A History of Video Conferencing

50 Years of Video Conferencing

Video conferencing has proven itself to be a vital tool to help businesses communicate more effectively with their customers, suppliers, and manufacturers around the world. It is used throughout many industries, from manufacturing, healthcare, the military, and by schools as an effective real-time communication tool.

Video conferencing was first introduced by AT&T at the World Fair in New York in 1964. It was a simple system incorporating two closed circuit televisions systems which were connected by a cable. This type of connection, using UHF or VHF connections is often used by television stations when interviewing people or reporting live.

Video conferencing was very futuristic when it was first introduced, with few people able to see the potential of the system when the cost was so prohibitive. Even by 1970, when AT&T introduced the Picturephone in 1970, it was $160 per month for each end point, an equivalent of almost $1000 a month in today’s money.

Advancement in the technology such as Network Video Protocol (NVP) in 1976 and the Packet Video Protocol (PVP) in 1981 started bringing the technology to more than just NASA and the military. In 1982, IBM Japan created a link between them and their US counterparts for weekly business meetings.

There were some marketing disasters along the way. Mitsubishi created a picture phone in the late 1980s which had a still image. This was quickly dropped two years later when it proved to be unsuccessful.

The 1990s saw a surge in video conferencing technologies with the advent of the Internet Protocol (IP) and much more advanced video compression technologies which allowed the video image and sound to be transmitted in much smaller packets across the network, reducing the size of the live-streamed files.

In 1991, IBM introduced their innovative PC-based system for video conferencing called PicTel. This black and white system cost considerably less than the old systems with a cost of just $30 per hour for the line, however, the hardware and software was £20,000, still prohibitive to SMEs.

Commercial video conferencing really took off with the introduction of CU-SeeMe from Apple Macintosh in 1992. This video-only system provided the highest quality commercial video to date, and with the introduction of sound in 1994, there was finally a commercially-viable video conferencing solution.

Today, with the advent of high-speed broadband and fibre optic networks, video conferencing is used by a huge variety of businesses to connect them with the world, with HD quality images and crystal-clear sound quality.