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AT&T on the future of data networking (1987)

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An amazingly prescient ad from AT&T

We’ve already made the telephone a computer. The hard part is making the computer a telephone.

You pick up your telephone and dial an airline reservation number. But instead of getting a recording asking you to wait, you get one offering to help.

You then enter a seven-digit identification code (such as your phone number). You enter the day and month you want to fly. You press buttons to indicate your place of departure.

Others to indicate your destination. The number of persons traveling. The time of the flight. And you hang up with your reservation made.

Did you use a phone or a computer? If the answer isn’t clear, it’s because at AT&T, we’re merging telephones and computers.

We’re creating data networks that do even more for information that our telephone network does for your voice. These are networks that not only move information instantly, but also interpret it, and apply it in the most useful way. All automatically.

Their potential value to airlines extends beyond ticketing. Most airlines have several separate voice and data networks — for schedules, reservations, administration, etc.

Imagine if all these networks worked as one network in concert with the data networks at car rental and hotel chains. Travel would be easier than you ever thought possible. In fact, data networking will make all kinds of personal services more convenient — banking, retailing, health care, home buying, investing, credit approval, even home entertainment. Computers will finally deliver what they’ve been promising for decades.

It’s part of our continuing effort to combine everything you like about telephones with everything you expect from computers. In fact, right now, the people at AT&T Bell Laboratories are working on a way to access the power of a computer with the sound of your voice.

Telephone?

Computer?

Each is becoming the other. And becoming, in the process, more useful than ever before.

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