No new technology develops smoothly, and video conferencing had more than its share of bumps along the way before becoming the widely used communications staple it really is today. The annals of video conferencing in its earliest form goes back to the 1960’s, when AT&T introduced the Picturephone at the World’s Fair in NY. While viewed as a fascinating curiosity, it never became popular and was too expensive to be practical for most consumers when it was offered for $160 per month in 1970.

Commercial usage of real video conferencing was initially realized with Ericsson’s demonstration of the first trans-Atlantic LME video mobile call. Soon others began refining video conferencing technologies, including such advancements as network video protocol (NVP) in 1976 and packet video protocol (PVP) in 1981. None of the were placed into commercial use, however, and stayed in the laboratory or private company use.

In 1976, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone established video conferencing (VC) between Tokyo and Osaka for company use. IBM Japan followed suit in 1982 by establishing VC running at 48000bps to link up with already established internal IBM video conferencing links in the United States so that they may have weekly meetings. The 1980’s introduce commercial video conferencing In 1982, Compression Labs introduces their VC system to the planet for $250,000 with lines for $1,000 an hour. The machine was huge and used enormous resources with the capacity of tripping 15 amp circuit breakers. It was, however, the only real working VC system available until PictureTel’s VC hit the market in 1986 making use of their substantially cheaper $80,000 system with $100 per hour lines. In the time among these two commercially offered systems, there have been other video conferencing systems developed that were never offered commercially.

The annals of video conferencing isn’t complete without mentioning these systems that were either prototypes or systems developed specifically for in-house use by a variety of corporations or organizations, including the military. Around 1984, Datapoint was utilizing the Datapoint MINX system on their Texas campus, and had provided the system to the military. In the late 1980’s, Mitsubishi began selling a still-picture phone that was basically a flop on the market place. They dropped the line 2 yrs after introducing it. In 1991, the first PC based video conferencing system was introduced by IBM – PicTel. It was a monochrome system using what was at that time an incredibly inexpensive $30 each hour for the lines, as the system itself was $20,000. In June of the same year, DARTnet had successfully connected a transcontinental IP network of over twelve research sites in the usa and Great Britain using T1 trunks.

Today, DARTnet has evolved into the CAIRN system, which connects dozens of institutions. CU-SeeMe revolutionizes video conferencing Probably the most famous systems in the history of video conferencing was the CU-SeeMe developed for the MacIntosh system in 1992. Even though first version didn’t have audio, it had been the very best video system developed compared to that point. By 1993, the MAC program had multipoint capability, and in 1994, CU-SeeMe MAC was true video conferencing with audio. Recognizing the limitations of MAC compatibility in a Windows world, developers worked diligently to roll out the April 1994 CU-SeeME for Windows (no audio), followed closely by the audio version, CU-SeeMe v0.66b1 for Windows in August of 1995. In 1992, AT&T rolled out their own $1,500 video phone for the house market. It had been a borderline success. That same year, the world’s first MBone audio/video broadcast took place and in July INRIA’s video conferencing system was introduced. Here is the year that saw the first real explosion in video conferencing for businesses around the world and eventually led to the standards produced by the ITU. International Telecommunications Union develops coding standards The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) began developing standards for video conferencing coding in 1996, if they established Standard H.263 to lessen bandwidth for transmission for low bit rate communication. Other standards were developed, including H.323 for packet-based multi-media communications. They are a variety of other telecommunications standards were revised and updated in 1998. In 1999, Standard MPEG-4 originated by the Moving Picture Experts Group as an ISO standard for multimedia content.

In 1993, VocalChat Novell IPX networks introduced their video conferencing system, but it was doomed from the start and didn’t last. Microsoft finally came up to speed the video conferencing bandwagon with NetMeeting, a descendent of PictureTel’s Liveshare Plus, in August of 1996 (although it didn’t have video in this release). By December of exactly the same year, Microsoft NetMeeting v2.0b2 with video have been released. That same month, VocalTec’s Internet Phone v4.0 for Windows was introduced. VRVS links global research centers The Virtual Room Videoconferencing System (VRVS) project at Caltech-CERN kicked off in July of 1997. They developed the VRVS specifically to supply video conferencing to researchers on the Large Hadron Collider Project and scientists in the High Energy and Nuclear Physics Community in the U.S. and Europe.

It has been so successful that seed money has been allotted for phase two, CalREN-2, to improve and expand on the already in-place VRVS system so that you can expand it to encompass geneticists, doctors, and a host of other scientists in the video conferencing network around the world. Cornell University’s development team released CU-SeeMe v1.0 in 1998. This color video version was compatible with both Windows and MacIntosh, and huge step of progress in pc video conferencing. By May of this year, the team has shifted to other projects. In February of 1999, Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) was launched by MMUSIC. The platform showed some advantages over H.323 that user appreciated and soon made it almost as popular. 1999 was an extremely busy year, with NetMeeting v3.0b developing, followed quickly by version three of the ITU standard H.323. Then came the release of iVisit v2.3b5 for both Windows and Mac, followed by Media Gateway Control Protocol (MGCP), version 1. In December, Microsoft released a service pack for NetMeeting v3.01 (4.4.3388) and an ISO standard MPEG-4 version two premiered. Finally, PSInet was the first company to launch H.323 automated multipoint services. Like we said, 1999 was an extremely busy year. SIP entered version 1.30 in November of 2000, the same year that standard H.323 hit version 4, and Samsung released their MPEG-4 streaming 3G video cell phone, the initial of its kind. It had been a hit, particularly in Japan. Rather predictably, Microsoft NetMeeting had release a another service pack for version 3.01. In 2001, Windows XP messenger announced that it would now support Session Initiation Protocol. This was exactly the same year the world’s first transatlantic tele-surgery took place utilizing video conferencing. In this situation, video conferencing was instrumental in allowing a surgeon in the U.S. to employ a robot overseas to execute gall bladder surgery on a patient. It was the most compelling non-business uses in the history of video conferencing, and brought the technology to the eye of the medical profession and everyone. In October of 2001, television reporters began utilizing a portable satellite and a videophone to broadcast live from Afghanistan through the war.

video conferencing setup It was the first use of video conferencing technology to converse live with video with someone in a war zone, again bringing video conferencing to the forefront of people’s imaginations. Founded in December of 2001, the Joint Video Team completed preliminary research leading to ITU-T H.264 by December of 2002. This protocol standardized video compression technology for both MPEG-4 and ITU-T over a broad range of application areas, making it more versatile than its predecessors. In March of 2003, the brand new technology was ready for launch to the. New uses for video conferencing technologies 2003 also saw the rise in use of video conferencing for off-campus classrooms. Interactive classrooms became popular as the quality of streaming video increased and the delay decreased. Companies such as for example VBrick provided various MPEG-4 systems to colleges in the united states. Desktop video conferencing is also on the rise and gaining popularity. Companies newer to the market are now refining the facts of performance in addition to the nuts and bolts of transmission. In April of 2004, Applied Global Technologies developed a voice-activated camera for used in video conferencing that tracks the voice of various speakers in order to concentrate on whoever is speaking during a conference call. In March 2004, Linux announced the release of GnomeMeeting, an H.323 compliant, free video conferencing platform that’s NetMeeting compatible. With the constant advances in video conferencing systems, it appears obvious that the technology will continue to evolve and become an integral part of business and personal life. As new advances are made and systems become more affordable, remember that choices are still determined by network type, system requirements and what your particular conferencing needs are. This article on the “The History of Video Conferencing” reprinted with permission.

The History of Video Conferencing – Moving Ahead at the Speed of Video