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Whatever happened to videophones?

L. Montgomery of Wakefield, Mass., asks, 'Whatever happened to...?'

If you had asked visitors to the 1964 New York World's Fair about telephones with TV screens, they could have told you all about them. The "Picturephones" were a big hit at the AT&T pavilion then.

So why don't you have a videophone today, 37 years later? Because, so far, there's been little demand for them.

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You may be surprised to learn that videophones are available now, as freestanding units and computer add-ons. One company is testing a cellphone in Japan that will take and transmit video and still photos. Other cellphone companies are at work on the concept, too.

All these devices are costly, though, and image quality can be poor. Analog phone lines make for choppy video, says Trevor Irving, marketing manager for AIPTEK, a videophone manufacturer.

There's another reason you probably don't own a videophone: privacy. Not everyone wants to be seen when they pick up the phone.

Businesses like the idea behind videophones, though. In fact, they've been "videoconferencing" for years, using TV cameras and special links.

Do you suddenly wonder, hey -'Whatever happened to...?'

Wonder no more! Write and tell us who or what you'd like to catch up with.

Send ideas to: One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail: whatever@csmonitor.com


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