The History of Video Conferencing from 1870 to Today

by in Industry, Trends

The history of the video conference call dates back to the audio wires of the 1870s and has adapted and evolved into the modern video conference of today. From the early Bell Labs patents to the introduction of the word “video” to the English language and all the way up to the first-ever Lifesize 4K video conference call, the history of video conferencing is a fascinating example of technical progress.

Let’s go back in time to the very beginning when video conferencing was first introduced as a faster, more efficient way to communicate, how it evolved throughout the years, and how a company like Lifesize has continually innovated and redefined the future of workplace communication.

Let’s go back in time to the very beginning when video conferencing was first introduced as a faster, more efficient way to communicate, and how it has evolved throughout the years to today’s modern meeting experience. 

1870s

  • Concept of transmitting an image alongside audio over wire is born, according to Encyclopedia Britannica 

1927

  • Bell Labs connects with Washington, DC officials and the president of AT&T in NYC via a two-way audio connection and one-way video connection[8]

1935

  • The word “video” is coined
  • Prior to 1935, there was no standard term for “video telephone.” Phrases like, “visual radio” and “sight-sound television system” were used instead. (“Video phone” slowly entered general usage after 1950)

1956

  • AT&T creates Picture-Phone prototype and makes first-ever video call
    • Transmits still images every two seconds over regular analog public switched telephone network (PSTN) telephone lines[8]

1964

  • AT&T’s Bell Labs debuts Mod I (Model I) Picturephone at the World’s Fair in New York City[25] and makes first transcontinental videocall between two venues
    • Communicate “via video” with people at Picturephone exhibit in Disneyland in California for 10 minutes at a time
    • Black and white image are sent at 30 frames per second, and viewers have to stay perfectly still to stay in view at the receiving end
  • AT&T’s commercial Picturephone service begins with public “videophone booths”
    • Connects callers in NYC, Washington, DC, and Chicago
    • Required reservations ahead of time
    • A three-minute call from NYC to Chicago cost $27 ($255 in 2019 dollars)

1967

  • First known use of “video conferencing”

1968

  • All three Picturephone locations flopped and dropped[3]
    • Just 71 calls were made in the first six months, and zero calls made in the final year

1970

  • AT&T introduces Picturephone Mod II for homes and offices
  • Still very expensive: $160/month for 30 minutes call time plus $.25 for each additional minute (equivalent to $950/month in today’s money)[2] [3]

1973

  • Picturephone Mod II discontinued[8]

1976

  • Network Video Protocol (NVP) is born[2]  as a technology for everyday users, not just NASA and military

1981

  • Packet Video Protocol (PVP) is born[2]

1982

  • Compression Labs (AT&T competitor) launches CLI T1 as the first commercial group video conferencing system
    • Big and bulky with upfront cost of $250,000, plus each call cost $1000/hour[1] [3]
    • Bigger (hardware took up an entire room) and cost more $ than Picturephone
    • Japan creates a link between them and US counterparts for weekly business video meetings[2]

1983

  • College grad Steve Case invented Quantum Computer Services (later named AOL)[23] as an online bulletin board for owners of Commodore 64 computers

1984

  • PictureTel Corporation is formed[7]
  • First IPO for video conferencing company, PictureTel Corp

1988

  • Mitsubishi creates a picture phone[2]
    • Requires users to pause the conversation, hit Send, and 5.5 seconds later a black and white image appeared on the receiver’s end, and conversation could continue

1989

  • AT&T chooses PictureTel for an international video conference for two-way, full-motion voice and video connection between PictureTel headquarters and AT&T office in Paris
  • Sir Tim Berners-Lee creates the World Wide Web[13]
  • Quantum Computer Services launches its first instant messaging service

1991

  • People outside of CERN community are invited to join web community, thus the internet becomes public[13]
  • PictureTel becomes an IBM “multimedia business partner”[7] and pursues PC-based video conferencing system
  • First webcam is invented by Cambridge university students[11] [12] to keep an eye on the coffee pot levels without getting up featuring a 129x129 pixel grayscale picture at one frame per second, and images were pulled three times per minute
  • Quantum Computer Services is renamed to America Online[23]

1992

  • Cornell University IT department personnel introduces CU-SeeMe (Mac in 1992, Windows in 1994)[6] [10]
    • First free video conferencing application and highest quality commercial video to date
  • AT&T introduces new videophone for the home, AT&T VideoPhone 2500[8]
    • Color video, small flip-up screen, 10 frames per second
  • BellSouth Cellular releases the first smartphone: the Simon Personal Communicator, developed by IBM[19] [20]
  • The first SMS message, “Merry Christmas,” is sent over Vodafone GSM network in the UK in December[24]

1993

  • World Wide Web enters public domain[13]
  • PictureTel introduces a new product that converts PCs into videophones[15] [16]
    • Higher quality than AT&T model; sold for $6000 ($1000 more than the AT&T model)
  • AOL introduces its own email addresses, a Windows version and access to the rest of the internet for its users[23]

1994

  • The Connectix QuickCam is born - first commercial webcam under $100
    • 16 shades of gray; no color yet
    • Only compatible with Mac; PC version released in ‘95

1995

1996

  • Eyenetwork offers public video conferencing facilities for hire to companies and clients all over the world
  • Panasonic creates the world’s first cordless videophone promising up to 7 frames per second
  • The British Telecom Presence is desktop video phone with a 6-inch color LCD screen and operated on ISDN phone lines is introduced
  • ICQ (short for “I Seek You”) is launched by Israeli company, Mirabilis in November[26] allowing users to chat one-on-one or in groups, exchange files, and search for other users – laid the groundwork for standalone instant messaging
  • NetMeeting is launched by Microsoft

1997

  • VRVS (Virtual Room Videoconferencing System) is created by Caltech-CERN to help scientists collaborate and communicate on the Large Hadron Collider Project[3] [4]
  • AOL Instant Messenger launches[24]

1998

  • Yahoo! Messenger launches[24]

1999

  • MSN Messenger launches by Microsoft[24]

2000

  • A “distributed collaboration” patent is filed for by Lester F. Ludwig, J. Chris Lauwers, Keith A. Lantz, Gerald J. Burnett and Emmett R. Burns[1]
  • International Telecommunications Union – Telecommunication (ITU-T) releases H.323 v4[27]
  • Samsung launches first MPEG-4 streaming 3G video cellphone[27]
  • AOL is the nation’s biggest Internet provider[23] 

2001

  • “Operation Lindbergh,” the world’s first telesurgery, is performed via Zeus[17] marking the introduction of video technology to the medical field
  • First live broadcast from a war zone in Afghanistan is made by CNN international correspondent Nic Robertson,using satellite video conferencing technology during the opening of the second Gulf War[3] [5]
  • First-gen iPod is released[21]

2002

  • Second-gen iPod is released[21]
  • Apple launches iChat[24]

2003

  • All major instant messaging clients now support video calling
  • Skype introduces 25-person video call with free download and Internet access.[1]
  • Lifesize is founded under name KMV Technologies by Craig Malloy and Michael Kenoyer

2004

  • Lifesize makes world's very first HD video conferencing call 
  • Cisco introduces Cisco CallManager, a Video Telephony system
  • Hewlett-Packard introduces Halo Telepresence[18]

2005

  • Lifesize debuts the first HD video conferencing system, called Lifesize Room, at Interop Las Vegas
  • First Lifesize Room is shipped
  • iPod Video is released[21]
  • Google Talk launches, allowing easy communication between email contacts[24]

2006

  • Lifesize ships 1,000th HD video communications system
  • Polycom introduces its first HD video conferencing system  
  • Cisco introduces its first telepresence system[18]
  • MySpace launches the first instant messaging platform built within a social network[24]

2007

  • Apple announces the first iPhone
  • Lifesize expands internationally to its first European office in Munich, Germany

2008

  • Lifesize engineers make very first 1080p HD video call
  • Lifesize is awarded Videoconferencing Company of the Year title by Video Conferencing Insight
  • Facebook® Chat is released[24]

2009

  • Lifesize receives its tenth patent
  • Lifesize introduces the industry’s first sub-$6000 video communication system with dual display video and content in HD
  • Lifesize is acquired by Logitech International for $405m
  • WhatsApp is released, allowing users to send texts, pictures, video, and audio for free aka no more paying for SMS[24]

2010

  • Apple® FaceTime® is introduced
  • Lifesize receives its twentieth patent
  • Lifesize announces Lifesize Video Center, the world’s first one-button HD streaming, recording, and auto-publishing video solution 
  • Viber launches video calling in December (5-person limit)
  • Skype files for IPO
  • Google acquires Global IP Solutions, a developer of real-time voice and video technology for IP networks

2011

  • Blue Jeans Network makes video conferencing service commercially available
  • Zoom video conferencing is founded
  • Longest uninterrupted live webcast takes place on in Cologne, Germany lasted 150 hours and 30 minutes
  • Facebook launches Messenger

2012

  • Lifesize UVC® Platform™ introduced as first fully integrated, virtualized software platform for video infrastructure
  • Apple releases Facetime use through a cellular network

2013

  • Lifesize introduces Icon Series HD video conferencing systems
  • The highest-ever video call is made on Mount Everest at 29,029 feet above sea level by British adventurer Daniel Hughes
  • Guinness World Record for largest conference call is broken by the Teleforum conference call[9]
  • Slack is launched [24]

2014

  • Lifesize introduces Lifesize® Cloud
  • Lifesize receives 2014 Cloud Computing Product of the Year award
  • Blue Jeans files for IPO
  • Amazon releases Alexa in November

2015

  • Lifesize introduces Icon 400, the first all-in-one camera and codec
  • Lifesize receives Frost & Sullivan Global Video-as-a-Service Product Leadership award
  • Lifesize Cloud receives 2015 Unified Communications Product of the Year award
  • Google launches Hangout
  • Periscope launches live-streaming app
  • WeChat introduces group video calls in December (up to 9 other users)
  • Alex Weber and Rob Mor break world record for longest video chat (14 days without disconnecting)

2016

  • Lifesize separates from Logitech
  • Lifesize launches Icon 450 video conferencing system with “smart-framing” sensor
  • Google launches Google Duo  
  • Facebook launches group video chat
  • Slack introduces group video calls in December (up to 15 people)
  • Lifesize receives IBM Beacon Award for Outstanding Solution Hosted on IBM Cloud
  • Lifesize is named a 2016 Top Rated Web Conferencing Software by users on TrustRadius

2017

  • Amazon launches Amazon Chime  
  • Lifesize revamps cloud app and more than doubles its user base

2018

  • Lifesize introduces Lifesize Share wireless screen sharing device
  • Lifesize introduces Lifesize Dash huddle room kit
  • Lifesize introduces Lifesize Icon 700 — the world’s first 4K video conferencing system
  • Lifesize is recognized as a 2018 Top-Rated Web Conferencing Software by users on TrustRadius
  • Cisco launches Cisco WebEx Edge and new hardware (Cisco 561 and 562)
  • WhatsApp launches group video calling in September (up to 4 people)
  • Snapchat launches group video calling in April (up to 16 people)
  • Instagram launches group video calls (up to 4 participants)

2019

  • Lifesize Icon 700 is honored with 2019 Red Dot Award for Product Design
  • Lifesize is recognized as a 2019 Top-Rated Web Conferencing Software by users on TrustRadius
  • March: Express Virtual Meetings launches high-def video conferencing technology in Australia
  • Zoom files for IPO

References

  1. A Brief History of Video Conferencing
  2. A History of Video Conferencing
  3. 8 Fun Facts from the History of Video Conferencing
  4. Next-generation EVO Replaces VRVS for Global Communication
  5. The War's First Media Star: The Videophone
  6. The History of Video Conferencing
  7. PictureTel Corp. History
  8. Videophone
  9. New Guinness World Record Established for Largest Conference Call
  10. The History of Video Conferencing
  11. The First Webcam was Invented to Check Coffee Levels without Getting Up
  12. How the World's First Webcam Made a Coffee Pot Famous
  13. History of the Web
  14. W3C
  15. History of PictureTel Corp.
  16. PictureTel Corp.
  17. "Operation Lindbergh"
  18. Evolution of Video Communications
  19. The World's First Smartphone
  20. Simonizing the PDA
  21. History of the iPod
  22. History of the iPod Touch
  23. A Brief Guide to the Tumultuous 30-Year History of AOL
  24. The Evolution of Instant Messaging
  25. Picturephone
  26. What Ever Happened to ICQ?
  27. A Brief History of Video Conferencing from 1964 to 2017