What is the history of videoconferencing?

The very first video conferencing device was presented by AT&T at the New York world’s fair back in 1964.  This was more of a novelty than a pragmatic communications device.  There certainly was no network in place to accommodate video conferencing for practical applications in business let alone consumer markets.  Later in 1970 AT&T introduced the Picturephone, but it was still far too expensive and not very practical.

Real potential was later seen when Ericsson introduced the first international trans-Atlantic video telephone. This got the attention of commercial enterprises as they saw real potential.  In 1976 NVP, the Network Video Protocol was developed. Later in 1981 PVP, Packet Video Protocol arrived.  Both were significant developments and helped get video conferencing off the ground.  NVP and PVP stayed cloistered in the laboratory and did not see any daylight in the enterprise at this point in time.  Nippon Telegraph and Telephone and IBM played with video conferencing technology in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  Nippon Telegraph connected a video conferencing call between Tokyo and Osaka in 1976.  IBM made video conferencing a bit more practical with a 48,000 bps link used internally for weekly business meetings.

Later in the 1980’s video went commercial and the first wave of products where indeed expensive.  Compression Labs introduced a $250,000 end point that cost about $1,000 per hour to connect —   This required huge resources. This was the only product available at the time until  PictureTel introduced a new product offering in 1986.  The price dropped dramatically to $80,000 per end point and operated at about a $100 per hour line fee.

Late in the 1990’s videoconferencing standards established by the ITU, (International Telecommunications Union), created an even playing field.  Manufactures had to build to these standards.  This freed end user to pick and choose the best solution for their particular application without the worry of who they can and cannot connect to.  The first standard, H.320 worked seamlessly through ISDN.  The end-user connected through the central office with no problem.  They only needed long distance service.  This was reliable, but long distance costs were high and International video calls cumbersome because of the International tariffs.

The next critical development is the IP, Internet protocol standards, H.323 and SIP.  This made videoconferencing simple and easy to connect anywhere in the world with no long distance costs.   End points can cost as little as $3,500 and almost $0.00 in line fees to connect anywhere in the world. Video Conferencing has come a long way in a relatively short period of time.

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