This is the second part of How Technology Has Changed, One National Geographic at a Time.
The great thing about ads in the National Geographic is that the advertiser assumes that the reader is interested in learning detailed information about their products and services.
In the September 1983 edition, GTE advertises their Telenet Network. The Telenet Network was a precursor to the internet. It allowed different computers to communicate with one another. GTE claimed: “And it’s just about the most economical method there is, since data from many customers can be transmitted over the network simultaneously.” That sentence defined packet switching, which is how the internet operates. It would be very interesting to learn how “economical” their service was. Something tells me it was much more expensive than your run of the mill $50 a month business DSL connection.
In the September 1985 edition there is an ad for Hayes Micromodem IIe plug in board modems and Smartcom1 software – “For quick computer to computer communications”. Don’t you miss the days of installing your own modems and network interface cards? When you see an ad like this one you remember that technology is invented by super geeks that think nothing of completing a task such as modifying a computer. Then more sane people step in and simplify things for the rest of us.
Do you remember the Amiga computer company? I sure don’t. But according to their ad in the November 1985 National Geographic, “Amiga is easier to use and has twice the memory of an IBM PC… And while it can do much more than Macintosh or IBM, Amiga costs less than either of them”.
The following paragraph gives you an idea of where we were at the time: “Amiga can not only do many more tasks, it can do more of them at once. And work on all of them simultaneously. While you’re preparing the spreadsheet, Amiga will print the memo. And there’s probably enough power left over to receive a phone message or stock quote over a modem at the same time.” Amiga could do everything it seemed, but use proper sentence structure in their ads.
In the same issue, AT&T had an ad where an operator explained, “A lot of things have changed since I came to work for AT&T. Today, they need me to handle long distance calls. With the new technology, the company could go totally electronic, like our competitors. But AT&T knows its customers.” If you’ve placed a call to AT&T’s customer service phone number recently, you know that AT&T got over its aversion to going “totally electronic”.
Finally, in the July 1988 edition, AT&T ran an ad advertising long distance to Japan for an average cost of $1.20 per minute on a ten minute call (calls placed between 8 pm and 3 am). In an AT&T ad in a 1983 National Geo, the same call went for $2.53 for the first minute and 95 cents for each additional minute (placed between 11 pm and 10 am). Do the math and realize that’s an average of $1.11 per minute for a ten-minute call. Five years later and no rate reduction. It’s no wonder how AT&T was able to afford their staff of operators.