As technologies evolve, so does the language we use to describe them. Radio used to be called wireless telephone. Some people used to call the internet the catenet. But what do we call it when you’re talking with a person via video link? Is it videophone? Video chat? Skype?
Skype is, of course, a trademarked name for a specific product. But just as many specific brand names have become generic names throughout history, it seems Skype has become our default. But I could be wrong! And that’s why I’m asking you!
I grew up in the 1990s calling it videophone. In the future, everyone was supposed to have a videophone appliance in their homes and video-payphones would be ubiquitous in public places. At least that’s what we were promised. But videophone didn’t arrive as a standalone appliance. Instead, it snuck in through our computers and smartphones.
Below, Google shows how we’ve referred to this particular kind of technology in books throughout the 20th century. As you can see, videophone hit its peak in the late ’90s. The term picturephone peaked in the mid-1970s.
So, what do you call it? And what’s the verb? Do you skype with someone on Skype? Do you chat with someone on videophone?
Picture: The Toshiba company’s new videophone, the Model 500 View Phone, being tested at the company’s Tokyo headquarters, May 6, 1968. Getty Images.