How AT&T could get people to buy Video Phones


VideoPhones are the next great thing--and have been for 50 years. Frame rates have increased, and they now use color. Resolution needs to be improved too: The viewer needs to be able to adjust for higher frame rates or higher resolution, on the fly.

What could AT&T do to get people to buy VideoPhones for homes, schools and businesses? Here's a suggestion they didn't use--so far.

May 5th, 1993
Dear Sir or Madam,

Recently I was at a large office supply store and they had an AT&T VideoPhone running a video demo. Of course, a real demo would have been more impressive--for example, what if AT&T had aimed a VideoPhone camera at Times Square, NYC and let people watch live personal "TV"? If the cost of using a telephone line to sell a VideoPhone is too expensive, well, you've only yourself to blame!

I have a very serious suggestion on how to get these things into the market at last. As you know, to some extent the technology has been possible for decades, although your new system gives us color and frame rates that are much better than the grainy blacks & whites which even now are transmittable by "HAM" short-wave radio operators.

So it's a given, we think: at last we have a system that will be used.

AT&T should supply every 911 Emergency Telephone Center with a VideoPhone!

It would be reassuring to the caller to see someone who can arrange for help. It would be damning of any criminals that wander into the house! It would reduce prank and false calls, such as those from little children playing. And most of all, it would add a huge measure of comfort and safety to ANYONE who owns a VideoPhone! The direct benefits are obvious.

Have you heard the joke about what the best thing to do is in case of fire in a major city? Call Domino's Pizza--they guarantee they'll arrive in 20 minutes or less!!

Of course, we all know that Emergency response times are as short as possible and that the responding agency often has to balance a number of factors in deciding how to respond, including severity of the problem, availability of vehicles and personnel, and a number of other factors. Seeing a growing bedroom fire should be quite convincing.

Furthermore, the image could be forwarded to the cab of the responding vehicle so they know just what they are about to face!

I think, in fact, you could cancel all other advertising campaigns for the VideoPhones (which I see and hear regularly) and with the millions you save, simply place them in 911 offices and send out press releases, and you will see an explosion in the use of these things. You also will have done a world of good for people.

On a related topic of VideoPhones, I would like to know what arrangements are being made for companies like mine (we create and market animated software) to be able to use VideoPhone technology.

Are any IBM-compatible computer cards being designed or manufactured that I can simply plug a VCR into, that work with a Sound Blaster or compatible card and a VGA or SVGA monitor? That way I can avoid the use of the Video Phone itself and use my existing technology (plus this card I speak of) to accomplish not just the same thing, but a more versatile thing? Are the signal specifications available so that I can develop and market this card myself?

This is also vital if you really want the VideoPhone technology to take off. You can't expect to go it alone and have done everything that needs to be done. AT&T is big, but like any one company, other ideas are "out there" and need to be exploited.

Remember what IBM did with the personal computer? They had a totally open technology and now there are 50,000 companies in the U.S.--including mine--whose existence to totally based on the existence of the IBM standard. While IBM doesn't own all of the market, one can be sure that that portion they do own is bigger than the whole pie would have been if they had kept to a closed architecture.

Please tell me how to obtain specifications for the VideoPhone, including voltage requirements, compression algorithms, start- and stop-bit and parity bit arrangements, and all other related data.

I look forward to hearing from you and/or your staff. Thank you, in advance, for your attention.

Russell Hoffman
Owner and Chief Programmer
The Animated Software Company

"Complaining is like a fine whine. It is never useful if it is left corked up."--Russell D. Hoffman
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