The Videotex Revolution

23:49 Thu 23 Jun 2011. Updated: 01:30 24 Jun 2011
[, , , , , ]

In June 1982, the Institute for the Future published a report, “Teletext and Videotex in the United States”, which discussed the likely impact of teletext and videotex services on American homes, jobs, and lifestyles; an article summarizing the report was published in the New York Times. While in many ways it was utterly wrong, in the sense that those technologies never succeeded in the US, in perhaps more important ways it was almost prescient, describing quite well how the Internet has changed things.

Among the predictions it made:

  • Telecommuting.

    “The home will double as a place of employment, with men and women conducting much of their work at the computer terminal.”

  • Internet Shopping.

    So far we haven’t entirely hit the point it predicted, which was “production on demand”—although for certain services this is already true (custom T-shirt printing being the first example that springs to mind) and more are likely to follow.

  • Different Social Groupings.

    “Friends, peer groups and alliances will be determined electronically, creating classes of people based on interests and skills rather than age and social class.”

  • Bloggers/Wikileaks/Online Activists?

    “A new profession of information ‘brokers’ and ‘managers’ will emerge, serving as ‘gatekeepers,’ monitoring politicians and corporations and selectively releasing information to interested parties.”

  • Privacy Problems.

    “[T]hese systems will … also carry a stream of information out of the home about the preferences and behavior of its occupants.”

For 1982, those predictions seem rather impressive. It also got some things wrong, unfortunately—such as its prediction that “Videotex might mean the end of the twoparty system, as networks of voters band together to support a variety of slates—maybe hundreds of them”.

(I became aware of this via Raph Koster.)

Leave a Reply