Many fans of science fiction love the glimpse of the future this genre gives us. I’m no exception. It’s fascinating to see what authors and screen writers imagine life might be in the future.
What’s even more fascinating is that some ideas from science fiction have become reality. Something that was once a far-fetched concept in a book or movie has become something we actually use in every day life now. This is what I’ll be writing about here on the Kosa Press blog.
In this first installment, I’m taking you back to September 1962 when an animated sitcom about an average family living in a futuristic world hit prime time television. The Jetsons showed us a future filled with robots, aliens, holograms, cities in the sky, and elaborate inventions that made modern life much easier than it was in 1962.
Video Phone: The Sci-Fi Version
One of those inventions was a phone where you could see the person you were speaking to in a “call.” In The Jetsons, a screen would appear and you could just tell it to call an individual and he or she would pop-up ready to chat. This was way-out-there fantasy to people in 1962, some of whom had to still use an actual operator to connect their calls.
Taking this invention back even further to 1911, the father of Sci-Fi, Hugo Gernsback, introduced it in his book, Ralph 124C 41+:
Stepping to the Telephot on the side of the wall, he pressed a group of buttons and in a few minutes the faceplate of the Telephot became luminous, revealing the face of a clean-shaven man about thirty, a pleasant but serious face.
As soon as he recognized the face of Ralph in his own Telephot, he smiled and said, “Hello, Ralph.” “Hello, Edward. I wanted to ask you if you could come over to the laboratory tomorrow morning. I have something unusually interesting to show you. Look!”
He stepped to one side of his instrument so that his friend could see the apparatus on the table about ten feet from the Telephot faceplate.
How It Became Reality
After doing a bit of Googling, I discovered that the video phone was introduced to the world by Bell Labs at the New York World’s Fair in 1964. It was called the picturephone, and after the world fair it moved to a special exhibit at Disneyland where people could make video calls to someone in an adjacent booth.
Unfortunately, the picturephone was too costly to be adopted by the average consumer. At $16 for three minutes, your up-to-15-minute video call could cost as much as $80—the equivalent of about $650 today. Bell later became AT&T, which continued to develop its picturephone but the company couldn’t come up with a cost-effective design that was also attractive to the public.
Enter Apple. Well, you know that story pretty well but for the video phone to truly take off, a service to make video calls cheap enough for the average person was still needed. The first webcam was pointed at the coffee pot in the Trojan Room of the Computer Science Department of Cambridge University in 1991 and while this wasn’t very exciting, it sparked the idea of using webcams via the Internet to place video calls. Skype was then founded in 2003 and, here we are in the future.
Now, I’d love to hear from you. What science-fiction ideas have you recently read about or have you seen in movies that you predict we’ll be using very soon? Let me know in the comments!
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