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The Fantastic and Troubled History of the Video Phone

We take video calls for granted these days, but it wasn't so long ago that such a thing was science fiction, fantasy, or pure moonshine. AT&T promoted the idea in 1964 when they demonstrated a picture phone call at the World’s Fair in Queens.

The trouble was it was insanely expensive. A 15 minute video call would cost about $600 (adjusted for inflation).  So, it wasn’t exactly an instant success.

Yeah, those were the days when long-distance phone connections were charged by the minute, and video cameras were huge and pricy. For decades, video calls were always just around the corner as developments were made. Meanwhile, we dreaded it, because we couldn't see that there would be several other ways of communicating to someone that you weren't fit to be seen at the moment. The microchip was a leap forward in miniaturization, and the internet gave us the connectivity to really do it, finally. See an illustrated overview of the journey we took to FaceTime, Skype, and all the other methods of video chat we have today at Flashbak. -via Nag on the Lake

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CMOS based active pixel sensors are now the main technology behind almost all consumer cameras. They were invented at about the same time as CCDs, but were way harder to manufacture until CMOS production improved in the 90s. Now CMOS is way cheaper usually since it is a common process and is easy to combine with other circuitry, hence dominating the less expensive markets (including most higher end digital cameras now I think, leaving CCDs to more niche roles).
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ATT knew that existing technology in the 60s would ever make the picture phone viable. They tasked Bell Labs to create a new device for capturing light and turning it into digital signals. This resulted in the CCD (which is at the core of every current digital camera) and a Nobel Prize.
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