[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Connectix VideoPhone

December 29th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Connectix VideoPhone video chat software QuickCam advertisement - 1996Even black and white was amazing once

Once upon a time, companies tried to achieve video phone calls using non-networked, proprietary point-to-point devices such as the AT&T VideoPhone 2500 (RSOTW, 2010) — almost all of which utilized traditional telephone lines or ISDN.

Then the Internet came along and blew the field wide open. Suddenly, video chat could happen over any data transfer medium that supported TCP/IP, and it could be routed around the world to any node on the Internet. Connectix's VideoPhone software (circa 1995) was one of the first consumer video chat products to take advantage of the Internet. Using the software and the company's QuickCam digital camera (arguably the world's first webcam), folks could video conference all over the world — albeit in black and white.

For more on the history of video phones and video chat, check out this piece I created for Technologizer back in 2010.

[ From Internet World - February 1996, inside front cover]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When was the first time you ever made a video call or did video chat?



3 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Connectix VideoPhone”

  1. Moondog Says:

    I worked for Zenith Data Systems from 1990-96, and I recall seeing a ZDS video phone in a display cabinet up front, but it wasn't made internally at the plant I worked at. My guess by the logo it was made after 1992. When the plant closed down in '96, a local salvage place purchased a bunch of surplus, hoping to cash in on obsolete parts and service. I picked up the camera module from one. It's a Sharp ccd camera with a ZDS logo on it.

  2. John Says:

    I was very late in making any video calls/chats - 1999 or so. However, I remember all those phone company promises before that. The running joke in the mid-to-late '90′s was ISDN = "It Still Does Nothing"

    I remember executives wanting us to figure out how to get an ISDN line working so they could have video conferences in 1996 and we eventually had to admit it wasn't something we could pull off without spending more money than they wanted. At the time, it almost felt like, "What do mean we can't beam me straight to that boardroom?" I chalked it up to "managerial vanity."

  3. Zoyous Says:

    I worked at a Kinko's in 1995 that had a videoconferencing room. There proved to be very little demand for it, though, and it was eventually dismantled. Occasionally I'd go in there in the middle of the night and play with feedback.

    Nowadays, of course, there's Skype, but I find it strangely distracting to do video calls. I feel about ten times more self-conscious if there's a brief lapse in the conversation than I do with just an audio call.

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