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Future phones mean more leisure

The Story

Pick up the phone to shop for groceries or use the code "CBC" for instant news delivery. These are just two of the uses of the telephone foreseen at a London conference on leisure time in the future. Summoning entertainment like music and film will become as simple as making a phone call. "It's a great game if you don't lose use of your legs," notes a journalist reporting on the conference for CBC Radio's The World At Six.

Medium: Radio
Program: The World At Six
Broadcast Date: June 15, 1967
Host: John O'Leary
Reporter: Michael Maclear
Duration: 1:52
Photo: National Archives of Canada

Did You know?

• In 1954 Dr. Harold Osborne, chief of engineering at AT&T, foresaw a day when each child received a number for life. "As soon as he can talk, he is given a watch-like device with 10 little buttons on one side and a screen on the other. When he wishes to talk.he will pull out the device and punch on the keys the number of his friend. Then turning the device over, he will hear the voice of his friend and see his face on the screen, in colour and in three dimensions."

• A 1960 feature in Toronto's Star Weekly predicted such now-common innovations as call forwarding, busy-line monitoring and "portable vest pocket phones that can call you almost anywhere."

• Other publications from the same time period, Popular Mechanics and Changing Times, envisaged voice mail, the fax machine and the video telephone.

• An engineer at Bell Telephone Laboratories told a reporter in 1960 that development of the video telephone had already stalled. "The need to see the person you are talking to doesn't seem important. It may not be worth the extra money it will cost."

• Bell introduced its Picturephone for commercial service among three U.S. cities in 1964. A three-minute call from New York to Chicago cost $16, plus subscription and equipment costs.

• Developed largely in Canada in the late 1970s and early 1980s, "Telidon" was another early use of telephone lines to convey information. Modified television sets were connected with computer databases via telephone to send text and basic graphics to users. The system used extra space in television signals to convey news, travel information, stock figures, business services and much more.

• Though there was considerable business interest in the technology, Telidon was not immediately lucrative. Government funding was pulled in 1985.



Canada Says Hello: The First Century of the Telephone more