AT&T predicted the future of technology in 1993

Far be it from me to criticize AT&T, one of the world's largest cell-service carriers, but come on. Reception sucks. Dropped calls aside, you have to give to AT&T for this crazy-prescient commercial from 1993 in which they predict the existence of electronic ticket kiosks, video conferencing, e-books, tablets, and even buying stuff online.

It looks like the only technology they didn't anticipate is flatscreen TVs. BOOM! Take your convex screens and shove that in your mind garbage, AT&T! But really, AT&T, how did you know?

Commentarium (24 Comments)

Jan 05 11 - 6:16pm

but apparently not cellphones...

Jan 05 11 - 6:24pm

Actually, it seems they didn't anticipate cell phones. Notice, in their world, people actually use phone booths.

Jan 05 11 - 6:34pm

ATT used to own Bell Labs, which was amazingly ahead of it's time in terms of the technology they created. Wouldn't be too much of a stretch for the ad division to sit down some researchers and ask them what tech they envisioned would be possible in the next 20 years.

Jan 05 11 - 11:57pm

Crap. I remember these commercials (specifically, the one about "Jazz").
How would they do these now?

Jan 06 11 - 12:23am
just mike

The idea of sending a fax from the beach from an iPad-like device is kind of like sending Morse code from a cellphone. Well, maybe...

Jan 06 11 - 5:55am

@akeem, you're right. All they had to do was look at what was in late stage development, ask a focus group what they would actually use, and fund those products. Then they put them in a commercial as a clever bit of marketing.

@just mike- I've had to scan documents and send them. If your work at all involves contracts you end up doing this sort of thing a lot.

Jan 06 11 - 12:15pm
Barry Titmouse

Technology is always way ahead of what the public sees. Innovations are released to the public bit by bit (no pun intended) so that already obsolete tech can turn a profit. Could be that most of what AT&T was "forecasting" was already developed in '94...

Jan 06 11 - 1:01pm

Is the woman who is looking at her baby on screen Jenna Elfman?

Jan 06 11 - 2:37pm

I remember this ad, and maybe it was just my age at the time, but I don't remember gawping in wonderment; rather, I thought, "Well, yeah, looks like next logical steps..."

Jan 06 11 - 4:56pm

I also remember this commercial and for some reason the toll booth (i.e. E-Z Pass) part seemed coolest to me at the time (maybe because I had a car but didn't do much faxing documents or tucking in babies). But now it seems quaint that anyone thought you'd be swiping a credit card on your dash. Also, the "...without slowing down" part of that must still be in development.

Jan 07 11 - 9:28am

@Akeem Yep we seem to forget Bell Labs/its researchers brought about Unix, the transistor, the laser. C++ and countless other things we take for granted now a days

Jan 07 11 - 10:05am

Nice, AT&T always knew what was going on!

Jan 07 11 - 10:26am
Very Accurate.

Some of those predictions were pretty incredible. But I suppose 1993 isn't that long ago.. Where there any more that are way off?

@Sa, "without slowing down" is already here, I've been on highways with this system and they tell you not to slow down. The current problem is that a lot of places with EZ Pass still use the old booths as their infrastructure and also need to provide lanes for cash customers.

How would you swipe your credit card while driving? And when?

Jan 07 11 - 10:50am

i remeber those!!! is that Tom Selleck doing the voice over?

Mar 02 11 - 2:42am
Mark Simon

Why yes, Tom Selleck it is!

Jan 07 11 - 11:07am

idiots. cell phones already existed in 1993

Jan 07 11 - 11:16am

@Sa yeah Sa, Very Accurate is correct. In Illinois we have open road tolls, where it looks just like the rest of the highway, 4 lanes wide with the sensors up above. you can go through at 90+ and it still recognizes your EZ pass.,1496411&_dad=port...

Jan 07 11 - 3:22pm
Robert Paulson

I was a visitor to Bell Labs in Holmdel, NJ in 1990. I saw the test track set up to test the EZpass system. Such a cool notion. @Very Accurate, I think the problem with the "low speed tolls are that they are still tethered to "toll booths" with human beings crossing the path. We still need collectors and physical booths, so for safety, you must slow down.

Jan 07 11 - 3:56pm

@Jack....Yea that is Jenna Elfman. Also, I totally remember the "jazz" question and going through the toll. I STILL think about that commercial everytime I use my EZPass on I-95.

Jan 07 11 - 4:28pm
Daniel Night Lewis

At the time much of this stuff was in development or kinda working on limited networks. AT&T sure didn't predict Selleck shaving that 'stache, though. Or the meteoric rise of Jenna Elfman (with that Wall Street slickback hell yes).

Jan 07 11 - 8:44pm

it seems like these are advertising their future plans. I wouldn't say they predicted the future i would just say that they achieved their goals

Jan 08 11 - 12:09am

I remember these commercials. There was another one missing from the set, where a teenage girl home computer speaks to her and tells her that it's still trying to get the best deal on concert tickets, and she says "good boy". They got that one wrong. I wish my computer would try to do the shopping for me and talk to me and understand. I remember looking at these commercial with anticipations to see if really they would be doing all those things. Looking back, looks like they got a lot of things right, such as gigantic flatscreens (no one had those back then) and the car gps. Neat.

Jun 25 12 - 3:08am

isn't that what Siri does?

Jan 10 11 - 9:46pm

"but apparently not cellphones..."

Ummm, maybe you weren't around then, but in 1993 cell-phones had already been around for the better part of a decade... So you are reading a little too much into the videos.