VoIP History

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Tom Keating
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VoIP History

CTI Magazine Past History

CTI Magazine cover

I often get asked "When did VoIP begin?" or "What is the history of VoIP?". Well, VoIP goes further back in time than most would expect - 9 years in fact. In fact, I did the first product review of a VoIP product back in 1996 within CTI Magazine (which later became Communication Solutions Magazine). CTI (Computer Telephony Integration) Magazine was at the forefront of news, articles, and reviews of anything to do with computers and telecom (or telephony if you prefer). In 1996 (aka 'ancient history'), CTI was best known for "screen pops", IVRs with database integration, but it also came to symbolize the convergence of the telecom and the datacom worlds. Most of this "CTI" technology was deployed first and foremost in the #1 industry that uses the telephone - namely the call center industry. Since CTI brings efficiencies to the call center, call centers were one of the first industries to deploy CTI. CTI Magazine was all about "convergence". It was perhaps a bit ahead of its time, since it predicted and preached "convergence", but alas, this magazine is now defunct, but not before spinning off the most successful VoIP magazine within the VoIP industry - Internet Telephony Magazine, which was launched in late 1997 with the first issue appearing in early 1998. So CTI Magazine certainly helped lay the foundation for convergence, which is certainly all the rage in any magazine or newspaper that you read now, including the New York Times, Newsweek, or the Wall Street Journal. Internet Telephony Magazine is now the torchbearer of VoIP and I could not be prouder than to write for this magazine.

Getting back to my history lesson, in 1996, I wrote the first product review of one of the true pioneers of VoIP - Vocaltec. I reviewed Vocaltec's Internet Phone product, which was perhaps the first "true" VoIP software application. It helped lay the groundwork to make VoIP mainstream. In fact, to my knowledge, Vocaltec's Internet Phone was the first VoIP product on the shelves of Compusa and other retail outlets. In re-reading my review, it reminded me of the old days of VoIP full-duplex issues/soundcard full-duplex driver issues. If you didn't have the latest sound card driver, you'd get a half-duplex CB/walkie-talkie type experience. In fact, the Internet hadn't really taken off at that point in history, so I had to use Compuserve of all things to download the latest sound card driver to get full-duplex VoIP sound. Ahhh, now those were the days... I miss BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems) as well.

If I may sidetrack for a moment, similar to MTV's "I Love the 80's", "I Love the 70's" shows, someone should have a retro-history technology equivalent for us tech geeks. Maybe if G4TechTV (formerly TechTV) is reading my blog, they can launch such a show. Anyway, here's a screenshot of my actual Vocaltec Internet Phone review. For nostalgia sake, click on the image below to read the review.

Vocaltec Review From Not So Recent History

The history of VoIP had humble beginnings, but my oh my how far VoIP has come! But perhaps not far or FAST enough? Will future historians look back to 2005-2009 and say "If not for regulation barriers, telecom lobbyists, and government intervention, VoIP would have taken hold and exploded much faster"??? How future history will judge the 00's decade remains to be seen as the history of VoIP is is still unwritten...

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