Predicting the Future and Remembering The Past – AT&T as Nostradamus

I sometimes make jokes on this blog about how technologically “spoiled” we are these days.    Kids these days will never know “Encyclopaedia Britannica” or 20 minute delayed stock quotes.  If I told you the story of how we used to advertise for parties when I was in college, well, it would blow your fragile little minds.

Today, you guys post something on Facebook ($FB – no positions) or send out a few mass text messages to notify all of your friends.   Luddite that I am, I’m actually in the process of composing an Evite for my New Year’s Eve party.  Do you kids remember Evite?  See, to me, Evite was the stone cold nuts!  A veritable technological breakthrough!   Am I the only one who still uses it?

But back to my story…  When I was in college, the internet was a fledgling chick in Al Gore’s pen.   It existed in a primitive version that wouldn’t satisfy your modern techno-dependent minds.  We made our own web pages – writing code ourselves – but we did that mostly to have a place where all of our favorite links were compiled.  We didn’t have cell phones.  They existed too, but they were still in Gordon Gecko form, you know:

“I wish you could see this, Buddy”

So when we were having a party what did we do?   Sit down – this is gonna shock you:  we printed out an advertisement for the party on a standard piece of paper.  Then we took that piece of paper to the copy-center and made hundreds of color copies of it in different colors.  Then we walked around campus and put the “posters” as we called them, up on all of the bulletin boards.  Not virtual bulletin boards: actual “brick and mortar” bulletin boards.  We used staples.   Then we drove to the neighboring all-girls colleges and put up posters on THEIR bulletin boards.

No cell phones.  No emails.  No text messages.  No Myspace.  No Evite.  No Facebook.  Meanwhile, right around this same time, AT&T ($T: no positions) apparently had this advertising campaign that is making its way around the interwebs again currently.  Here’s the video:

Pretty amazing, eh?   They did a pretty friggin’ good job of accurately predicting the imminent technological developments.   Yeah – do you believe that when I was growing up we had to stop at toll booths?   We didn’t have EZ Pass!

Let’s count the technologies that AT&T names in the video:

– E-books


– Electronic faxes/email

– EZ Pass (tolls)

– online concert tickets

– mass market video phones

– business video conferences

– movies on demand (seriously – we didn’t always have this, kids!)

– online education

There’s also some sort of thing that opens your door for you when you talk to it, which I’m sure exists, and then they were a bit premature in predicting portable e-medical histories, which also exist but aren’t widely adopted.

Ironically, I don’t really associate AT&T as “the company that brought me these ideas,” as their video claimed – for almost any of them.

By the way – this video was from 1993 – not 1963.


Before I go, let me whack you with this 1995 $AOL (no positions) commercial.  Warning, kids, this one will blow your mind:

“My personal favorite, live chat – that’s how I met my new kayaking buddies!”

And if your mind isn’t completely blown yet, check out this 1996 video about how to use the internet.    You don’t need to watch all 60 minutes – just get a flavor of the times.   By the way, the quality of the video sucks because it was transferred from something called “VHS” – see, back then, we weren’t able to record HD 1080P video with pocket sized devices…

RIP: Encyclopaedia Britannica

When I Was Your Age


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