The Video Call - 3G's Biggest Drawcard (At First)

When I was a kid one of my favourite shows was The Jetsons. I used to love it when George would answer a call from his boss Mr Spacely and you could see Spacely's face getting redder and redder as he chastised George for some irrelevant or minor misdemeanour. Back then, I used to wonder if we'd ever get video calling. Well, we did but it wasn't quite as I'd imagined as a child.

The idea of the video phone has been around for ages - even Alexander Graham Bell anticipating its invention over 100 years ago. Over the last century, many telcos have tried to create video phones but either the tech wasn't ready or people didn't want to run from the shower to take a call. Early video calling rigs were up and running before WWII in Germany but the war put paid their ongoing development and use.

From the 1960s to the turn of the century, phone companies across the globe endeavoured to get phone subscribers to buy video calling services. However, even today, with VoIP and almost no-cost video conferencing few people use video calling in the home.

That changed with the development of mobile phones with cameras (or cameras with phones - it's hard to know sometimes), colour displays and fast, reliable and widespread 3G data networks to make video calls a reality. Providing your phone's designer has included a camera and mic in the right spot and you're on a 3G network capable of sending both sound and video, it's easy to make a video call. Just dial the number, hit the videocall button and seconds later you can see the party at the other end in living colour.

Mind you, the practicalities of actually using your mobile phone to make video calls negated the appeal of video calling pretty quickly. Which is why it's surprising that Apple seem to have introduced a front-facing camera for their next iPhone...

MobileModo is Gizmodo Australia’s look at the rise and rise of the mobile phone, from Bell’s landline to the ubiquitous mobiles of today.

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