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.