Because it turns out telegraphs weren’t all bad?

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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3 Responses to Because it turns out telegraphs weren’t all bad?

  1. Kentucky says:

    Or perhaps we have lost the mental acuity to carry on coherent vocal conversations?

    I hafta admit it’s kinda nice to do emails or blog responses with the advantage of being able to compose (hopefully) well-considered comments. Just a few seconds can make a lotta difference, and proofreading is a good thing.

  2. Ben says:

    Seriously, the videophone makes an interesting case study. The concept goes way back, but Bell Labs actually spent millions to invent a practical videophone in the 1960’s. The entire world shrugged! Only a few hundred were made because there simply was no consumer demand for such a device.

    In my opinion there still isn’t, even though most of us own one now!

  3. Joel says:

    No. When it came down to it, Bell Labs and everybody else failed to ask the most important question about videophones: “Do you really want the other person to see you when he calls you without notice?” In concept it seemed a great idea. In practice, not at all. And that’s why now the camera is on the other side of the phone.

    And that’s also where texting comes in. Telegraph was immediately popular when it was invented because it filled an immediate need: Textual information immediately transmitted. It was made obsolete by telephone, or so everyone thought for decades, until telephone became so ubiquitous that it was actually oppressive. Then ‘texting,’ which is basically wireless telegraph, suddenly came back. Neither replaces the other, and neither is going away soon. Videophones are still nowhere to be seen even though available bandwidth makes it at last feasible. We’ve had enough of a taste that nobody’s crying for it.

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