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Photos of the First-Ever ‘Video Phone’ Invented by a Filipino Physicist in the 1950’s Go Viral

He was able to invent a “video phone”, but didn’t sell because it was too impractical and expensive at that time.

Modern technology has allowed us to do many things we never thought we could decades ago. Communication has since improved with the availability of social media platforms that can be easily accessed with just a click of the mouse. People across the globe can now talk, chat, and even video call with each other as long as they have a stable internet connection.

However, before there were any of these, a Filipino man had already invented a “video-telephone” back in the 1950’s. Yes, video-calling was already made possible more than six decades ago. And yes, this is no hoax.

The first recorded videophone, or a two-way television-telephone, was invented by a Filipino engineer and physicist named Gregorio Zara. It was taken out of science fiction in 1955 when he first introduced the device and patented it as a “photo phone signal separator network”.

Unfortunately, Zara’s invention was too expensive for an ordinary man to purchase, hence, it didn’t sell. But it was not until the 1960s that AT&T began to work on a model of a video phone, or “picturephone” for public consumption. The company released the video phone in 1964 at the New York World’s Fair. However, the public viewed AT&T’s picturephone the same as Zara’s invention, claiming it was too impractical and expensive.

Photos of Zara’s video phone went viral on social media, and some netizens thought the photo was fake and manipulated. However, the photos were traced down to Facebook page Philippine National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), where they posted Zara’s photo with a caption:

“Before there was Skype and Facetime, a Filipino scientist invented a television-telephone. Aha!

“National Scientist Gregorio Y. Zara, a physicist, invented a device that makes it possible for two persons to see each other on a television while talking on the telephone as early as 1954.”

Before there was Skype and Facetime, a Filipino scientist invented a television-telephone. Aha!National Scientist…

Posted by National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), Philippines on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Apparently, the aeronautical engineer has 30 other patented inventions to his name. He invented the earth induction compass, which is an instrument still used by pilots even up to this day, and an airplane engine powered by alcohol. Moreover, he was part of a team which developed a robot called Marex X-10 that is able to walk, talk, and respond to commands. He also developed a solar-powered battery, a solar water heater, and a stove, only a few of the 30 patented devices and equipment under his name.

In 1978, Zara died of heart failure at the age of 76. He left his beautiful wife Engracia Laconico, who was former Miss Philippines, and their four children.


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