5 Stages in the Evolution of Voice Conferencing

‘Mr Watson, come here. I want to see you.’

 In 1876, there was a man in Scotland, who had a keen interest in sound, acoustics and their nature. Upon accidentally spilling battery acid, he decided to test his patented invention, and uttered the words above using it. We know that invention to this day as the telephone, and its creator;  Alexander Graham Bell.



Mankind has always sought to find more ways to connect, and the telephone was a stepping stone for said connection. And developments in telephony led to the ability to call more than one individual at a time. We know this development as voice conferencing. However, it always hasn’t been the immersive experience that we know it to be today. And understanding it comes down to knowing five stepping stones in its progress.

 First Conference

 Fast-forward to 1915, Bell made the first conference call; one between New York and San Francisco. Among the notable participants of that first conference call were the mayors of San Francisco, New York and President Woodrow Wilson from the White House. Back at this time, connecting the call took about 10 minutes. And just three minutes of call-time cost $20.70; which in today’s money is around $500! Imagine that, compared to today where a 3-party MultiCall is free! It also is able to connect instantly, with competitive pricing offered for more participants to join.

 First Network : Prelude to PSTN


Today’s landline tech utilizes the concept of Public Switched Telephone Network; essentially the combination of the world’s circuit-switched telephone networks that are operated by national, regional, or local telephone operators. This effectively provides the infrastructure and services needed for public telecommunication. Back in Bell’s time, the connection process required a physical cable to be connected between each location that the user wanted to call. Scalability to that extent was impossible; as placing a physical cable between every household that required access to a telephone nationwide was neither cost effective or feasible.

 So Bell developed another method that could map any phone to another phone without a direct connection. Bell patented the device and called it a switch. With a switch telephone, connection was centralized to an office. Said office could then coordinate connected the call to its intended destination. When an individual wanted to talk to another person, he /she would ring the operator and provide the caller’s information; the name or number of the other party. Then the operator would patch him/her in by connecting a cord (essentially a 2-wire cable with a jack plug on each end ) between the two phones and the two people could communicate. As a result, less routing was required multiple switches in order to get everyone connected on the same platform. In turn, fewer lines were needed for connecting callers after this, and conference calling became more accessible to all.

First Voice Conferencing Device

 The first device to be created specifically for phone conferencing may be the Jordaphone.  Invented by Asen Jordanoff, a Bulgarian, in 1945, it was a wireless device that could transmit the voice on the regular phone to a loudspeaker, so that many people could hear the person on the other side. With an answering function and amplifier and intercom functions, the Jordaphone was an unprecedented invention. The modern inventions of the answering machine and tape recorder would catch up to it by 5 to 30 years. To this effect, it is a key piece in the history of conference calling, especially with the digitization and standardization of features such as recording and muting, both of which are also available in MultiCall.

Commercial Development of Conferencing

 While Bell Labs first worked on the concept of telephone conferencing around 1956, it wasn’t until in early 1960s that American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) began experimenting on a commercial scale with teleconferencing. The device used was called the Picturephone; which was publicly exhibited in 1964 at the New York World’s Fair.  Visitors could speak to people with the help of this device. This device needed three phone lines to manage video and audio, with a picture appearing on a very small screen every 2 seconds. This however, turned out to be a pricey and cumbersome device which the corporate world did not receive well; nor did they support it much. But the early ‘70s saw the introduction of relay chats or IRC, which would develop into the Instant Messengers that are very popular and frequently used today.

 Conference Calling Today : Digital Conference Bridges


Moore’s law had stated  that the speed and capability of computers grow exponentially, with the costs of the same halving. In addition, the Law of Mass Digital Storage stated that while the amount of digital information produced worldwide doubles every year, the cost of storing digital information is falling at an exponential rate. The role of both here concerning conferencing goes to its applications to Internet and mobile communications at present, particularly with the current presence of Voice over Internet Protocol technology. A major influence on Teleconferencing, benefits of Voice over Internet Protocol have included Scalability and Installation Costs. Bridged with the existing PSTN’s benefit of reliability, this has led to many innovations toward a great group callMultiCall is one such innovation.

 The evolution of voice conferencing has evolved radically since the invention of the phone toward the end of the 19th century. Evolving from the manual exchange to electromechanical automatic exchanges, it further developed to analogue electronic exchanges and presently to digital exchanges. Even with voice conferences, multiple features have come in toward smoother and efficient calls, at different performances, purposes and prices. For reaching more now, you can find out more about MultiCall’s features here and prices here.

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