So, we were checking The Guardian for news, and saw this image, and, being a fan of Sargent and Whistler, et al., we clicked on it. That led us to this story about an exhibit showcasing Paris in 1900, which mentioned La Belle Époque, which caused us to wonder whether 1900 was properly considered part of that period, which caused us to go to Wikipedia. And then go find the English version of the page.
Where, for whatever reason, we found the above image of a French card (postcard? Don’t know; it just said “card”) from 1910, imagining telephony (or “correspondance cinema”) in the year 2000.
Skype wasn’t founded until 2003, but there had been for some time such a thing as videoconferencing by 2000. The drawing, of a gentleman talking to an elegant lady who’s waving to him, suggests a social call, though, and that suggests Skype, or FaceTime. So the card was three years off.
We love that they assumed there would have to be a tech guy operating a bunch of complex equipment to make such a call. It seems the artist imagined that we would have personal tech assistants in the future, serving alongside our butlers, maids and valets.
They just couldn’t quite conceive of silicon chips and miniaturization, and why should they have? That we’re able to do this, plus thousands of other things, in a slim device that easily fits into a shirt pocket would have been the wildest thing of all about the future, to the people of 1910.
No, wait — there’s one thing wilder and harder to predict than that. Who could have predicted that in an age when we carry such marvelous devices in our pockets, we would increasingly choose not to talk by two-way TV, or even to engage in voice calls — but would increasingly rely on texting? Which is a throwback to the telegram, which was already your granddad’s mode of communication by 1910.
Listen to yourself dictating a text to Siri, which involves saying the punctuation out loud, just like dictating to the Western Union guy in 1910 (“HAVE ARRIVED IN OMAHA STOP CONTACT MADE STOP AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS STOP”).
Which goes to show that reality is weirder than science fiction…