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Throwback Thursday: Big, Clunky, Expensive Satellite Phones on Airplanes

April 10, 2014 at 3:52 PM | by | Comments (0)

Sure, we love all the speed and comfort of modern travel, but it didn't get that way overnight. Every Thursday, we're going to take a look back at travel the way it used to be, whether that's decades or centuries ago. This is Throwback Thursday, travel edition.

Yesterday, on a JetBlue flight from Boston to San Francisco, the airline had a record 125 devices connected to its new Fly-Fi in-flight WiFi, with speeds up to 28 Mbps.

To the average traveler, technology like this (with Skype easily running over the wifi) seems a bit like magic, but then again the simple act of making an air-to-land phone call also seemed like incredible magic only a decade ago.

This particular satellite phone was photographed inside a decommissioned Malaysia Airlines Airbus A330. The credit card-activated doohickey is the predecessor to the Verizon Airfone, which you may fondly remember from the seatbacks in front of you, in the 2000s. Good old Wikipedia notes that, in 2006, making a call on the Airfone cost $3.99 to place, plus $4.99 per minute.

Airfone enjoyed a good run, until the technology naturally met with obsolescence in 2008 and was eventually purchased by JetBlue's LiveTV.

[Photo: Jaunted]

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