The history of video conferencing: moving forward at the speed of video

No new technology rolls out without a hitch, and video conferencing had more than its share of bumps in the road before becoming the widely used communications staple it is today. The history of video conferencing in its earliest form dates back to the 1960s, when AT&T introduced the Picturephone at the World’s Fair in New York. Although it was considered a fascinating curiosity, it never caught on and was too expensive to be practical for most consumers when it was offered for $160 a month in 1970. Commercial use of real video conferencing was first realized with the Ericsson Demonstration of the First Transatlantic Video Call LME. Soon, other companies began refining video conferencing technologies, including advancements such as Network Video Protocol (NVP) in 1976 and Packet Video Protocol (PVP) in 1981. However, neither of these were put into commercial use. and remained in the laboratory or in a private company. use. In 1976, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone established video conferencing (VC) between Tokyo and Osaka for company use. IBM Japan did the same thing in 1982 by setting up VC running at 48000 bps to connect with internal IBM video conferencing links already established in the US so they could have weekly meetings. 1980s Introduces Commercial Video Conferencing In 1982, Compression Labs introduces its VC system to the world for $250,000 with $1,000 per hour lines. The system was huge and used enormous resources capable of tripping 15 amp circuit breakers. However, it was the only working VC system available until PictureTel’s VC hit the market in 1986 with its substantially cheaper $80,000 system with $100 per hour lines. In the time between these two commercially offered systems, other video conferencing systems were developed that were never offered commercially. The history of video conferencing is not complete without mentioning these systems that were either prototypes or systems developed specifically for internal use by a variety of corporations or organizations, including the military. Around 1984, Datapoint was using the Datapoint MINX system at its Texas campus and had provided the system to the military. In the late 1980s, Mitsubishi began selling a still image phone that was basically a market flop. They abandoned the line two years after introducing it. In 1991, IBM introduced the first PC-based video conferencing system: PicTel. It was a black and white system using what was at the time incredibly cheap at $30 an hour for the lines, while the system itself cost $20,000. In June of the same year, DARTnet successfully connected a transcontinental IP network of more than a dozen research sites in the United States and Great Britain using T1 trunks. Today, DARTnet has evolved into the CAIRN system, connecting dozens of institutions. CU-SeeMe revolutionizes video conferencing One of the most famous systems in the history of video conferencing was the CU-SeeMe developed for the MacIntosh system in 1992. Although the first version had no audio, it was the best video system developed to that point. By 1993, the MAC program was multipoint capable, and by 1994, CU-SeeMe MAC was a true video conference with audio. Recognizing the limitations of MAC support in a Windows world, developers worked diligently to implement CU-SeeME for Windows from April 1994 (without audio), closely followed by the audio version, CU-SeeMe v0.66b1 for Windows. Windows in August 1995. In 1992, AT&T released its own $1,500 video phone for the home market. It was a borderline success. In the same year, the world’s first MBone audio/video transmission took place, and INRIA’s video conferencing system was launched in July. This is the year that saw the first real explosion in video conferencing for businesses around the world and eventually led to the standards developed by the ITU. The International Telecommunications Union develops encryption standards The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) began developing standards for videoconferencing encryption in 1996, when they established the H.263 Standard to reduce bandwidth for the transmission of low-rate communications of bits. Other standards were developed, including H.323 for packet-based multimedia communications. These are a variety of other telecommunications standards that were revised and updated in 1998. In 1999, the Moving Pictures Experts Group developed the MPEG-4 standard 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 long. Microsoft finally jumped on the video conferencing bandwagon with NetMeeting, a descendant of PictureTel’s Liveshare Plus, in August 1996 (although it had no video in this version). By December of the same year, Microsoft NetMeeting v2.0b2 with video was released. That same month, VocalTec’s Internet Phone v4.0 for Windows was introduced. VRVS connects global research centers The Virtual Room Videoconferencing System (VRVS) project at Caltech-CERN began in July 1997. They developed VRVS specifically to provide video conferencing for researchers from the Large Hadron Collider Project and scientists from nuclear and high energy industries. Physics community in the United States and Europe. It has been so successful that seed money was allocated for phase two, CalREN-2, to enhance and expand the already existing VRVS system in order to expand it to include geneticists, physicians, and a host of other scientists on the video conferencing network. all over the world. The Cornell University development team released CU-SeeMe v1.0 in 1998. This color video version was compatible with Windows and MacIntosh, and was a huge step forward in PC video conferencing. In May of that year, the team moved on to other projects. In February 1999, MMUSIC released the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). The platform showed some advantages over H.323 that the user appreciated and soon made it almost as popular. 1999 was a busy year, with the release of NetMeeting v3.0b, quickly followed by version three of the ITU H.323 standard. Next came the release of iVisit v2.3b5 for 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 was released. Ultimately, PSInet was the first company to launch automated H.323 multipoint services. As we said, 1999 was a very busy year. SIP entered version 1.30 in November 2000, the same year the H.323 standard reached version 4, and Samsung launched its 3G MPEG-4 video streaming cell phone, the first of its kind. It was a success, particularly in Japan. As expected, Microsoft NetMeeting had to release another service pack for version 3.01. In 2001, Windows XP messenger announced that it would now support Session Initiation Protocol. This was the same year that the world’s first transatlantic telesurgery was performed using video conferencing. In this case, video conferencing was instrumental in allowing a surgeon in the US to use a robot abroad to perform gallbladder surgery on a patient. It was one of the most compelling non-commercial uses in the history of video conferencing and brought the technology to the attention of the medical profession and the general public. In October 2001, television reporters began using a portable satellite and videophone to broadcast live from Afghanistan during the war. It was the first use of video conferencing technology to have a live video chat with someone in a war zone, again bringing video conferencing to the forefront of people’s imaginations. Founded in December 2001, the Joint Video Team completed the basic research that led to ITU-T H.264 in December 2002. This protocol standardized video compression technology for both MPEG-4 and ITU-T in one wide range of application areas, making it more versatile than its predecessors. In March 2003, the new technology was ready for release to the industry. New Uses for Video Conferencing Technologies 2003 also saw increased use of video conferencing for off-campus classrooms. Interactive classrooms became more popular as streaming video quality increased and delay decreased. Companies such as VBrick provided various MPEG-4 systems to universities across the country. Desktop video conferencing is also on the rise and gaining popularity. Newer companies on the market are now refining the performance details other than the drivetrain nuts and bolts. In April 2004, Applied Global Technologies developed a voice-activated camera for use in video conferences that tracks the voices of multiple speakers to focus on whoever is speaking during a conference call. In March 2004, Linux announced the release of GnomeMeeting, a free H.323-compliant video conferencing platform that is compatible with NetMeeting. With the constant advances in video conferencing systems, it seems 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 reasonably priced, keep in mind that options are still determined by the type of network, system requirements, and what your particular conferencing needs are. This article on “The History of Video Conferencing” was reproduced with permission.

Copyright © 2004 Evaluateek Publishing.

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