Ahead of its time?

In 2001 at the AT&T Labs in Cambridge, we created a system we called the Broadband Phone:

Basically, it was a Linux-based VOIP phone with a VNC viewer and touch screen built in to it, and we built a GUI toolkit which rendered directly over the network in VNC. A standard Dell PC operated as the phone exchange (I wish we’d had Asterisk then!) and also provided the graphics for a variety of specially-written applications. It drove about 100 phones without any trouble, and we used this as our internal phone system in the lab for some time. The plan was to spin out a company based around the technology, but this was 2001, and you couldn’t get funding for new companies, whatever you did!

Anyway, at one point I created a cordless version based around a Compaq iPaq. I came across a publicity photo of it recently, and it took me a moment to realise why it looked so familiar:

Perhaps we were just too far ahead of the curve… 🙂

You can find my original pages about the Broadband Phone project here on the Internet Archive.

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I was surprised to stumble upon, this morning, a prototype for a similar Apple product, which dates back (apparently) to 1984. A phone with a screen! Sources are contradictory, but some say it was designed for Apple by Frog Design, an independent agency vying for Apple business at the time. Others suggest that it was done in collaboration with, ironically, AT&T.

Oh well, what goes around comes around.

There’s a link to a picture of this apple phone: http://www.flickr.com/photos/niallkennedy/840301871/

Amazing! I hadn’t seen that one.

[…] (I guess my nearest equivalent in gadget prediction is shown here.) […]

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