Meet George Jetson!

The Jetsons was one of my favorite non-Looney Tunes cartoons from my youth. Flying cars and the 15-hour workweek were highlights for me of the Hanna-Barbera vision of the world of 2062.

Obviously those predictions haven’t come to fruition yet (at least for me), but one that has become reality in a big way is the video phone. Remember how George used to talk to Jane face-to-face from his office through a video screen? And how Mr. Spacely would always seem to appear on the video screen at inopportune times?

My wife Lisa and I played Jetsons a couple of nights ago with our daughter, Rachel, and granddaughter, Evelyn. They live about 500 miles away from us, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here was their first experience with Skype:

 

In the 1960s — when many long-distance phone calls were operator assisted and the per-minute charges for a simple voice call were exorbitant and only the big three television networks and their affiliates had video cameras — the idea of being able to talk by video across the miles was as outlandish as levitating cars seem to us today.

Which brings me back to the subject of my post about whether Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are free. If you had told anyone in 1962 (when The Jetsons ran in prime time), that they would be able to do what Lisa, Rachel, Evie and I did Tuesday night (along with our cat, Zeke), they would have shaken their heads in disbelief. 

Most probably would have doubted it even in 1992, or would have thought the cost of such a service would be exorbitant. Remember AOL, Prodigy and similar services that set time limits on Web access?

But like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, Skype is FREE! Yes, you need a computer with a webcam to take advantage of it (and a MacBook with built-in iSight is a great choice), but for computer-to-computer voice calls or videoconferencing, there are no charges with Skype. 

If you’re reading this, you already have access to a computer. You may even have a webcam, but if not you can get one for about the cost of a cheap DVD player (another technology that’s becoming ridiculously inexpensive.)

Here is the key question to ask yourself (and doubters in your organization): If our competitors are paying nothing to communicate more effectively with their customers (and ours) by using this technology with the staff they already have, wouldn’t our failure to take advantage of these tools be a significant competitive disadvantage for us?

For some great reading on why all these tools are being made available for FREE, check out this article in Wired by Chris Anderson. It’s also the subject of his new book, to be released next month. I’ll be reviewing it here soon after it comes out.

Meanwhile, if you want to give Skype a try, download it and I would be happy to be your first videoconference conversation partner. Just tweet me (@LeeAase) and be sure you’re following me on Twitter, and we can connect via direct message to set a time for a face-to-face talk on Skype.

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Author: Lee Aase

Married father of six and grandfather of seven, and the Chancellor of SMUG - Social Media University, Global. By day I'm the Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. Whatever I say here is my personal opinion, and doesn't reflect the positions of my employer.

4 thoughts on “Meet George Jetson!”

  1. I’m 100% with you on this. I find free videoconferencing with Skype completely amazing. It was such a symbol of the future, and now we do it every day, for free. My kids don’t realize that it’s unusual to videcall their grandparents on our living room TV. It’s not that it’s high tech – it’s that it went so quickly from impossible to everyday stuff.

    But I think Start Trek instead of Jetsons.

  2. That’s exactly right, Andy. Five years ago impossible. Now Lisa can see her distant granddaughter for an unlimited amount of time, any time of day. One of my favorite experiences with Skype was in audio, though, doing an interview with someone from Australia. I could clearly hear the birds chirping outside his window, which meant I was literally hearing tomorrow’s “tweets” today.

  3. Your post couldn’t have been more timely. Last week, my wife and I purchased webcams and and setup Skype accounts so my four-year-old daughter, Kylie, and I can videoconference her when she’s traveling for work. It was nice to hear her voice before, but it’s even better to see her when we’re talking – especially for my daughter. Our next goal is to start Skyping with Kylie’s grandparents who live in Iowa.

    Already wondering what technology we’ll be using five years from now that we don’t know about today.

  4. Great Post. I fell in love with Skype back in 2006 (http://www.cws.net/blog/2006/08/web20-skypecom-internet-chat.html) and immediately bought both grandparents web cams. We continue to use them on a regular basis. In fact, we skyped with grandma in Arizona just last night while my 3 year old son opened the birthday presents they had shipped up to Minnesota.

    As you said, it’s amazing that this technology is 100% free and how well it works to view special moments like this in real-time. If you travel a lot, it’s a great way to “tuck the kids in” each night and feel just like you’re at home.

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