AT&T Sceptre Videotex: Early WebTV
BY WILLIAM HORN
In earlier articles about the Internet, we followed Dick Desjarlais' growth as a "computernik" via his new WebTV. One thing often leads to another in our collecting world, and Bill Horn shares his yard sale find, which may very well be an early form of WebTV. (Editor)
Dick Desjarlais' articles on WebTV (A.R.C., Parts 1-5, May-August and December 1999) reminded me about something we had found in a yard sale some time back. I think that it might be an early version of WebTV. The original box, not in good shape, describes it as an "AT&T Sceptre Videotex Terminal." Figure 1 shows the main unit and components.
Figure 1. The Sceptre Videotex Terminal, power supply, cables, and keyboards. The AT&T keyboard is on the left; Western Electric on the right.
The owner's manual is missing; otherwise, I might be able to relate more than what is advertised on the box itself: "Built in Modem," "Repertory Dialer," "Call-waiting Compatible," "Encryption/Security for home banking," "NAPLPS and ASCII Compatible," and "16 Color Display." With it, you can get the latest news and weather, stock market reports, or World Series box scores. You can also pay bills, do online shopping, book tickets, write and mail letters, and do research for educational information without leaving your desk. On the box, there is an AT&T copyright date of 1983.
The set plugs into a phone line and home TV, and consists of a control unit CS1200B02, a Wireless Remote Control Alphanumeric Keyboard CS1000, plus cables and power source. With it is also a separate keyboard CS1000A01 made by Western Electric. The two keyboards are alike.They feature most of the keys of the usual computer keyboard, including F1 to F8, and keys for "Send," "Return," "Mode," "Phone," "Data," "Auto," "Cont," "Select," "Clear," "Frgnd" and "Bkgrnd." One keyboard features an "Aviotex" stick-on overlay for the F1 to F8 keys labeled as "Main Menu," "Weather," "Flight Planning AVIO News," "AVIO Games," "Bulletin Board," "AVIO Resv," and "Yellow Pages."
Figure 2. When hooked up to a TV, the Sceptre's "welcome screen" was displayed.
I connected the set to a TV, turned it all on, and lo and behold, I got displays of welcome screen (shown in Figure 2), menu, set up, etc. I tried to find out more about this AT&T Sceptre. I called my ISP and checked out the WebTV site and AT&T, but did not find anyone who could help. AT&T said that the model number is obsolete, and that that part of AT&T had been sold off. Perhaps some A.R.C. readers may have some knowledge of this device.
(William F. Horn, 13110 Marsh Rd., Bealeton, VA 22712)
Bill Horn retired in 1989 as an electronic engineer/technician from the U.S. Civil Service. His interest in radio goes back to the 1940s, and his collection includes a Pooley desk radio (see A.R.C., July 1998), as well as a Radiola RS and early battery sets, horns, cones, and headsets.