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A brief history of the videophone in film

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A compilation of the videophone's most prominent film appearances, from 'Metropolis' to 'Moon.'

Metropolis Videophone
Metropolis Videophone

Despite the advent of FaceTime and Skype, video calling has yet to replace traditional telephony. As David Foster Wallace put it in Infinite Jest, "it turned out that there was something terribly stressful about visual telephone interfaces... Good old traditional audio-only phone conversations allowed you to presume that the person on the other end was paying complete attention to you while also permitting you not to have to pay anything even close to complete attention to her."

In film, however, the videophone has a long and storied history. As part of a research project, designer Joe Malia compiled a list of some of the most prominent movie videophones, from 1927's Metropolis to the 2009 film Moon. The videophones have changed with the times — the radio-like interface of Metropolis, for example, gave way to office-desk setups in The Jetsons and fax machines in Back to the Future Part II — but it's clear that video calling is one of the oldest and most resilient ideas in science fiction.