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Sunday, September 20, 2009

You will

In 1993, before the World Wide Web and before the commercial Internet, AT&T ran a set of television advertisements. They are visible on youtube. At first blush, a lot of it sounded wide eyed and futuristic. But to people who were in the field then, everything in the ad was reasonable and incremental; merely a matter of scaling up what had been figured out. It was a great time to be alive, those early days of the Net. To AT&T iphone customers of today in the US, almost everything in the ad is now reality.

A more gloomy version of the ad was floating around:
Have you ever received an automated sales pitch,
while you were still in your pajamas?

Have you ever had thousands of calls all over
the world charged to your stolen account number?

Have you ever had your paycheck deleted
by faceless intruders from across the globe?

Have you ever had an employer know more about your
whereabouts and activities than your spouse?

Have you ever been snuffed to dust by a
satellite laser while lying on the beach?


And the company that will bring this to you
is AT&T.

This was a post on rec.humor.funny on 20 April 1994. Everything in this dystopic vision came out true by 2009 too, other than the last one.


  1. Suddenly this Anti-AT&T vibes from Dr.Shah ? :D

    Don't worry, the increasingly anti-corporation, anti-capitalism vibes in society peaks during downturns.

    Last year the theme was "Google is Evil". Last recession created the them "MS is evil" This year "Wall St. Bonuses are evil".

    Even the Devil is miffed,he says "Capitalism is evil,coz he is having this huge a competition."


  2. On a different note: When I was very young, was it 92-93?, there used to be a fantastic program broadcast on DD called Turning Point hosted by Girish Karnad. (sometimes accompanied by Dr. Yashpal Sharma)It used to be a daily fixture in our home.

    In one of the episodes, they first talked about Internet and how it will revolutionize the classrooms. My mom explained it to me, "Soon sonny, teachers will be sitting at one end of the world, and you will be sitting at home, with a comp in front of you"

    I was wide eyed with wonder. I felt like that is the definition of heaven. No more having to go to schools.
    She quickly chided, telling me, "my kids will be learning like that, not you".

    Fast Forward to 2009, I listen to recorded presentations given by MIT Profs,listen to live podcasts by professionals in my field, shoot a question, connect and collaborate with people around the world, (and talk all of it on an Economist's blog)

    Living in present hardly gives you a perspective, but when you see it from past, its humbling.


  3. Soham,

    I didn't mean this to be anti AT&T. In fact, I loved that ad back in 1993, and am delighted at how accurately it anticipated the world 1993-2009.

    The malware-focused variant is more a comment on Microsoft than AT&T.

  4. Thank you for this post. As someone who graduated college with a top-of-the-line Brother WordProcessor and didn't have an answering machine until about 2001, this whole "vision of the future" thing is very scary.

    I'm already planning my retirement in the Azores. I'll have running water and electricity 5 hours a day; I can see the ocean from my window.


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