During the last half century, banking has undergone a revolution. Technology has transformed the way we obtain financial services. The film about In-touch telephone computing was released in 1973. It shows telephone banking as a new possibility for the ‘near future’. An insight into the history of technology that shows how we humans develop ideas, how we want to act differently in the future and what benefits we expect. In most cases, things will turn out differently.
On June 4, 1973, a new home computer service with touch-tone telephones and a voice output system for output was put into operation in Seattle. The service, called In-Touch, is launched by a start-up company, Telephone Computing Service, a subsidiary of Seattle-First National Bank. Retail customers paid $6.50 for various data processing services, including automatic payment of bills by phone, preparation of income tax, and operation as quadruple computers. For the monthly fee, subscribers received 100 minutes of use and paid four cents per minute. The system used all twelve keys of the touch-tone phone. Templates on the buttons instructed subscribers to use the system. Each user had a personal phone-computer connection. There were six main services: Money transfer for bill payment, family budgeting (telephone data collection and weekly mailing), wage tax processing, calendar reminder service, household recording and pocket calculator.
First Mover Fate
After four months of experience with this service, Seattle-First National claimed that the response had been “fantastic” and “several hundred” subscribers had registered since the service was launched in June 1973. But only 2 months later, the president of Telephon Computing Service announced that the company would retire by end of the year 1973. It was stated that a major obstacle was the requirement that customers have touch-tones phones. While business leaders felt that the procedures for operating the computer via the touch-tone phone were simple, they were too complicated for many people. “We were ahead of our time”.
15 years ahead of the times
“Despite the failure of this project, In-Touch is an example of a type of service that can be modified, simplified and offered over a two-way cable” says a commentator from Michigan University in 1976. He states that a way out could be the invention of a two-way cable TV system. “A CATV system will be able to offer both pay-TV and other services which, together with a home computer service, can form a package that addresses a sufficiently large percentage of cable subscribers to make the provider company profitable.”
It needed another 15 years similar home banking services saw growth during the 1980s and early 1990s. However, online banking started not before the late 1990s to become a widespread service.
The film about in-touch telephone computers was released in 1973. It shows telephone banking as a new possibility for the “near future”. Footage of an HD copy is available at zb Media.
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