Nazis introduced videophones in 1936

It may come as a surprise to many, but the truth is that the Nazis first introduced ‘Video call technology’ on March 1, 1936. The idea, as well as the whole project was highly novel to majority of the people of Europe and the rest of the world.

First call was made over a distance of 120 miles between Berlin and Leipzig. The Minister of Mail in Nazi Germany made the first call to the Mayor of Leipzig in the local post office. Nazi minister Paul Von Eltz-Rubernach made the call from a Post office in Berlin. The news of this amazing invention spread like wild fire and soon pictures started emerging in papers and magazines. Nazis promptly used the hype in their own interest, using this in their propaganda videos and pictures.

Although the video quality was not amazing (not HD for sure) as your can imagine, they still had to use the cable telephone to hear each other. But at least they were able to see each other. The size of the image was 45x45cm and image has 180 pixels, which is not very great according to today’s standards. To have a better understanding, one can say that the images were like the tiny embedded clips from the early Internet of the 90’s.

Though it is remarkable to even imagine the video call technology in 30’s, however it was made possible by the Nazis. The front of the device used to make and receive the call seemed high-tech and stylish, but the actual ‘brain’ of the device was on the other side of the wall. The processing unit was huge and heavy duty, quiet inline with the technology of 30’s. The device was not portable of course and not inexpensive at all, however, it certainly worked and amazed everyone, the Mirror reports.

The devices became popular very quickly and gained a lot of public interest. Authorities installed such video call devices in Munich and Hamburg, and also planed to extend to other big cities. Primary reason behind selected installation was the cost of the call, which was out of reach of majority of the public. The idea of a video call certainly excited the people by in large, but no one imagined that one day this will become a household thing. However, the Second World War broke out in 1939 and the whole project was abandoned by the Nazis. Although it took technology a little while to catch up with Nazis, public video calls were only made possible very recently.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE