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In our regular ‘Then & Now’ series, we take a look at different technological devices as they’ve evolved over the years. When you consider how drastically COVID-19 has changed the work place, especially with regards to remote working, it is difficult to imagine how it would work if we did not have video conferencing. From Zoom to Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts and Jitsi, it’s crazy to think that these platforms have not always been the norm.

In the latest instalment of our Then & Now series, we dive into the evolution of video conferencing. When one looks back at the history of video conferencing, it really is an exciting example of technological progress.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the first video conferencing technology dates all the way back to the 1870s, when the idea of transmitting an image with audio was thought about – today we know this as video calling. The image below shows two illustrations of early videophone concepts.

old style classic phone calls

Fast-forward to 1927 and this idea started taking shape in the form of a two-way audio connection and one-way video connection developed by Bell Labs. What is interesting to note is that when this connection was established, the word video did not even exist yet! That’s right, the word “video” was only coined in 1935. Before that, phrases such as “sight-sound television system” were used. What a mouthful, we are definitely grateful to whoever came up with the word “video”.

By 1956, all ideas of what video calls could look like came together with American telecommunications company, AT&T who made the first ever video-call using a picture-phone prototype. The prototype transmitted still images every two seconds over regular analogue, public switched telephone network (PSTN) telephone lines.

iphone apps

It was not until the computer evolution of the 1980s that widespread use of video conferencing really began, with companies like Mac spearheading the way. Once webcams were introduced, businesses and people alike, looked at video conferencing as a cost-effective way to hold company meetings. It also provided them with opportunity to hold global meetings at anytime, which in turn strengthened their business’s global brand identity.

By 2003, online video chats were all the rage. Then the world was introduced to Skype, which easily became one of the most popular video conferencing platforms across the world. This was because it was a free cross-platform service that allowed multiple people to speak to one another and send messages at the same time.

The ability to engage, collaborate and connect with people around the world while in the comfort of our own homes cannot be taken for granted. According to the best online survey companies, people believe that video conferencing helps with relationship building both inside and outside the company. It’s also been proven that video conferencing reduces the time to complete tasks or projects.

And, did we mention you get to work within the comfort of your own home? Of course, nothing can take away from the positive energy and camaraderie that comes with in-person interaction. However, when a deadly virus breaks out and the best option for safety means staying at home, it is pretty great to know that we have the capabilities to continue working together. It’s also exciting to know that video conferencing tech continues to innovate, and we’ll be watching it every step of the way.

Where does video conferencing go from here? Let us know in the comments below.


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