Anniversary Celebration: 50 Years of Video Calling Online

  • Remote Access Enabled
  • Virtual Presentations
Panel Discussion

On June 30, 1970, Pittsburgh Mayor Peter Flaherty and Alcoa Chairman and CEO John Harper placed the inaugural call on the world’s first commercial video calling service. AT&T’s “Picturephone” system launched to customers the next day, with 38 Picturephones in use at eight Pittsburgh companies. The service later expanded to Chicago, New York, Washington D.C. and other major cities, with some 450 sets in use by 1973.  Although not a commercial success, it marked the first time video calling moved from demo booths to users’ desks, and from a concept to practical business tool.

As the precursor to tools such as Zoom, Skype and FaceTime, the Picturephone heralded a future of ubiquitous video calling and telecommuting that is mainstream today. To celebrate the 50th anniversary—Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto and Michael G. Morris, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Alcoa, will video chat, as their predecessors did a half century ago.

Celebrate this seminal event, which heralded a future of ubiquitous video calling and telecommuting that is mainstream today.

Following the call, scholars from Carnegie Mellon University will host a Q&A discussing the history and legacy of the Picturephone's launch.

Presenters:

  • William Peduto, Mayor of Pittsburgh
  • Michael G. Morris, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Alcoa
  • James H. Garrett, Jr., Provost and Chief Academic Officer
  • Chris Harrison, A. Nico Habermann Chair, Human-Computer Interaction Institute, School of Computer Science
  • Andrew Meade McGee, Carnegie Mellon University Libraries CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow in the History of Science and Computing
  • Molly Wright Steenson, Senior Associate Dean for Research, College of Fine Arts, K&L Gates Associate Professor in Ethics and Computational Technologies Associate Professor, School of Design

Moderator:

  • Patience Whitworth, Assistant Vice Provost for Operations and Strategic Initiatives

Learn more about this historic event, read about the Libraries' Picturephones, and submit questions for the presenters.

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