In researching AirFone's history, which dates back over 20 years, I found this Associated Press story in an old telecom journal: The story, filed in Oct. 1982, describes a not-far-off future in which businesspeople would have access to terminals for data exchange using "electronic mail" on board planes and at hotels. (Search for AirFone to find the article in this long set of text journals.)
This most amazing paragraph belies the next 24 years: "An unrelated company, Airfone Inc., hopes to begin testing the nation's first commercial air-to-ground telephone system next month. Assuming the experiment works, Airfone officials say it's a small step from an airplane telephone system transmitting voices to a phone system transmitting computer data." (AirFone was 50 percent owned by Western Union at that point, then sold itself to GTE, which was transformed into Verizon. It's remained somewhat of a separate division from what I can tell.)
This is even sadder: "While there might not be many people carrying portable computers now, that is clearly something envisioned by Airfone. The company says that one day airline travelers will be able to use their own terminal or a portable device provided by the airline to work during flights."
One day 20 years later for Boeing on over-water routes, and what will wind up being about 26 years later not for AirFone, but for AirCell on domestic flights.
Interestingly, AirFone's founder, John D. Goeken, also previously founded MCI, is partly responsible for the AT&T breakup, started FTD (the floral delivery service), and founded another in-flight phone company after selling AirFone--In-Flight Phone Corporation--which used all-digital phone communications with a network operational in 1991. That was the same year that AirCell's business was sparked for air-to-ground telephony, according to their corporate history.
Shades of Wi-Fi in this paragraph: "Dallas-based Travelhost Inc. plans to begin placing small computer terminals in hotel and motel rooms in January. The company is convinced it can entice hotel operators to place 500,000 terminals in the field by mid-1985." (An obscure young reporter named J. Markoff wrote about Quazon in the June 1983 issue of InfoWorld, still noting the 500,000 terminals.)
Suffice it to say, Travelhost's Quazon terminals didn't take off. I was unable to find out what happened via Internet searches. I found a 1983 Wall Street Journal article mentioning a deal with Nynex. There's a May 1983 article in The New York Times written by David Sanger talking about the first 5,000 hotel rooms with Quazon terminals and plans for 100,000 by the end of 1983 in Quality Inns, Hiltons, Marriotts, Sheraton, and so forth. Service would run $3 plus 34 cent a minute (peak time) or 17 cents a minute at night. The device had a touch-sensitive keyboard and no word processor, but included a flight directory, up-to-date news, and some form of email.