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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 more than 40 years earlier.

Back in 1970, Bell System rolled out a trial of a state-of-the-art videophone service that worked over phone lines. But like any bleeding-edge technology, it was expensive. The service cost $US160 per month, which equates to just over $US1000 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]


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