Early VoIP

This installment of the historyoftelephony will be about VoIP or Voice Over Internet Protocol.  Most phone systems that businesses or small business use is a VoIP system.  VoIP is the transmission of voice “data packets” from one IP address to another over the internet.  This was originally invented so people would not have to pay outrageous international charges, but it has grown to be much more than that.  VoIP works by transferring voice signals between IP address, so these signals have to change into pieces of data small enough to transfer.  Voice samples from the sender are broken down into voice “packets” which are given routing info and sent to the receiving end.  They are sent one by one then re-form as close to the original state as possible.  VoIP compresses the voice signal and then decompresses the signal for the receiver.


VoIP would not be around if it was not for three important technological inventions: the telephone, the internet and internet protocol (IP).  We have already talked about the invention of the telephone which you can read here, but we will talk a little about the invention of the internet and internet protocol.  The internet came around in the mid-1960’s and was developed by the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network or ARPANET.  It was developed to provide communication between the Department of Defense and the Military.  By the 1980’s the personal computer, or PC, was made available to the public.  People could subscribe to an Internet Service Provider, or ISP, dial into their network via telephone lines and pay by the hour of usage.  In 1989 Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP was invented.  It was invented by Tim Berners-Lee and a group of people at CERN.  They also invented Universal Resource Locator, or the URL.  This was the beginning of the internet that we know and use today.  Internet Protocol, or IP was invented by Dr. Vint Cerf in 1972 and it made it possible for information to travel between computers.

In 1995 VocalTec pioneered the first widely available Internet Phone.  They called it InternetPhone.

VocalTec InternetPhone 1995

It made it possible for one Internet user to call another, and it used the speakers and the microphone in the computers to communicate.  The InternetPhone required that both users be on the same software.  In 1996 it became possible for users to send voicemails over the Internet to phones.  This had some problems like poor sound quality, periods of silence, and total loss of connection.  2 years later in 1998 VocalTec created computer-to- telephone and telephone-to-telephone calling capabilities for VoIP.  Consumers did not adapt this technology and only 1% of all voice calls.  One of the reasons consumers did not like this is because, even though the calls were free, the caller would have to listen to a series of advertisements before continuing a call and after the call was finished.  Could you imaging having to listen to an advertisement before and after every call you would make?  I can see why people were not happy with that.

Come back tomorrow where we will talk about modern VoIP.

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