History of Your Office Phone

1896 Telephone (Sweden)

An office phone is an underrated tool that entrepreneurs and employees probably don’t pay much attention to. Due to advancements in cloud computing and improved access to communication devices, we use the office phone daily without understanding how it became such an integral part of our business communications.

To get a better picture of this, let’s start at the origin.

The master telephone patent granted to Bell, 174465, March 10, 1876

Since the dawn of time, people have been talking with each other, whether through images or sounds. Suppose you’re familiar with the origin of telephones. In that case, you know that Alexander Graham Bell was the one who created the phone in 1876 and famously performed the first bi-directional delivery of a clear speech, but the way office phones worked and looked has seen their highs and lows.

In the years after Bell’s discovery, telephone switchboards were employed to unite two parties to communicate. Telephone lines were already joining individuals in Massachusetts by 1877. A phone call meant using a switchboard that needed an operator to manually connect the two callers using a panel of wires and jacks. In the beginning, people were using phones hand-cranked and made of wood; then, Bell made some much-needed improvements to the telephone and launched the candlestick phone. We can picture this as an office phone lying upright on the desk.

Actor portraying Alexander Graham Bell in a 1926 silent film. Shows Bell’s first telephone transmitter (microphone), invented 1876 and first displayed at the Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia.

In 1878, a couple of years after the phone switchboard exchange was launched, the first mass-produced North American telephone market opened in Connecticut. Although the first North American telephone exchange was created and built by George W. Coy, it was Tivadar Puskas and Thomas Edison. They initially proposed this exchange, which was then made by the Bell Telephone Company in 1877 and inspired future designs.

Private conversation, 1910

With this new communication tech taking hold of the nation, switchboards were growing in size and ultimately had to be separated so that multiple operators could manage the switchboards. As a result, there was a transformation to a Panel Machine Switching System in the 1920s, an old automatic telephone exchange model that dismissed the need for multiple switchboards. Almon Strowger further accelerated the development of communication and the service phone in 1892 by creating and developing the rotary dial telephone, touted as “one of the keys to the modern cry for more elevated efficiency in everything.” The first foundation was in 1892 and enjoyed the telephone market with the candlestick until the 1920s. The rotary dial telephone continued to stay popular as an office and home phone until the 1960s.

A German rotary dial telephone, the W48

In 1951 innovators achieved the first direct dialing distance service in New Jersey, which allowed a caller to quickly call any other user outside of the regional calling area without operator support. At this time, there were only nine cities that we’re able to dial using seven digits and an area code. Modems sprang being used in 1958 for direct connection through phone lines, which were used to decode and transmit digital data. The installation of modems ultimately led to the introduction of echo cancellation, radio, broadband, and our precious Wi-Fi.

As cell phone electronics were being promoted in the 1960s, push-button phones replaced rotary dial phones. The office phone was now more comfortable to use, and with answering machine tech gaining popularity, people’s reaction when it came to communicating was evolving.

Early versions of VoIP were being examined in the 1970s for enhanced circuit redundancy and network availability in the event of infra failures since circuit-switched networks were more exposed to failure. Regardless of this idea, the circuit-switched network remains at the center of support. For the next two decades, improvements were made that led to the creation of the Asterisk Private Branch Exchange (APBE) and what we know today as the modern office phone system.

21st-century developments

Internet Protocol (IP) telephony, also known as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or Internet telephony, is a technology that is gaining ground against old telephone network exchanges. In South Korea and Japan up to 12% of subscribers had already switched to this type of telephone service by 2006.

Internet Protocol telephony employs a broadband Internet service to send conversations as data packets. In addition to substituting the traditional plain old telephone service (POTS) methods, IP telephony also competes with mobile phone networks by giving free or lower cost service via WiFi hotspots. VoIP is also used on extensive private wireless networks that may or may not connect to the external telephone network. The offices have started using internet smartphones and laptops for communication, ending the good old days of office phone, for good.

The modern day phone of the 21st century, even in the offices, is that of the smartphone. A smartphone is a blend of the cellular phone, a digital camera, and internet. One of its principal features is the touch screen that lets users do various tasks, such as dialling phone numbers. Some of its software features include email, bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and video and audio playback.

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