Author Topic: Bell / Western Electric - "Mod 1 Picturephone"  (Read 30007 times)

Offline DavePEI

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Re: Bell Type 1 Picturephone
« Reply #30 on: November 21, 2012, 12:03:46 AM »

I was thinking that should be the first to go! Glad I didn't think too hard.  :o

Maureen:

I fixed up your last posting - your text wound up being in the quoted portion.

I think you will be pleased in what the picture phone will bring. It is way out of my league, but there are lots of collectors with deep pockets who will want it.

Dave
« Last Edit: November 21, 2012, 12:05:39 AM by DavePEI »
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Offline MagicMo

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Re: Bell Type 1 Picturephone
« Reply #31 on: November 21, 2012, 12:07:57 AM »
I have been reading through the instructions. Three big manuals came with it and one is very interesting with different dates and engineers signatures. The third one is Def an IL Bell book. It looks like they were updating or fixing things, testing it out? Because some things are written over or crossed out. Not sure, very interesting.
Maureen
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Offline MagicMo

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Re: Bell Type 1 Picturephone
« Reply #32 on: November 21, 2012, 12:13:05 AM »
Check this out
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Offline MagicMo

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Re: Bell Type 1 Picturephone
« Reply #33 on: November 21, 2012, 12:18:50 AM »
I think it was a manual for the booth service at the Prudential building from the dates that are on the info. The manual was from the month before booths were servicing Chicago. I found this article:

Booth Service
Advertisement for picturephone booth service.
In June of 1964 “exploratory commercial service” began in three US cities. Booths with Picturephones were put in at the Prudential Building in Chicago, the National Geographic Society Building in Washington, as well as Grand Central Station in New York. These booths were accessible to the major public by appointment with telephone attendants who would put through all the necessary arrangements. Interestingly, Bell Labs itself admitted just a few years later in its report that “The attractiveness of this service is limited since both parties must go to a public booth to converse. It is apparent that this type of offering does not meet the needs of our customers” (Carson 286). Additionally, the exorbitant price of $21 between Washington and Chicago, $27 between Chicago and New York, and $16 between Washington and New York, couldn’t have helped (each price was for the first three minutes with additional fees per minute afterwards, “Picture Phones Go Into Service”).
Either way, the booths were reported on, even if not used, extensively. Their installation was inaugurated with Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson making the first call to a Bell employee. The service was available from 9 AM to 10 PM, seven days a week. At this time, a spokesman reported that eventually Picturephones would “link most major cities here and abroad.” Although he gave no forecast as to when they would be available in people’s homes. The screens used on this model of the Picturephones were the size of 4 3/8 inches by 5 3/4 inches (“Picture Phones Go Into Service”).
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Offline twocvbloke

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Re: Bell Type 1 Picturephone
« Reply #34 on: November 21, 2012, 02:43:08 AM »
Just a note, I think there is a place in France who still repairs and reconditions CRT tubes for various purposes, so even the one fitted in the picturephone could be revived, though it wouldn't be cheap, and generally the place (I think it's Racal, not 100% sure) tends to only take in consignments of CRTs rather than just the one-off job... ???

Anyway, it's interesting to read about the system they tried out, as over the years, various forms of videophones have come and gone, yet the traditional telephone always seemed to be the preferred option... :D

These days you have things like Skype, GooglePlus, Apple Facetime, and other similar "videophone" softwares, yet picking up a handset and putting it to one's ear is still preferable than sitting infront of a camera... :D

Offline baldopeacock

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Re: Bell Type 1 Picturephone
« Reply #35 on: November 21, 2012, 11:03:30 AM »
I think it was a manual for the booth service at the Prudential building from the dates that are on the info. The manual was from the month before booths were servicing Chicago. I found this article:

So maybe this was the Picturephone that was installed at the Prudential building?   Or a spare intended as backup for the Prudential unit?

That would be some cool history to know and it could only enhance the value.

Offline MagicMo

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Re: Bell Type 1 Picturephone
« Reply #36 on: November 21, 2012, 11:19:11 AM »
I think it was a manual for the booth service at the Prudential building from the dates that are on the info. The manual was from the month before booths were servicing Chicago. I found this article:

So maybe this was the Picturephone that was installed at the Prudential building?   Or a spare intended as backup for the Prudential unit?

That would be some cool history to know and it could only enhance the value.

Hi, From futher reading of the IL Bell manual it does look like it was one of the systems from the Prudential building. I spoke with his cousin and he told me that he was part of the team that worked on the prudential building for the PicturePhone displays. It was def lightly used and the drawings from the manual coincide with the numbers on my units as one of the ones that was installed. This just keeps getting cooler and cooler!!
Maureen
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Offline Dave F

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Re: Bell Type 1 Picturephone
« Reply #37 on: November 21, 2012, 11:50:05 AM »
I remember seeing the Picturephone at the Bell System exhibit in Tomorrowland at Disneyland, back in 1964.  They would select visitors at random and let them talk to whoever was at the unit on the far end of the line (The World's Fair in New York).   This, they declared, was the future of telephony.  It was very cool, especially to a budding phone collector.  There were only a couple hundred of these Type 1 Picturephones made.  They were not mass-produced, but were painstakingly individually constructed by hand.  A friend of mine, who has more than one of these sets, says that they are internally quite primitive.  For a variety of reasons, economic and otherwise, Picturephone service was never a success.  Bell System poured tens of millions of dollars into this loser of a project, both with the Type 1 and the more advanced Type 2 a few years later.  I remember being in an electronic surplus store here in L.A. in the early 80s.  They had a pile (at least a couple dozen) Type 2 Picturephones which they couldn't even sell for parts.  Looking back, it appears I made a mistake by not picking up a few.  Maybe I'll get lucky and wind up with this one!
« Last Edit: November 21, 2012, 01:28:43 PM by Dave F »

Offline Dave F

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Re: Bell Type 1 Picturephone
« Reply #38 on: November 21, 2012, 12:39:14 PM »
<snip> As whoever is buying this will be very unlikely to have a second complete unit to use it with, the peeled phosphor shouldn't matter, as the unit will be purchased for its historical value, and not to use. What 60-70 year old item even NOS doesn't have some degredation of components. It is still beautiful, and will bring a very high price.

Dave
The Type 1 Picturephone has a self-view mode, allowing the user to see him/herself, even when not connected to another unit.  So, getting this unit into working condition would be most desirable, if it can be done.  Hmmm, if Maureen will just let me borrow it for about 20 years, I'll see what I can do about getting it back up to snuff!

DF

Offline LarryInMichigan

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Re: Bell Type 1 Picturephone
« Reply #39 on: November 21, 2012, 01:41:43 PM »
I was born in 1964 in Chicago, so the Picturephone rightfully belongs to ME :)!

Larry
« Last Edit: November 21, 2012, 01:44:06 PM by LarryInMichigan »

Offline gpo706

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Re: Bell Type 1 Picturephone
« Reply #40 on: November 21, 2012, 03:20:57 PM »
"now this should take five minutes, where's me screwdriver went now..?"

Offline MagicMo

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Re: Bell Type 1 Picturephone
« Reply #41 on: November 22, 2012, 10:54:23 AM »
The Type 1 Picturephone has a self-view mode, allowing the user to see him/herself, even when not connected to another unit.  So, getting this unit into working condition would be most desirable, if it can be done.  Hmmm, if Maureen will just let me borrow it for about 20 years, I'll see what I can do about getting it back up to snuff!

DF

Hi Dave, It seems you are correct. I took a close up picture of the buttons from the desk top unit. Not a great picture but you can see the "view self" button. It has a Vidicon picture tube in it. Over the weekend I am going to look through the picture tubes my dad had to see if there is in fact a "good" spare one. I spent most of my evening yesterday reading through the manuals and I was amazed by all the testing equipment needed to set this thing up to make it work! In fact, it looks like I may have all of that "stuff" too!
Happy Thanksgiving!
Maureen
« Last Edit: November 23, 2012, 12:11:45 AM by AE_collector »
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Offline Bill

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Re: Bell Type 1 Picturephone
« Reply #42 on: November 22, 2012, 11:38:45 AM »
I think the vidicon is the camera tube, not the display tube. The vidicon is probably a cylinder about an inch in diameter, maybe 6 inches long - my memory is a bit thin. The display tube (picture tube) is bigger, of course.

Bill

Offline Dave F

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Re: Bell Type 1 Picturephone
« Reply #43 on: November 22, 2012, 02:56:36 PM »
More Picturephone musings:

I have read in multiple places that the bigwigs at AT&T conceded the Picturephone project to have been the biggest money-losing, time-consuming boondoggle in their entire corporate history.  They started experimenting with video-over-phone-lines technology in 1956, and the last Type 2 Picturephone wasn't sent to the junk pile until the late 1970s.

In the 40 odd years since then, there have been numerous further attempts to capitalize on the concept of a video telephone.  Sony, Mitsubishi and many others (including, amazingly, AT&T itself!) all have marketed consumer video phones of one kind or another.  Black and white or color, still-image or full-motion: All have been commercial failures.  Their assorted remains pop up with regularity on eBay.  

Today, with the advent of high-speed internet and the availability of powerful inexpensive computers, anybody can have unlimited free video phone service.  However, Skype and others of that ilk remain niche entities, relegated mostly to overseas newsfeeds from remote locations, or forums for computer geeks to strut their stuff.  The glaring fact, as true today as it was back in the Picturephone days, is that most people, most of the time, simply do not want to be seen while talking on the phone.  The comforting anonymity provided by voice-only communication is a plus, not a minus.  As it is likely that this will not change any time soon, widespread use of video phone technology will remain over the horizon for the foreseeable future.

A sad story, to be sure.  But there is definitely a bright side: The fact that the Picturephone was not successful makes the few surviving specimens even more rare and desirable.  We, as collectors of phones and their history, see this as a golden opportunity.  When, in all our combined recollections, has a complete Type 1 Picturephone ever been made available to covet?  Never, in my memory.  The only sad thing here is that, if Maureen does decide to part with it, only one of us can win.  While I dream that the winner will be me, I realize that it will most likely go to the one with the biggest wallet, and not necessarily to the person who would be most appreciative of this amazing artifact and its history.  In any case, in addition to the money she receives, Maureen will certainly be pleased that this great find and, by association, her father's legacy, will be well preserved.

DF

PS:
Maureen, when you have time, would you please post a picture of the F-55423 Power and Control Unit with the cover removed? Thanks.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2012, 03:00:54 PM by Dave F »

Offline Phonesrfun

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Re: Bell Type 1 Picturephone
« Reply #44 on: November 22, 2012, 03:22:22 PM »
More on the more picturephone musings:

I sense we are taking this thread off topic, but here goes.  If our trusty moderators know how to split this off the main topic, then that would be ok by me.

I think there were a lot of things that killed the picturephone, which at first thought seems like it should have been a real popular thing.

  • Bandwidth on copper pairs was so very limited back "in the day"
  • The cost to make the devices was extremely high
  • Very complicated switching arrangements were needed in a specially equipped central office
  • The cost of a normal conversation between two cities was also extreme
  • Only a handful of demonstration points existed in the country

I believe the public viewed this as nothing more than a novelty.  Why pay so much to see someone while you are on the phone, when you can have a regular phone conversation for next to nothing (even in the 1970's when long distance was much more expensive than today)

I would bet that there were some who would give a million bucks to actually see the person they were talking to.  The family of a soldier.  Someone who you had not seen in many years, or someone you had never met.  However, in order to develop a technology and make it work on a cost basis takes millions of people, not just a handful.

In fact, Dave, what you say is absolutely true about the "Picturephones" we have today.  I have an iPad with Facetime on it.  It is cool sometimes, but I could certainly live without it.  Cool from the standpoint that I can show someone my phone collection while I am talking to them, or show them something else.  Not cool when my son calls to introduce his new girlfriend to Mom and Dad, and my wife refuses to be shown because she is not willing to be seen at that moment in time.  Actually, I can even relate to that.  I have been known to run and put a shirt on before answering an incoming Facetime call.

All that being said, the Picturephone is really a neat part of technology, and highly collectible.  No picturephone is ever going to be hooked up to the PSTN and used as it was originally designed.  I would not rule out a point-to-point connection of two locally connected picturephones, but even that would be a long shot.

I am also sure that while developing the Picturephone, the Bell Labs pioneered some good fertile territory along the way.

« Last Edit: November 22, 2012, 03:56:34 PM by Phonesrfun »
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