of the Telephone -- from Bell to VoIP and Beyond
knows the story of Alexander Graham Bell inventing the telephone.
There’s the story of Bell’s first words, “Mr.
Watson, come here, I want to see you,” that’s indelibly
printed on our brains from childhood. However, what some don’t
know is that the telephone was developed in a similar form simultaneously
by Elisha Gray, who lost the patent battle by only a few hours in
was successful primarily because he understood not only electricity
and the workings of the telegraph, but had a thorough understanding
of acoustics, which most inventors weren’t all that familiar
with. While focusing on the mechanics, they weren’t taking
into account the unique qualities of sound that made transmitting
speech so much more complex than simple clicks of the telegraph.
With a background in music and acoustics, Bell could address these
issues more readily.
happening plays role in acceptance
telephone may not have gained such wide acceptance if, as if by
serendipity, the Centennial Exhibition hadn’t been scheduled
in Philadelphia for only a few months later. Tucked away at a small
table in an obscure corner, Bell did not hope to garner much attention
until he drew the attention of the Emperor Dom Pedro de Alcantara
of Brazil, who was amazed by the invention. Immediately, all the
scientists in attendance were clamoring to study the new invention.
first telephones were seen as a fad that were more for entertainment
purposes than commerce, until newspapers and banks began grudgingly
using them to convey information quickly by virtue of free phone
installations. The publicity from this made them immediately more
popular and soon phone exchanges were set up in most major cities.
the 1880’s metallic circuits were developed that allowed for
long distance calls, which grew in popularity slowly because of
the cost. Later, in the 1890’s, this was overcome by the development
of the party line so that families, especially in rural areas, could
split the cost of a line.
dial overcomes operator interference
1891, calls were put through by exchange operators, but this was
done away with by a Kansas City man who invented the direct dial
system because he was paranoid enough to think that the operators
were sending his business calls to competitors. He was an undertaker.
1927, the first transatlantic call was made over radio waves. During
both World Wars, telephone advancements grew by leaps and bounds
because of heavy spending by the Defense Department. Innovations
resulting from war-time experiments included Bell Telephone’s
first mobile telephone system, which connected moving vehicles to
landlines via radio. Surprisingly, this was as early as 1946, a
year that also saw the development of coaxial cables for major transmission
improvements with less interference.
the 1960’s, telephones were so much a part of the landscape
that Bell Telephone could no longer continue to use the alpha-numeric
codes for telephone exchanges (remember using numbers like Normandy-7610?)
and switched to longer, all numeric numbers. At the same time, transatlantic
cables were being laid to accommodate the increased demand for intercontinental
of the most important shifts in telephone history was the launch
of the first telephone satellite in July of 1962. TelStar was a
joint venture between Bell and NASA and revolutionized telephone
communications like nothing that had come before. Satellites in
geosynchronous orbit could now be used for long distance calls without
the need for laying endless lines of cable and did away with the
problem of frequent cable damage and repair.
optics move sound at the speed of light
Optic Cables were first used for telephone transmission in 1977,
when both GTE and AT&T laid Fiber Optic lines in Chicago and
Boston. By the mid-1980’s, fiber optic cable was the preferred
method of telephone transmission, since it could carry a much higher
volume of calls with much less interference. Since it also carries
information faster and farther and resists lightning strikes, the
advantages soon became obvious to the computer and other industries
the United States government deregulated telephone service, AT&T,
the telephone communications giant, was immediately inundated with
competition from MCI, Sprint and hundreds of smaller local companies
and soon fiber optic lines were snaking around the country, being
dropped along side natural rights of way such as gas lines and railroads.
Telephone costs dropped and a new telephone service revolution had
phones take the next step forward
1973, Dr. Martin Cooper of Motorola Corporation made what was probably
the first cellular telephone call on a portable handset called the
Dyna-Tac. After a successful test run, he took it to New York to
introduce the technology to the public. By 1977, the cell phone
had gone public, but these first models were cumbersome and generally
used by those who were used to keeping in touch by two-way radio.
By no means were they considered something that everyone should
have or even want. They were initially considered a replacement
for the mobile phones already in existence. The difference with
cellular was the use of small “cells” for range of service
in order to increase the capacity of calls handled, dramatically
increasing the number of calls capable of being made by mobile/cellular
phone at one time in one area.
first cellular services used analog technology operating at 800
Megahertz in a continuous wave. Over time, the power needs of callers
increased and the industry standard moved to a more reliable 1850
MHz with PCS. In 1988, the Cellular Technology Industry Association
was formed to develop guidelines for cellular service providers
and steer developments and improvements in the cell phone industry.
There are now well over 60 million cellular telephone customers,
a staggering number for a service that has been commercially available
for only thirty years.
the majority of users still have analog cell phones, the new frontier
is definitely digital. Rather than using a continuous wavelength
for transmission, digital chops up the wave into discreet bytes
of information and sends them in “pulses” of data. The
up side to this is that digital signals tend to be more secure when
transmitted than analog. It’s also a more efficient use of
bandwidth and provides clearer, cleaner sound quality. If you transmit
video clips or photos (like with the new video or picture cell phones)
digital is much faster, and will be the choice hands-down when you’re
integrating the cell phone and the Internet.
is a caveat; however, in that digital currently transmits through
three different technologies. This can lead to some problems with
coverage. If you are on a TDMA (time-division multiple access) system
and traveling in an area that has digital coverage that’s
CDMA (code-division multiple access), you could run into problems.
answer for now is the combined analog-digital technology that providers
are touting. This offers the great coverage of analog when needed
and the great speed and quality of PCS/digital.
conferencing arrives on the scene
first real “audio conferencing” could be said to have
been the party lines set up back in the early years of telephone
use, although at that time the advantages of a party line for multiple
users weren’t grasped except as a way to save money. In fact,
the fact that several people in different locations could pick up
and talk on the line at the same time was considered a nuisance
and was actively discouraged as “eavesdropping.”
party lines were phased out, the idea of multiple conversations
were forgotten until businesses began seeking ways to carry on meetings
via telephone in order to save travel expenses and link teams together
over distances. The concept was revisited with new parameters; this
time restrictions needed to be in place, and the lines had to be
open only when needed and desired.
companies around the globe were offering to coordinate conference
calling for companies based on either flat rates, monthly fees or
based on call volume, with a trained operator setting up connections
between each participant on a dedicated line so that groups of up
to ten could talk simultaneously. Their bulk long-distance rates
enabled them to pass savings along to their customers.
manufacturers like Polycom, AT&T and Panasonic also jumped on
the bandwagon, developing office telephone systems that enabled
users to dial a client, put them on hold then call up a third party
and connect the three callers into one conversation.
Internet soon brought competition, however, to audio conferencing
and the cost of long distance telephone calls. Even with lower rates
based on bulk purchasing and group rates, Internet telephony is
gaining ground on traditional telephone audio conferencing because
it’s so much cheaper.
the Internet and the eventual demise of traditional telephone conferencing
over Internet Protocol (VoIP) soon became popular for telephone
communications because it avoids the toll charges of standard telephone
connections. Dial-up internet connections provided near “toll-quality”
voice communications, and with broadband connections the increased
data throughput enabled businesses to use VoIP in conjunction with
other Internet services like data sharing and video conferencing.
With the money saved using VoIP, it seems obvious that using analog
phone lines for telephone conferencing will soon be a thing of the
VoIP audio conferencing technologies give you the capability to
network multiple groups or parties from different geographical locations,
making it simple to hold an international sales taff meeting. Web
conferencing solutions using VoIP from companies such as Voxwire,
TTCGlobalTalk and VoiceCafe can provide almost unlimited conference
room seats for a meeting, limited only by the bandwidth of the VoIP
the Internet becomes a standard part of any suite of office equipment,
analog telephone services, audio conferencing and their equipment
will soon become obsolete. Audio conferencing will be done more
and more on the Internet using VoIP based web conferencing services
offering powerful collaborative services that go beyond just simple
voice communications. For placing calls, digital phone services
like Vonage and Packet8 that implement VoIP over broadband connections
will step in to offer less expensive, more comprehensive calling
options to meet the needs of individuals and companies going into