The picture phone has been an object of perennial science-fiction obsession since the invention of the telephone. What would it be like to have a phone that didn’t just transmit a person’s voice, but also their picture?
As far back as the last quarter of the 19th century, visionaries envisioned the “telephonoscope,” a fictional contraption, with a heft and a girth matching its very name: a combination of the videophone and the television. However, it didn’t materialize.
Subsequently, other telecom possibilities loomed and vanished. As recently as the early 2000s, telecom companies were toying with the idea of fitting videos into the fixed phones. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the videophones appeared abruptly, without a warning.
Only, they weren’t stand-alone behemoths. From being appliances, they’d shrunk to being applications, concealed inside computers or phones. From their conceived hardware origins, they’d appeared as software, without shells and armors.