Looking Ahead to the Information Age in 1985: AT&T Archives

I found this video from 1985 and I had to share. I remember watching a similar video talking about the “Information Superhighway” in the late 1980s.

A semi-futurist film about the growth and potential of computers and communications combining in The Information Age. The film puts forth that developments like digital television, speech recognition, and speedy networks might combine in ways to help humanity that wasn’t believed possible before the 1980s.

This 1985 film contains an early use of the term “information superhighway” — the origins of the term are still unclear. Al Gore claims to have used the term “information highway” in a presentation around 1978, artist Nam Jun Paik referred to a “superhighway” of data back in 1974, and Ralph Lee Smith’s book on cable television from 1972 used the term “electronic communications highway” in the subtitle. But, until we digitize every piece of print and voice matter for the 20th century, this reference, from Newsweek in 1983, may have to stand as the earliest specific reference (and yes, it is entirely about AT&T’s largest 1980s projects):

“This year alone, AT&T will install 15,000 miles of glass fibers in commercial systems across the country. Two information superhighways being built of fiber-optic cable will link Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., in a 776-mile system on the East Coast, and Sacramento, Oakland and Los Angeles on the West Coast. In 1984 the video and voice signals for television broadcasts of the Los Angeles Olympics will race through fiber-optic systems buried beneath the city streets to a transmitter; from there, they will be beamed to a satellite parked in geosynchronous orbit above the earth and relayed around the globe. Light-wave communications may also tie together networks of computers, printers and video screens in the office of the future; the new AT&T headquarters building under construction in New York is being fiber-wired for future services. But the most ambitious project so far is a transatlantic fiber-optic cable to be built by 1988 that could significantly cut the cost of communications between the United States and Europe.”

Interviews in this film include:

* Robert Jastrow, NASA
* George Stibitz, Dartmouth (formerly of Bell Labs)
* William Synnott, 1st National Bank of Boston

Footage Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ

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