WESTERN ELECTRIC COMPANY PICTUREPHONES, MOD II. AT&T/Bell Labs, [1970-1973].

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Lot 2057W
WESTERN ELECTRIC COMPANY PICTUREPHONES, MOD II.
AT&T/Bell Labs, [1970-1973].

Sold for US$ 7,575 inc. premium
WESTERN ELECTRIC COMPANY PICTUREPHONES, MOD II.
AT&T/Bell Labs, [1970-1973].
A matching pair of picturephone consoles, each with a box-like plastic case with screen at one end, the display measuring 135 x 128 mm, with silicon photodiode array camera and zoom lens, the box mounted on a stylish aluminum stand with a circular base. Both consoles in their original boxes, with Styrofoam padding and original Western Electric cardboard delivery boxes with a stencil label addressed to "W B Cage Tel Labs NJ". and marked 700000339 and 71000139. The consoles 311 x 191 x 235 mm; circular base 265 mm diameter, boxes 236 x 310 x 305 mm.

A rare surviving pair of Mod II Picturephones, in their original boxes. The MOD I Picturephone (see previous lot) was introduced to the public at a special launch at the 1964 World's Fair held in New York. The public seemed intrigued by the idea and formed long lines to try the new technology in the futuristic booths that AT&T had constructed. AT&T, based upon market research, pressed ahead and developed a commercial Picturephone named MOD II, which was more lightweight and featured a small black and white picture at 250 lines resolution. The machine had the capacity of focusing on the speaker and even on a piece of paper laid in front of its camera. Sound was provided by a touch tone speaker phone. The Picturephone had 3 pairs of wire to operate it: one connected to the phone system and 2 other sets carrying the picture. In the AT&T annual report of 1969, they confidently predicted one million sets in existence and 1 billion dollars business by 1980. Stanley Kubrick sent a team to study the future of telephony. The results led to the inclusion of a picturephone booth in his film 2001 A Space Odyssey. AT&T finally launched a commercial Picturephone service in Pittsburgh on July 1 1970, with prices at $160 per month for equipment and service (today's prices $950), plus extra costs per minute for use. In 1971 the service was introduced into Chicago. The response was very poor, just 32 sets sold in 1972 in Pittsburgh and less the previous years. The Chicago sales peaked at 453 in early 1973. When AT&T got a new CEO in mid 1973, the plug was pulled on the Picturephone project. It seemed that people did not want their picture to be seen by a caller and liked the anonymity. AT&T tried again in 1992 with the Videophone 2500 in color, but that too failed to attract serious usage.
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