Back in 1968, the videophone was supposed to be just around the corner. Phone companies around the world were working diligently to make it a reality. But sometimes their futuristic promises could go a little overboard, like in this Southwestern Bell ad that promised not just videophones, but three-dimensional videophones — and robot shopping — by the year 2000.
The January 9, 1968, Ada Evening News in Oklahoma ran the newspaper ad below with the headline: You say you wonder what your phone will be in the year 2000? Well, wonder no longer! Because you’re about to learn what fantastic technological advances will be waiting for you in just a few short decades.
Excerpt from the 1968 ad:
By the turn of the century, chances are you won’t recognise the familiar telephone. Based on services already in use or on the drawing boards, you can expect some pretty far-out developments.
For example, Picturephone see-while-you-talk service, already in limited use, might well be offered in full colour and three dimensions. With it, you could do the family grocery shopping, look at the new cars, or buy a new hat without leaving the house.
Electronic switching equipment now in trial use, will call you back when a busy line you have called is free, or transfer your calls to another phone while you’re away from home.
Of course, some of the phone company’s promises were a bit more humble than robot shoppers and trippy videophone effects. Southwestern Bell accurately predicted that things like cordless phones and call forwarding would be commonplace by the turn of the 21st century. It’s a shame we ended up with those, though, without a robot shopper in sight.