Way back in my California days I worked (for a time) for PacBell, where I was in charge and eventually the leading authority on Audiotex. (also known as interactive voice response.) There never was a particularly good definition for it…. - Interactive information over the telephone…. Perhaps you know it best as- “Press 1 to pay your Bill, press 2 to report a problem, press 3 to talk to an operator….etc”
Keeping in mind that this was a good 10 years before the Internet, and maybe 5 years before On-Line services like AOL. I envisioned that Audiotex could be something akin to a ‘Talking Internet’. Instead of reading and writing you would listen and talk (record). The keypad would work as a keyboard to maneuver you around and through the system.
As someone who prefers to listen/talk over reading/writing it might have even been my preference. Could have been pretty neat, and though the technology in some ways is far more difficult than what the Web required, it never did break ground… There were Dial up Horoscopes/recipes/sport scores and Dial-a-date programs ….but nothing much more complex.
The main problem was the cost… The cost of the phone call…. The same thing that killed the forerunner of On-Line services and the Internet- ‘BBS’s’. (computer accessed -Bulletin Board Services.) Before unlimited phone calls to anywhere, the cost of anything but a local call would be prohibitive for anything more than a Hello….Goodbye. So Audiotex and BBS’s never saw the light of day.
Why am I telling you all this……because today…with unlimited calling plans and cell phone addiction the standard…maybe it’s time I fire up the old Phone Computers loitering in refrigerator sized racks in my living room! Let people HEAR who they are communicating with……I know I was always bummed when that sexy sounding lady I had been E-ing turned out to be a shemale instead! Oh well….who knows…..perhaps…..maybe soon…..someday…