Soon after he invented the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell began theorizing about face-to-face telecommunication. His ideas inspired others, and in the years since, two dominant technologies have emerged: the videophone and webcam. Whereas videophones are better suited for the work environment, the webcam has been adopted as a casual form of interaction and entertainment.
Although the videophone was envisioned as a replacement for the telephone, the business community has utilized it to increase efficiency in the workplace. Before the widespread dissemination of the Internet, businesses had difficulty sharing information and resources in a timely, simple and economical manner. The videophone addressed these needs as it allowed multi-person conferencing, reduced the need for travel, complimented discussions through visual aids and promoted access to records and information (Dickson and Bowers, 98-100). In addition, businesses are more ideally suited for the videophone because they have built-in networks and are able to afford the equipment and service. Ultimately, the videophone has allowed businesses to ease operations and decrease inefficiency.
The webcam has evolved into a means of communication and enjoyment between friends and family. Unlike the videophone, webcams are inexpensive, easy to use and rely upon existing infrastructures (the Internet and computers) that are readily available and popular. However, due to the intimate and exclusive nature of webcams, they are primarily used between close friends and family. Indeed, when people are homesick (a common occurrence during freshman year of college) or want to talk to a long-distance relative, they often use webcams and applications like Skype. Among friends and family, webcams have become a legitimate form of face-to-face communication.
References- “The video telephone: Impact of a new era in telecommunications” by E.M. Dickson and R. Bowers.
“Anatomy of failure: Picturephone revisited” by A.M. Noll.