The Future Circa 1993

The old saying that the future ain’t what it used to be proves not to be applicable to this montage of ads from AT&T from 1993 on the things technology will “soon” make possible:

Via Andrew Sullivan via a reader who emailed it to him noting that only the tagline, “And the company that will bring it to you? AT&T” has proven wildly incorrect.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tony says:

    I remember when it took almost a year before a movie was available on a video tape, now theres a good chance of a video of you buying popcorn at the movies on youtube by the time you get home from the movie.

  2. cirby says:

    I was just looking through one of my old computer books from 1993, and the chapter on “multimedia” pretty much says that the only real uses for multimedia are education and porn.

    It also says that ISDN will be the wave of the future, and that a $4500 33 MHz desktop with 16 megs of RAM, a 525 meg hard drive, and a 13 inch monitor is a pretty good deal.

  3. The four commercials presented 11 ideas (the ‘tuck your baby in from a phone booth’ was repeated).

    In car navigation, send a fax from the beach, pay toll road without slowing, video meeting, and movie on demand have all come about pretty close to how they were presented. Borrowing a book and remote learning are here, but not quite as predicted. While I can get some books on line, they tend not to be a photo of the book (as shown) nor is it most books. Remote learning doesn’t tend to be as interactive as shown. The video phone equivalent is here with the VOIP and web cams, but its more likely to be the same lap top for the video conference as a phone booth. Buying your concert tickets remotely is certainly here, but not from an ATM. And while we certainly have the technical capabilities to carry our medical records in our wallet, the infrastructure to gather them and read them doesn’t exist. As far as voice activated locks, they certainly aren’t common. Of course, all of them have the technical capability to exist. If you were in the silicon industry in 1993, you wouldn’t have bet against any of these ideas as being technically impossible (at least if you understood Moore’s law).

    7 of the 11 ideas are primarily enabled by bandwidth (either wired or wireless). 3 of the ideas were straightforward projections of increased memory/computing power coupled with decreased cost. Which leaves the toll road as the eleventh predicted invention. Neat post.

  4. Django Bliss says:

    Yestanotherjohn, doesn’t EZPass or it’s equivalent cover the toll road prediction?

  5. Bliss,

    Absolutely EZ pass covers the toll road prediction. I listed it as one of those that I gave ATT credit for predicting. Not quite how they predicted (sliding a card into your dash board), but I wasn’t being picky on that point.

    The only unique thing on the EZ pass was it was the only one that wasn’t enabled by increased bandwidth or the normal increases in computing/memory aligned with a decrease in cost.