Friday, August 21, 2009

AT&T "You Will" ads from 1993: prescient, mostly

One of my favorite themes is Yesterday's Tomorrows. What did we predict about the future way back when?

1993 was the year that the Web came to life, but most of the world didn't notice. It wasn't until fall that NCSA Mosaic came out for Mac and Windows. Envisioning a world of the Web was pretty damn forward looking. These ads, which sound like they are narrated by Tom Selleck, were remarkable in their prescience.

Remember, for a while, AT&T also sold PCs. Someone there was dreaming big. The personal device, the network, basically the Web as we know it.

Let's consider their predictions:

  • Borrow a book from thousands of miles away
  • Cross the country without stopping for directions
  • Send a fax from the beach
  • Pay a toll without slowing down
  • Bought concert tickets from an ATM
  • Touch your baby from a phone booth
  • Open doors with your voice
  • Carry your medical history in your wallet
  • Attend a meeting in your bare feet
  • Watch a movie on demand
  • Take a class at a distance
Well some of that didn't pan out, e.g. health records in your wallet (or even in one place on line -- still a dream). But the visions were very forward looking, and most did come to pass. I wonder who wrote the ads?

One of the great misses was predicting that phone booths would become video phones. I still wonder if the phone companies missed the boat on that one. Instead, they've removed phone booths, and cell phones can now shoot video. I think there is still a huge market for high quality video phone booths, with great lighting and audio pre-staged.