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First Lady Helps Inaugurate Bell Systems’ New Picturephone

June 24, 1964 - Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson helped the Bell Telephone System inaugurate its see-as-you-talk telephone service today linking New York, Washington, and Chicago.

Regular commercial service between the three cities will start the New York Telephone Company’s Picturephone Center in Grand Central Terminal. The service will be available to the public from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

The rates for Picturephone calls are $16 for the first three minutes between New York and Washington, $21 between Chicago and Washington, and $27 between Chicago and New York.

The Picturephone centers are in the Prudential Insurance Company of America building in Chicago and the National Geographic Society building in Washington as well as in New York’s Grand Central Terminal on the west balcony off Vanderbilt Avenue.

A spokesman for the telephone company said it was expected eventually that the Picturephone service would link most major cities here and abroad. There was no prediction as to when the service would become available in private homes.

Mrs. Johnson spoke for five minutes from the Washington booth with Dr. Elizabeth Wood, a scientist with the Bell System’s laboratories, who was in the booth at Grand Central. They saw each other on picture screens, 4⅜ inches by 5¾ inches in size, on the front of small plastic-cased television units placed on cabinets.

Mrs. Johnson said it was always a great joy to have her daughters telephone her when they were away and that to be able to see them would be “an added dividend.” She expressed her “admiration” for the scientists who developed the Picturephone system.


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