Time Machine: Why didn't Internet on TV take off in 1983?

Video previews home shopping, news and online banking via TV set box

The AT&T Tech Channel has another set of golden videos from the '80s - this time, they're highlighting the Viewtron system which let people access information, news, play games and conduct online banking through a remote-controlled (infra-red) keyboard and connected via telephone modem to a TV set. One of the big hopes for the system was online shopping, but as this AT&T post notes, "one of the online shopping sites had only logged a paltry 11 direct orders."

After viewing the video, I have an idea why it failed - did you see that the Cuchi Cuchi doll being offered on the online toy store? It cost $98! (and this was in 1983). Yikes!

AT&T says that the system got about 15,000 users and the service was expanded to about 15 cities up and down the East coast, but eventually folded after spending $50 million.

Maybe some of these ideas ended up being used in other services that became the Internet we all know and love, but at the time, this seemed cutting edge.

Here's another video about Viewtron, providing some additional information about the service and the Sceptre system that allowed TV access.

Amazingly, AT&T says that teletext and videotex systems still exist, that "you still see them in use on cable television, especially on local public access stations for broadcasting events and schedules." Even the BBC is broadcasting their Ceefax teletext information via analog signal, AT&T says, but this service is scheduled to end in October 2012.

Read more of Keith Shaw's ITworld.TV blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Keith on Twitter at @shawkeith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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