A (brief) history of video conferencing


It is a piece of technology which is single handedly revolutionising the way we work, make business transactions and communicate with one another. Video conferencing is certainly making our lives better and our planet healthier.

Many people out there will think that video conferencing is a relatively new concept, however it was in the Sixties that the technology emerged. How did video conferencing begin?

video conferencing

It was first introduced to the public at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. It was fairly primitive compared to today’s standards and most people were aghast at the notion that such an invention could possibly replace the telephone. The equipment was very expensive, naturally and it was not considered a success.

People didn’t realise the full extent of video conferencing in those days, nor did many appreciate that they were witnessing it, every week on their own TV sets from 1966. Yes, we’re talking ‘Star Trek.’ The huge video screen that allowed Captain Kirk to speak to and see the crews on other intergalactic ships was a form of video conferencing. Though that was the future…

In 1970, US telecoms company, AT&T launched the Picturephone but at $160 per month, it was still too expensive and too bulky to tempt consumers. Things changed when Ericsson demonstrated the first live video telephone call; businesses began to see the potential for such a device.

Japan had by this time (1976) already held a successful video call between Tokyo and Osaka and in 1982, IBM Japan took the next step: using their internal capabilities to link up with colleagues in the US for weekly meetings.

However, the technology was still very expensive and as the Eighties commenced, line rental alone could cost $1,000 per hour, due to the vast system resources required to power it. In 1982, the landmark Compression Labs system cost $250,000. Buy 1986, however, a rival system from PictureTel retailed at $80,000. The prices were dropping.

The Nineties’ advancements in Internet Protocol meant that video conferencing could further advance, becoming more efficient and allowing for PC-based communication. IBM (again) introduced the first black and white PC system at $20,000 in 1991. That same year, history was made when DARTnet connected 12 separate sites. This technology still exists today.

In 1992, the CU-SeeMe systems was launched, running on Apple Macs. It was further developed throughout the course of the decade, though only ran between users on the same network.

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