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The Telephone Revolution: A Communication History Timeline

Jessica WeissJessica Weiss

Telephone History: A Communications Timeline

History of Modern Communication

In less than 150 years, human communication has progressed from telegrams to text messages (and so much more). It’s truly remarkable to think what our (relatively recent) forebears would make of instant messages via smartphone and seamless video calls across 12 time zones.

While in today’s age we are used to reaching someone across the world in a matter of seconds, easy communication wasn’t always commonplace. Where did instant voice communication begin and where is it going?

Modern communication truly began with the invention of the telephone. Before telephones, telegrams and letters were the fastest forms of communication.

Did you know that even the radio was invented after the telephone?

1876: Alexander Graham Bell called his assistant in 1876 from another room in his Boston laboratory. The first words spoken over the phone were, “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.”

1910: The U.S. was the world leader of telephone density in the early 20th century. Phones in that era were connected by manual exchanges – or switchboards. 67.4% of all telephones in the world were in the United States in 1910!

1915: The first transcontinental phone call occurred in 1915. Alexander Graham Bell phoned San Francisco from New York on the occasion of the San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

1956: Bell Labs began work on conference calling prototypes, and the first transatlantic telephone cable was laid, setting the stage for easy global communication.

1964: At the New York World’s Fair, the first video conference occurred via a new device created by Bell Labs called the Picturephone. Video callers in New York spoke with park visitors at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The calls were expensive and time-intensive, however, and didn’t take off in the broader consumer market.

1973: The first mobile phone call was made by Martin Cooper, a Motorola engineer, using a prototype cell phone (weighing almost 2.5 pounds). The first commercial cell phones didn’t hit the market until the early 1980s.

1995: The first internet call was introduced by VocalTec. VoIP (or Voice Over Internet Protocol) was created as a way for internet users to reach each other via voice calling.

2016: Conference calling, smart phones, video chatting are mainstream and low-priced. People can communicate almost instantly with anyone across the globe at an affordable rate.

Internet and long-distance phone service is widespread and inexpensive.

What’s next for communication? Do you think physical communication devices are on their way out? Are we all going to be calling through our thoughts in 50 years?

Jess is Vast Conference's Marketing & Communications Manager. Reach out on Twitter @jweiss44.

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