In January, 1980, the company that put the world on wheels demonstrated how people at opposite ends of the country can discuss business face-to-face without ever leaving the office.
The two-way video teleconference between Ford Motor Company managers in Detroit and San Francisco was the first ever held by a U.S. business firm using dedicated on-site video conference facilities.
Twenty three years later, Ford engineers around the world not only meet face-to-face but combine the Internet web-cams, satellite communications and computer aided engineering (CAE) to develop cars and trucks via real-time global collaboration.
The landmark 1980 teleconference was a major conceptual and commercial bridge between todays’ web-cams and Picturephone, the early two-way technology introduced by American Telephone and Telegraph at New York’s 1964 World’s Fair.
Combining refined Picturephone technology with its own expertise, the Ford Aerospace & Communications subsidiary showed how businesses could save the travel costs, time and lost productivity associated with face-to-face meetings of groups from different locations. ATT’s Picturephone Meeting Service joined Ford regional offices in 11 major U.S. cities with corporate headquarters in Detroit and the California-based Western Development Laboratories (WDL) of Ford Aerospace.
In the first of two teleconferences that Ford demonstrated on Jan. 30, 1980, WDL managers gave Ford Aerospace colleagues a video status report on one of their joint ventures, the INTELSAT V communications satellite.
And in the second video meeting, WDL scientists talked with counterparts at the Ford Glass Division who were producing solar energy collectors for the communications satellite.