A Brief History of Telephony

Posted on July 16, 2021

The world of telephony has evolved considerably since its inception. Through the years, telecommunications have evolved to meet the changing demands of the business world. Telephony devices, systems and services have come a long way since the invention of the first telephone in 1876, and many of those early technologies became the foundation of the communication systems used today. Pioneering inventors and technological innovation have forged the path for telephony advancement. This post provides a historical overview of the origins of modern telephony.

The Early Days of Telecom

Before the telephone, there was a telegraph—a gadget that made it possible to send messages through wires using electrical pulses. Several innovators wanted to transmit voices electronically, so they started designing devices and technologies to make this possible. Though a few different inventors patented related technologies, the industry credits Alexander Graham Bell as the person who invented the telephone.

Within a few years, Bell Labs—which eventually became AT&T—had branched out across the United States. As telephones grew in popularity, rapid innovation followed suit. The need for connectivity continued to grow, leading to the first underwater telephone line that connected New York and London—known as the Transatlantic No. 1. This innovation made it possible to establish telephone connections all over the world.

PBX Comes to Life

It wasn’t until the 1960s that telephones became ubiquitous and essential tools for business communications. Phone companies would route any call made—even when calling someone within the same workplace. Eventually, companies invested in their own switchboards and hired their own operators. These became the first Private Branch Exchange (PBX) systems.

Phone systems (including PBX systems) required an operator to connect callers to their destinations. The operators would move switches manually to transfer calls. Eventually, it was possible to trigger switches through electric impulses. Later down the line, switchboards were automated – rendering operators obsolete. These automated PBX systems became the norm for phone companies and, as costs came down over time, .

The Rise of Internet Telephony

In the early 1980s and into the 1990s, the internet was starting to emerge, though it hadn’t yet become commonplace in homes or businesses. That changed once Internet Protocol (IP) and PBX systems combined. The merge of these platforms gave rise to a new wave of business communications such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). In addition, IP PBX offered virtual hosting, which meant businesses no longer needed to buy or maintain their own switchboards. Instead, IP PBX allowed connections through the internet.

Understandably, some companies were skeptical of the promises of the internet and were reluctant to give up their hardware. So, for a time, a hybrid PBX system allowed companies to use their existing equipment and access features that IP technology offered, such as faxing.

As calling became increasingly routed over the internet, other innovations were made possible. For example, users could see calling information such as employee names or call notes through computer software. Throughout the 2000s, more calling features such as voicemail transcription, portability, and call recording were introduced for the first time and are still commonly used in modern telephony.

The Modern Era of Telephony 

In today’s telephony era, providers like Flowroute are helping businesses get even more from their telecom investments. Telephony in today’s world builds on the foundation and innovations of years past to make rich features and high-quality calling possible for businesses around the globe. As the internet has evolved in the 21st century to include the cloud, even greater capabilities have been made possible. Flowroute’s cloud-based telephony resources can power connectivity and simplicity through solutions that offer programmability and scalability.

If the past has shown us anything, it’s that the industry’s foundation is strong, and telephony will continue to evolve as needs change and technology advance. Whatever lies ahead, Flowroute helps customers anticipate changes and stay connected.

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