1999: Web Pay Phones

I find this article fun to read just for the nostalgia factor of having to pay for internet by the minute because people wanted Internet on the go. This article talked about a new trend right on the cusp of the new millennium; Web pay phones, which, if you can remember, you have a better memory than me. Apparently at one point there were installations similar to pay phones that allowed you to gain access to the internet outside. If you didn’t have a computer you just had to pay by the minute and log on from the street. I do remember a few of these at restaurants like McDonald’s however I don’t think they ever caught on. The article goes on to list reasons for why they think that the idea is impractical including the need to run lines to them which weren’t cost-effective in a trial run, needing to place them by pay phones, requiring maintenance to change out all the cash and the need for a diagnostics center when they eventually have software issues.

Another hilarious prediction here is that Francie Mendelsohn, the president of Summit Research Associates, thought the market for web pay phone kiosks would explode in a year mainly on the basis of e-mail. Unfortunately, as we know now, that never took off. Personal computers at your home were far more comfortable than the pay phones, similar to how cell phones took off and pay phones were done away with. Despite the comical aspect it is an important lesson in predicting emerging trends. Just because something, like e-mail, is in demand doesn’t mean that the way in which you provide it will also be in demand. When these companies see something very popular they need to be careful about any business forecasts and ask themselves if they have forgotten about something. The past focused on pay phones and they connected that with their idea of the future. They failed to see cell phones and computers and the future drove right on by.



This isn’t a specific article but rather a timeline on Air Canada’s website. It shows the innovations and news from their history but one in particular is very interesting. In 1999 they installed their first self-service check-in kiosk, marking the beginning of their deployment to airlines.



For more articles related to technology go to Mechanical Menagerie and check out my other pages for excellent content on science, technology, history and more!




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