Long Before FaceTime or Skype, There Was the Picturephone

  Photo: Randi Klett

In the 1960s, AT&T and its manufacturing subsidiary, Western Electric Co., became convinced that the next big thing would be a video telephone on every desk. With great fanfare, AT&T launched the first Picturephone service in 1970, confidently predicting a million sets in use within the decade. But the offering was a spectacular flop. Its failure can be variously attributed to networking issues (it only worked if the person you were calling also had one); high...

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