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AT&T Archives: Seeing the Digital Future (1961)

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Published on May 11, 2012

For more from the AT&T Archives, visit http://techchannel.att.com/archives

In 1961, the digital future was just starting to come to fruition. And the Bell System had a number of products that had either just come onto the market, or were incipient, that implemented these new computer technologies. In December 1960, AT&T had just announced an investment of $2.5 billion for satellite communications and improving the network for data services and computer communication.

In 1958, AT&T had just announced its first modem. Springing from technologies used for the computerized navigation of missiles, the modem, i.e. the Data-Phone, was rolled out in a few markets in the midwest. It would be made commercially available throughout the network by 1960. The Data-Phone could transmit at up to a bit-rate of 110 bits per second.

This film breaks into approximately two parts — part I: the problems of the present, and part II: the way those problems could be solved by the technology of the future. This film not only serves as almost the birth of the information age, it also projects that technology far into the future.

The commercial products that would allow this connected, computer-communicating network? They're basic, but at the time seemed radical:

* The wireless Bellboy Pager, which was introduced commercially in 1962
* The Data-phone, which was supposed to revolutionize business communications
* The videophone—shown as a credit-card-reading vertical two-way television
* The card-reading phone or automatic dialer, which would dial a number from small plastic punch cards, introduced in 1961
* Oh, and package delivery via rocket (which had just been tested in 1959).

Producer: Henry Strauss Productions
Writer: Jerome Alden
Director: Robert Wilmot

Henry Strauss made a number of films for the Bell System, including Family Affair, and Manmade Troubles.

Footage Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ

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