, I go over the phone.

That way I can eat my lunch, play on my phone, scratch myself, etc. Video calls make me way too self conscious about what I'm doing and concentration is lost.

Re:The real issue: (3, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543490)

So how do you manage to talk to anybody in person?

Re:The real issue: (1)

grub (11606) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543544)


Generally fine. All the cues are there, on a video screen it's just weird.
Maybe I have a kiss of Aspergers...

Re:The real issue: (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543896)

My big problem is that when that unsteady, poor frame rate video appears on the screen, I keep expecting the guy on the other side to say "This is Dink Loser of CNN reporting from Some Shithole, Someplace."

Re:The real issue: (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36543670)

Dear God man! Even the thought of face to face conversation makes me chat my therapist.

Re:The real issue: (2)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 3 years ago | (#36544682)

So how do you manage to talk to anybody in person?

This is Slashdot. This is not really a big problem for most of us here. Myself included.

Re:The real issue: (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543030)

But plain old telephone technology is ancient. Why not replace it with modern technology that uses the internet to deliver its data instead ? You could have a system that's built from the ground up to support video, encryption, etc. but can fallback to plain old voice-only if you want to (or shows an avatar or something.) Just the ability to send data over the same secure connection should be enough of an advantage to do this: no more dictating names or phone numbers, just send the data; no more stupid security questions just send a security token of some kind over the same connection.

Dude, I say again... (4, Insightful)

sean.peters (568334) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543214)

The technology isn't the issue. We can do video calling right now, and have been able to do so for some time. The thing is that people don't WANT video calling.

But plain old telephone technology is ancient.

Lots of technology is ancient. I walked up the stairs to my office today, even though the building has an elevator. People still write with pencil and paper. Electricity is still transmitted with 60 Hz A/C technology that Tesla would recognize. The point is that technology upgrades aren't an end in themselves - they need to meet some need people have. And people don't apparently need to do video calling.

Re:Dude, I say again... (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543408)

Yes, what I'm saying is we should replace the old telephone system with something a little more future oriented that can do all the exiting new stuff while also allowing voice-only communication. Instead of doing what we have now and having all this stuff live next to each other and require different clients, different numbers or addresses, etc. I'm talking about changing the technology, not the use case.

Re:Dude, I say again... (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36552054)

Sadly the client issue will be hard to resolve, unless some force is applied on Skype to open up their protocol to third parties for free (in both senses).

On the addressing however, i seem to recall a DNS FTC that involved using DNS to hide multiple addresses under a single name. So to dial up someone you would enter the "url" and the kind of service you wanted to use, and the DNS lookup would give the relevant data in response.

Re:The real issue: (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543272)

Are you not just describing Skype (and its competitors), who have been around for a decade or more now? Hell, in my office all the desk phones are VOIP Cisco handsets now- just because it's easier to manage the infrastructure. I'm fairly sure Skype (etc.) do video calling too.

And yet no-one uses the video calling. As the GP points out- what's the point? Unless I have something very specific to show someone which can't be dealt with through audio + email attachments, I can't imagine why I'd want them to see me and vice versa.

Re:The real issue: (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543554)

Something like Skype or Facetime is clearly the future. If you don't want to show video you don't have to but like I said there's other advantages. Like potentially being more secure, or not having your "number" being tied to one outlet like Facetime which rings all your devices and then connects the one where you pick up. Like I said earlier why should I have to go through a whole song and dance when making a phone call to prove who I am for example, I should just be able to sign the connection with a private key and have it be secure.

Re:The real issue: (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543596)

Video conferencing is useful for meetings or joint calls because it allows you to know who's talking without them having to announce themselves over the phone every time. Otherwise, like you said, there's no point.

Re:The real issue: (1)

S.O.B. (136083) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543392)

I think you missed the point. It's voice vs video not how that voice or video is delivered. It doesn't matter if it's POTS, Skype, VOIP or a herd of mutant cats. The point is even though video calling is available people still seem to prefer voice.

Re:The real issue: (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543606)

I get it, most of the time I prefer voice except when I'm working overtime or something then it's nice to call home and see the kids. But why keep something around that's voice only when it's an unnecessary restriction these days and video does have its legitimate uses ?

Re:The real issue: (1)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543866)

I'm pretty sure that this has already happened/is happening.

It's called the internet, wifi, and the 3g/4g cellular network. they can handle all the classic stuff, as well as all the new stuff.

old copper POTS lines are seeing less and less use as the years go by. they are still there, but not used too much. I don't have a single thing anymore that plugs into the old infrastructure.

Mutant Cats (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#36544050)

Out of idle curiosity, what's the RFC for IP via Mutant Cat Carriers?

Or is it simply an adaptation of RFC 1149?

Re:Mutant Cats (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547460)

Out of idle curiosity, what's the RFC for IP via Mutant Cat Carriers?

Or is it simply an adaptation of RFC 1149?

Serious question: How does one tell what the most relevant RFC for anything is? Maybe RFC 1149 has been superseded. How do you know? How do you find out?

Re:The real issue: (1)

Sectoid_Dev (232963) | more than 3 years ago | (#36545004)

I think you missed the point. It's voice vs video not how that voice or video is delivered. It doesn't matter if it's POTS, Skype, VOIP or a herd of mutant cats. The point is even though video calling is available people still seem to prefer voice.

The mutant cat layer is very difficult to manage, unless you are using the EDS protocol.

Re:The real issue: (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543934)

That's basically what telephone is now. The final bit of copper to the phone is analog, but that's it. Everything else runs digital - sometimes even IP, though more often just cutting the call into cells and putting it on ATM or SONET, as they can provide an absolute assurance of delivery and jitter.

Re:The real issue: (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 3 years ago | (#36544596)

That is of course the real issue POTS can run on 64kbps and video call likes at least 1500kbps. Now couple with the self serving greed of incumbent telecoms and of course they want to charge at least 20 times as much for a video call versus a voice call, how of course that just doesn't fly.

So it is all about squeezing out the maximum profit possible out of the bandwidth available even if 9/10s of the bandwidth goes dark. Greed is the master and squeezing out 20 odd voice calls in the same bandwidth as a video call is all the incumbent telecoms can see.

People will make video calls when it is readily accessible, the phones that can do it are cheap and, most importantly the bandwidth is cheaply available (actually usable bandwidth no data caps). Anybody who claims otherwise is either an incumbent telecom troll or somebody that walks around with a bag on their head, maybe even a unisex burka.

Re:The real issue: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36543224)

With a plain old audio call, you can lay around on the bed in your underwear

Yeah, *that* is never gonna happen with any kind of videocall...

Re:The real issue: (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543374)

Having worked for some large companies that invested in some pretty slick video teleconferencing / telepresence setups, I'd include that while it is pretty slick, doing it "right" requires a fair amount of effort and additional staffing, especially when going to larger multi-party conferences.

First off, many people failed to do enough testing, so they'd waste the first few minutes of a meeting fiddling with their various mute controls (on the mic, on the mixer, and finally in the VTC hardware itself). Or else someone wouldn't have their audio settings right (with poor levels, noise cancellation, or without acoustic echo cancellation). People would get confused about audio conference bridging, and bring in the phone conference line in more than one location, leading to some awesome echoing and shouts of "please mute your line if you're not talking!" (which kind of destroys the line of open communications and immersiveness of meetings).

Finally, for large meetings, even when everything is working, you still sort of want someone to keep the cameras trained on the speaker/presenter and content, without being distracting by constantly fiddling with the view.

Personally, I do think it will catch on a bit more when the features and capabilities of the high end Tandberg / Polycom equipment becomes affordable as a separate device in your "telepresence room" that's outfitted more like a TV studio. But as a casual add-on to existing devices, it won't really take off due to casual presentation quality being not worthwhile.

Re:The real issue: (3, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 3 years ago | (#36544318)

People might not be in real life, but getting their face on screen is important to TV and Film actors. If displaced characters can have a conversation which is functionally equivalent to both actors in the same shot, then that will be preferred over one character being seen and the other only heard. So, I imagine the academy won't be consigning this particular trope to history just yet.

Re:The real issue: (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547296)

"We've had the technology to do video calling for quite a while - people just aren't that into it."

Wrong: we want video phones but we don't want to pay a lot for it, especially since it requires both parties to spend $$$. People do want to see each other, webcams seem to have done quite well since they're less than $100 but few wanted to spend the several hundreds of dollars that video calling had cost until just recently.

In response to the synopsis: "we can use Skype to call one another over the Internet and video call with mobile `phones, but the video quality is nowhere near the quality shown in the film 2001 or the aforementioned Transatlantic Tunnel film."

Huh? You act like progress on video calling has just ended. You realize 20 years ago a video phone cost $750 and looked and sounded like crap over 56k, right? [nytimes.com]

It wasn't until 2004 when a real video phone was released by D-Link. [cnet.com] Using broadband eliminated the framerate problems but the price was a bit high at $400 each [cnet.com] .

Video phones really wouldn't be possible until we had a wireless network that could handle it but 3G cellphones weren't even available in the US until 2004, [newsbank.com] and 3G was still so new by 2007 that the first iPhone didn't even offer 3G [wikipedia.org] .

Fast-forward just 6 years after 3G first reached the US and Skype now allows video calls through 3G on iPhones for free. [skype.com] That's amazing progress! To go from the network just being setup to transmitting video calls over it for free. And that was all of 6 months ago, give it some time, another 6 years from now using your cellphone as a video phone will look better than it did in 2001 and Transatlantic Tunnel and it will be free.

Extra Extra! (2)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#36542770)

Now we can use Skype to call one another over the Internet and video call with mobile `phones, but the video quality is nowhere near the quality shown in the film 2001 or the aforementioned Transatlantic Tunnel film.

Today's headline: Technology Yet To Surpass Imagination!

Here's some insight into this situation: someone has to imagine it before someone implements it.

Re:Extra Extra! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36542838)

Charlie Chaplin actually imagined it in the 20s [youtube.com] .

Re:Extra Extra! (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543028)

"Now we can use Skype to call one another over the Internet and video call with mobile `phones, but the video quality is nowhere near the quality shown in the film 2001 or the aforementioned Transatlantic Tunnel film."

That's because the creators of those pieces of entertainment did not visualize things like data caps. They expected it -- and justifiably so -- to be more like a phone line... not having to pay a premium for higher fidelity.

Re:Extra Extra! (1)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543586)

You do realize that the phone was limited to about 3kHz of bandwidth since like forever, right? That was how AT&T was able to derive the 64kB/s for a POTS line. You dont' pay a premium for a higher fidelity phone line, because such a thing doesn't exist.

Re:Extra Extra! (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36548904)

You missed the point. 3khz or so was perfectly adequate for what it was being used for. At least sometimes, my so-called "20Mbps" broadband is not.

Re:Extra Extra! (1)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543982)

agreed. it's not technology, it's bandwidth.

Take a modern GPU and ask it to encode 720p 60fps h.264 video in real time, it has no problem with that.
Your computer finds it a trivial task to route that info from memory through the southbridge to your network card.
your 100mbps NIC has no problem pushing that out to the router (and gigabit laughs at it).
your router hands it to the cable/dsl modem (or your cell phone hands it to the cell tower) at which point we hit a tremendous bottleneck.

and of course the weird thing is, a lot of the same people who wave their hands at you and say "oh god there's no way you can send that much data across our network!" are perfectly happy sending... that much data to you in the form of HD cable or uverse/fios tv.

Re:Extra Extra! (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 3 years ago | (#36546736)

and of course the weird thing is, a lot of the same people who wave their hands at you and say "oh god there's no way you can send that much data across our network!" are perfectly happy sending... that much data to you in the form of HD cable or uverse/fios tv.

That's because the networks are optimized to send from the head end to the user, and not from the user to the headend.

So one-way videocalling? Fine. Provided it's from the head end to you, and not the other way around.

Even with DOCSIS 3, the bottleneck still remains with the upstream part.

And TV is a broadcast medium, so one-to-many and very efficient. Sending one stream of video to thousands of customers takes no more bandwidth than sending that stream of video to one customer. Which is why IPTV won't scale in the end if every customer wants complete control of the entire system (thus not being able to multicast). Except of course, if you do the whole DVR thing which you might as well have done with regular TV to begin with.

Re:Extra Extra! (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547624)

Broadcast traffic is low bandwidth. 100mbps broadcast/multicast to 10,000 clients is 100mbps of traffic. 100mbps unicast to 10,000 clients is 1,000,000mbps (1terabit per second if my math is correct). The number of cable or phone companies that can handle that speed you can probably count on your fingers.

Re:Extra Extra! (2)

Drooling Iguana (61479) | more than 3 years ago | (#36544238)

Either that or they just didn't care. Video phones are used in movies/TV shows because it allows both actors to be onscreen in situations where that wouldn't be possible using regular phones. It has nothing to do with the feasibility of the technology.

Re:Extra Extra! (1)

Sectoid_Dev (232963) | more than 3 years ago | (#36545118)

Agreed. Videophones in TV/movies are about creating better entertainment than predicting an actual need.

Re:Extra Extra! (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36548932)

I got a real laugh out of the Airplane! sequel, in which you think you're seeing William Shatner on a screen, then he opens the door...

Who writes the headlines? (1)

chinton (151403) | more than 3 years ago | (#36542886)

TFA has nothing to do with the history of the videophone in sci-fi.

Re:Who writes the headlines? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36543282)

Advertisers write the headlines and then scripts randomly assign a slashdot "editor" and posting time to the article.

You think they would add some sort of randomizer to the submitter names to make it less painfully obvious.

hard to multi-task on video calls (1)

schlachter (862210) | more than 3 years ago | (#36542932)

I like to multi-task while on the phone (w/ my bluetooth headset). I can't do that easily with a video phone.

i.e. TALK AND....play xbox, do the dishes, watch tv, drive my car, go to the bathroom, eat, etc.

Re:hard to multi-task on video calls (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36542998)

I like to multi-task while on the phone (w/ my bluetooth headset). I can't do that easily with a video phone.

i.e. TALK AND....play xbox, do the dishes, watch tv, drive my car, go to the bathroom, eat, etc.

Oh great, you're one of those assholes.

Re:hard to multi-task on video calls (1)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543932)

I'm afraid "those ********" are a significant percentage of the population. Curiously, talking on the phone while driving produces a similar quality of driving to intoxication. The difference is that driving while intoxicated mostly occurs in the late evening, but driving while on the phone happens all darn day.

Re:hard to multi-task on video calls (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#36544090)

i.e. TALK AND....play xbox, do the dishes, watch tv, drive my car, go to the bathroom , eat, etc.

Oh great, you're one of those assholes.

There. Fixed that for ya.

Re:hard to multi-task on video calls (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543086)

You can't do it with your current phone either. You just think you can and don't notice that you missed half the conversation and can't remember any of the important details.

The Tunnel? Please. (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543008)

Metropolis. 1927

Re:The Tunnel? Please. (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543362)

1966, Germany (and Hungary as well): Raumpatrouille. Some of you might be old enough to remember it as Space Patrol. The default planetside communication was by videophone, with an option to disable video (used only once, when the political officer (female) at the other end of the line was getting ready for a shower).

Apart from the aforementioned Metropolis, this is probably the earliest mention of real-time video communication.

Re:getting ready for a shower (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#36544138)

Ahh! I told you never to call me on this wall! This is an unlisted wall!

Re:getting ready for a shower (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 3 years ago | (#36544494)

More like too ubiquitous when you have an endpoint in your shower too...

Correction: (2)

raving griff (1157645) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543040)

TFA is about the history of the video phone in real life.

RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36543160)

An article on video conferencing with a single paragraph tangentially referring star trek is not a history of sci-fi or anything else.

It's the gubmints fault (0)

CheerfulMacFanboy (1900788) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543228)

For breaking up Ma Bell. That's why they couldn't bring high quality video calling to the moon. Of course they still couldn't have gotten there because PanAm folded. Not to mention the Soviet Union. Clarke was really bad at predicting the future ;-)

Re:It's the gubmints fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36543850)

Youre kidding, right?

monopolies on infrastructure are exactly the problem with why the USAs telecom infrastructure is about 10 years behind places like Japan.

Monopolies cannot be incentivized-- they have to be disincentivized on their instinct to barely supply the status quo, while charging through the roof!
There is a reason why SNL/Laugh-in made flagrant comedy sketches about the phone company...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9e3dTOJi0o
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UBRcZDHxa8
http://www.movieweb.com/tv/TEbXhcfhdjEkec/HUOVvPTWha0QSW

Seriously, I cant tell if you are being sarcastic, or not.... I really hope you are...

Re:It's the gubmints fault (1)

CheerfulMacFanboy (1900788) | more than 3 years ago | (#36561248)

Youre kidding, right?

What tipped you off, the ";-)" at the end of the post? Fucking morons.

Tunnel ... Marine Express? (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543412)

I wonder if Tezuka ever saw the film "the Tunnel". Could have given him the idea for "Marine Express"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Undersea_Super_Train:_Marine_Express

Earlier 1927 Movie Video Communication (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36543452)

Metropolis is from 1927 and shows a television communication between the leader of Metropolis and an engineer at a failing machine.

"The Machine Stops", 1907 (2)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543488)

She touched the isolation knob, so that no one else could speak to her. Then she touched the lighting apparatus, and the little room was plunged into darkness.

"Be quick!" She called, her irritation returning. "Be quick, Kuno; here I am in the dark wasting my time."

But it was fully fifteen seconds before the round plate that she held in her hands began to glow. A faint blue light shot across it, darkening to purple, and presently she could see the image of her son, who lived on the other side of the earth, and he could see her.

"Kuno, how slow you are."

He smiled gravely.

"I really believe you enjoy dawdling."

"I have called you before, mother, but you were always busy or isolated. I have something particular to say."

Primitive, but a video-phone. Envisioned in or prior too 1907

Re:"The Machine Stops", 1907 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36544622)

Nice, thanks for this. I'm checking it out now.

"Edison's Telephonoscope", 1879 (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#36544712)

Cartoonist George du Maurier [neverpedia.com] beat that by about three decades in Punch magazine. The caption:

(Every evening, before going to bed, Pater- and Materfamilias set up an electric camera-obscura over their bedroom mantel-piece, and gladden their eyes with the sight of their children at the Antipodes, and converse gaily with them through the wire.)
Paterfamilias (in Wilton Place). 'Beatrice, come closer, I want to whisper.'
Beatrice (from Ceylon). 'Yes, Papa dear.'
Paterfamilias. 'Who is that charming young lady playing on Charlie's side?'
Beatrice. 'She's just come over from England, Papa. I'll introduce you to her as soon as the game's over?'

Re:"The Machine Stops", 1907 (1)

bolthole (122186) | more than 3 years ago | (#36546748)

Wow! Fantastic story!

Visions of "the internet generation" meets "Wall-E" meets "Robots of Dawn" !

in 1907? !!

Quality? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36543496)

Has the submitter ever used a Cisco HD Telepresence system? The quality is definitely better than I remember from 2001.

Grumbling about the price (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543540)

At launch last October, the set-top console and HD camera cost a whopping $599, with a $24.99 monthly service charge (now $99 yearly). While that price has since been reduced to $499 - and a $399, 720p unit introduced, it's still absurdly expensive when compared to the video calling alternatives.

"Absurdly expensive"? An unlocked iPhone 4 costs $599. (Yes, there are iPhone discounts if you agree to pay about $1000 a year to the cellular carrier for a few years.)

Re:Grumbling about the price (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543724)

yea and a HD webcam cost what 50 bucks?

Look at my eyes, not at my... (1)

jdastrup (1075795) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543604)

Until they can get the camera in the middle of the display, then I find it annoying to use most video phone systems. The other persons eyes are never looking right at you. Try having a face-to-face conversation while the person is looking several inches away from your eyes and it can be annoying.

Oh, wait, some women must experience every conversation that way...

Re:Look at my eyes, not at my... (1)

siglercm (6059) | more than 3 years ago | (#36545132)

+1. I've often wondered if others had this same objection. We need "tele-promp-ter" technology that allows one to look at the display while his/her facial image is reflected at an angle into the webcam being used.

Dick Tracy Wristwatch (1)

Gallenod (84385) | more than 3 years ago | (#36543806)

Let's not forget the two-way video wristwatch invented in the comic "Dick Tracy" by tech support guy Diet Smith in 1964. Many of us grew up dreaming of the day when we'd get to wear one of those things.

Austin Powers! (1)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 3 years ago | (#36544098)

This reminds me that scene in Austin Powers where he first opens a laptop and tries to view a low quality, flickering video message, this after he was used to 2-way TV quality video calling from his car. That, on it's own hand reminds me it's been ages since I saw that movie and I should go watch it again now.

It's Just Bandwidth (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#36544266)

I know a guy who was working on 60Mbps video over Internet2 about 5 years ago. All the tech is ready, it's simply a matter of bandwidth.

Video calling in airplanes (1)

Zebedeu (739988) | more than 3 years ago | (#36544314)

Actually I'd rather have video calling in airplanes than just normal voice calls.

As Mitch Hedberg once said: "sure, you can speak, just... use your hands".

prior artifice (2)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#36544520)

The idea of the videophone almost predates science fiction: 1879 cartoon [neverpedia.com]

It does predate science fiction (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547054)

Crystal balls, magic windows, etc.

Re:It does predate science fiction (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#36549160)

But du Maurier's doesn't imagine that it's done with magic.

Best sci-fi videocall ever (1)

sootman (158191) | more than 3 years ago | (#36544612)

The naked wrong number in Demolition Man.

Desktop Sharing (2)

holmedog (1130941) | more than 3 years ago | (#36545086)

Forget video conferencing. Nothing of note to share. But, one of the more useful things I've seen come about from communications is desktop sharing. Things like Webex and M$ Communicator that let me show my desktop to hundreds of other people. Now, I have the power to let everyone see that exact piece of code I was talking about without having to haul my laptop over to a projector and get everyone in a room.

not quite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36545880)

"Now we can use Skype to call one another over the Internet and video call with mobile `phones, but the video quality is nowhere near the quality shown in the film 2001 or the aforementioned Transatlantic Tunnel film." have to disagree. roomate and former roomate work on music over web conference on mac books and the video quality is stellar. even when we conference from los angeles to isreal

1911 Print Sci-Fi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36552046)

100 years ago. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_124C_41%2B [wikipedia.org]

/. Headline FAIL (1)

BobVP (1307789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36554460)

Whoever wrote the headline for this article here on Slashdot seriously needs to learn to READ. There is zero discussion about "the history of the videophone in Sci-Fi" on that article. There is mention of the fact that Star Trek used video phone technology since its inception in 1966 (loosely quoting the article). That's it. Clearly someone wanted their posting here on /. to be read, but to flat out lie to have your posting read by Sci-Fi Geeks? That's a new low! Shame on you!
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