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

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, 1980 AT&T will install 15,000 miles of glass fibers in commercial systems nationwide. Two information superhighways 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 video and voice signal for television broadcasts of the Los Angeles Olympics will race through fiber-optic systems buried beneath the city streets to a transmitter; from there, 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 under construction in New York is 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

2 responses to “Looking Ahead to the Information Age in 1985: AT&T Archives”

  1. Thank you for this! I love retro-tech!

    1. Catch the Words Avatar
      Catch the Words

      Thank you. Nice to see you this morning. Have a great rest of the day. Cheers!