Tag Archives: retrofuture

The videophones came when we weren’t watching.

facetiming by Suzanne Forbes Jan 2016Videophones- we were going to have them in the future.

Then we could have them, and we didn’t want them. Because why would you want someone to call you at home, and see you when you’d just gotten out of the shower? The videophone was strictly for corporate meetings. Then last Fall my friend Devon was on the phone with her boyfriend, and suddenly I realized she was showing him the costume project we were working on, live. Video phones had arrived.

Since I’ve never had a phone that could Facetime and now for the last nine months I haven’t had a phone at all, I promptly forgot about Facetiming.

Until I saw this lady on the U-Bahn, doing something that clearly wasn’t a phone call. I realized I recognized the posture and gestures, that I’d been seeing people doing something like this for the last year or so. A new thing added to the human family of communication behaviors, Facetiming with headphones.

More animated, more involved, more private than a phone call.

She never noticed me drawing; she was in another world. It makes sense, as a communication tool, the same way Skyping as a thing you plan, make a date for, makes sense. You can do it on the subway, you can talk to your girlfriend who’s trying on a dress or to your kids at home and walk them through starting dinner.

Thomas Edison would be proud.


The famous Punch cartoon from 1878 by George du Maurier, depicting Edison’s Telephonoscope.