And You Thought YOUR Phone Bill Was High!

Product: Bell Telephone long distance
Date: ca 1952

Think your cell phone rates are high? Or that long distance costs too much? Then thank your lucky stars you don’t live in 1952. Back then, Bell Telephone was trying to convince people to make long distance calls by touting these “low” per-minute rates:

Pittsburgh to Cleveland $.45
Boston to Philadelphia $.70
Atlanta to Cincinnati $.85
Dallas to Denver $1.10
San Marino to New York $2.00
 

old-fashioned telephone

And these were the off-peak rates for calls made after 6pm or on Sundays! To put those rates in perspective, I ran them through an inflation calculator to see what you’d pay for the same calls in 2011 dollars. Here are the staggering results:

Pittsburgh to Cleveland $3.63
Boston to Philadelphia $5.73
Atlanta to Cincinnati $6.95
Dallas to Denver $9.00
San Marino to New York $16.36
 

Can you imagine paying $16 per minute? I don’t think I’d be making too many calls to the grandkids at those rates.


1950s Bell Telephone ad

Click to view full ad.

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Because “New” Is Forever When You Call It “Smart”

Product: Admiral Radio-Phonographs
Date: 1948

These smart new radio phonographs CAN’T GO OUT OF DATE! Right? Am I right? Smart never goes out of date. And when television comes to town, you’ll be ready. In the meantime, you’ve got a nice spot for that 16-volume encyclopedia bound in white leatherette. Everyone knows you’ll always need that.

1948 Admiral radio television ad

1948 Admiral radio television ad
Click to enlarge.

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Imagine a Phone You Can Take Anywhere!

Product: Carry Phone
Date: 1967

Carry Phone: an early mobile phone

You’re out on a deserted beach with your favorite girl, nobody around for miles, nothing but sand, sun and sea — and suddenly your phone rings!

Groovy, man. It’s 1967 and the Carry Phone is the latest in portable technology. Weighing “only” 10 pounds and priced at just $3,000, the Carry Phone was predicted to “become as popular as the transistor radio.”

The old science magazines from the 1950s and ’60s were pretty far out with some of their predictions, but this article from a November 1967 Science & Mechanics was right on the money.

Of course, the phone had to get a little smaller. And the price had to come down a bit — that $3,000 price tag in today’s dollars would be a hefty $19,288.14.

But making a phone call from an airplane? Or while walking down the street? Yeah dude, I can dig it.

Carry Phone: an early mobile phone


1967 article: Carry Phone mobile phone

Click to enlarge.

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Laptops Are Soooo 1890s

Product: World Typewriter
Date: 1890

I don’t know why I continue to be surprised at finding evidence, way back in the past, of ideas and sentiments that are supposedly so very 21st-century modern.

Take portability, for example. We tend to think of small, lightweight technology as a development of the last 10 or 20 years. After all, it’s our highly mobile culture and our “do anything anywhere” expectations that have both pushed the development of these technologies and embraced them. Isn’t it?

Umm, maybe not.

Take a look at this ad for a portable typewriter from 1890 — yeah, that’s right — 1890. There’s a well-dressed guy using some down time on the train to tap out a bit of writing on a teeny little keypad resting in his lap. (Little does he know that more than 100 years later, millions will be following his lead.)

1890 ad for portable typewriter

In 1890, typewriters were still in their infancy. Multiple forms and designs of type machines abounded; many of them were quite small.

It wasn’t until about 1910 that the typewriter, as we know it to look today, was standardized. Then we moved into the kind of heavy typewriters that most of you will be familiar with, followed by room-sized computers, and then desk-bound PCs before emerging once again into unplugged handhelds.

La plus ├ža change….

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