AT&T Tech Channel

About this video

The Frame Creation Terminal, or FCT, produced out of Bell Labs, was an all-in-one graphics system to generate the types of pages that the Viewtron system used. It cost $34,000 in 1982 dollars (or 81K today). Their first customer was Viewdata Corporation, the company jointly owned by AT&T and Knight-Ridder.

The video here contains two pieces: the first, an explanation of how the FCT could be used to create videotex pages; the second video is of the FCT in action, with the FCT operator drawing a sailboat as the background for a theoretical business' videotex page. The hardware was essential for content providers, not for consumers.

In 1982, AT&T pinned a lot of hopes for the future on the Viewtron system (see previous videos Viewtron & Sceptre and Introduction to Viewtron). AT&T had good reason to believe that instant access to information would become essential to a modern, information-age way of life; yet this particular information delivery system was not to be the wave of the future. There was marketplace precedent: in 1982, the videotex system in France, Teletel, had 250,000 subscribers. The AT&T system grew throughout the 1980s, but not as quickly as the company had hoped, and Viewtron folded in 1986.

At the time, AT&T wasn't the only company diving into videotex. RCA, Radio Shack, Wolfdata and IBM all produced hardware or software to work with a videotex system, whether on the consumer or producer's end. The FCT was unveiled at Videotex '82: the videotex conference and exhibition was an annual event that ran from 1981 through 1986.

Footage courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ

Release date: 09/24/2012