And here we find ourselves nearing the end of yet another podcast. To close most episodes, we like to note the anniversaries of great moments in technology history. This week, we’re going to set our Wayback Machine to…
… May 30th, 1996. That was the day Intel Corp. announced that hundreds of thousands of PCs would soon hit the market, capable of making video calls using common phone lines. The set-up would replace Intel’s own ProShare videoconferencing system, which it had introduced two years earlier, in 1994.
This is from an Intel ProShare promotional video:
ANNOUNCER: People like you who sell things and negotiate things and just plain talk to other people about things all need a way to be just plain better at things. You need a way to fax a fax to Frank in Philadelphia faster than a fax machine can fax. A way to edit the edition with Edward in Edmonton without going to Edmonton because it was due yesterday and can’t wait until tomorrow or even until later today, because time is money and this is definitely about money. You need a way to be better at things.
This is a lawyer named Laura being better using ProShare Personal Conferencing on a PC. Actually, it’s two lawyers in different cities like Little Rock and LA bantering about a contract, almost as if they were in the same room.
BRIAN SANTO: It was almost like the future. ProShare required an ISDN line, a technology the phone companies were demonstrably reluctant to install, however. In the intervening two years, ProShare had attracted only 50,000 customers. It was not a success.
The new system would work on certain PCs with the new 133 MHz Pentium processor, a new 28K modem designed for the service, and new video compression software. Importantly, it would not run on ISDN. It would run on standard TCP lines – twisted copper pair.
Frank Gill, executive vice president of the Intel operation responsible for the system, told The New York Times, “The first release is clearly targeted at families, but I think this capability will also find its way to business very rapidly.”
Like ProShare, it was a failure. Between the new modem and the advanced compression software, the system would be capable of transmitting video at anywhere from four to 12 frames a second. To compare, broadcast TV runs at 24 frames per second. There was also a cost premium compared to a regular PC, of an extra $200 to $300, mostly for the digital video camera. The whole system was too clunky and too expensive.
But it did bring together all the elements of modern videoconferencing – standardized compute power, a modem, a standard communications connection, digital video, and digital video compression.
Last week, I held video calls on literally six different videoconferencing apps.
And – plate o’ shrimp: we had the co-developer of ProShare on the podcast two weeks ago. You can find our interview with Renee James, now the CEO of Ampere Computer, on the website, and of course there’s a link on this episode’s web page. There’s also a YouTube video explaining the concept of “plate o’ shrimp.”
That’s it for today’s episode. Thanks for listening. The Weekly Briefing is available on iTunes, Android, Spotify, Stitcher and Blubrry, but if you get to the podcast via our website you’ll find a transcript, along with links to the stories we mentioned, and sometimes other goodies. Visit www.eetimes.com and click where it says RADIO to find the full archive of podcasts. Or go straight to www.eetimes.com/podcasts.
“Radio…,” “podcasts…” “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” That’s Ralph Waldo Emerson. Culture, people, culture.
This podcast is Produced by AspenCore Studio. It was Engineered by Taylor Marvin and Greg McRae at Coupe Studios. The Segment Producer was Kaitie Huss.
I’m Brian Santo. See you next week.