It’s the holiday season, and it might be that like me you’re spending it away from your family. And it might be that like me, you are planning a series of video calls with them as a way of keeping in touch even though you’re hundreds of miles away. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing; it’s better than a phone call.

These days—and what glorious days they are—we think nothing of holding up an iPhone and starting a FaceTime call, or launching Skype on a Mac and getting connected in seconds with full-screen, relatively smooth video, but this is because for ages now, or at least so it seems, every laptop, desktop, and mobile device has had a front-facing camera in it. The cameras embedded even in the current, top-of-the-line Macs are frankly ridiculously substandard, as my friend Peter Cohen wrote earlier this year at iMore, but they’re there.

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