A Quick Look at the History of Voice Communication Technology

Ask the average person to empty their pockets or purse and you’ll likely find a smartphone. Over 90 percent of Americans own a smartphone and across the world, you’ll find similarly high adoption rates. Smartphones make it easy to call anyone pretty much anywhere. While it’s common to have voice communication technology constantly at your fingertips, it’s also a relatively new phenomenon. 

Let’s take a closer look at how voice communication technology came to be and how it evolved. We’ll look at some of the earliest technologies that paved the way and also cover concepts and help you understand some of the latest developments, like what is RoIP?

Early (Modern) Communication Technologies Explored

Before we get into voice communication, we should take a moment to look at the telegraph. The telegraph would radically revolutionize the entire concept of communication. Before it was invented, communication was mostly physical, meaning carried out in person or through letters and the like.

At some points in ancient history, artillery, smoke signals, and other forms of quicker communication were used. However, these networks were extremely limited. They did help inspire the invention of electric telegraphs in the 1830s, 40s, and beyond. These devices transmit electrical signals over wires. Voice couldn’t be directly transmitted, and instead codes, like Morse Code, were used.

The Telephone Ushered in Voice Communication

The telegraph revolutionized communication. However, using the telegraph was difficult for the average person because you needed to understand the codes used, like the Morse Code. Often, this meant paying someone to send and translate messages. If there was no one around who knew the code, you couldn’t communicate. The electromagnetic telephone aimed to do away with the need to know code. Instead, someone’s voice would be transmitted. 

There’s some debate over who exactly invented the telephone as in the mid-19th century, many different parties were working on it. Two of the parties with the strongest claims include Antonio Meucci and Alexander Graham Bell. By the 1850s, Meucci was working on telephone-like devices and his efforts helped pave the way for later developments. In 1876, Bell received the first patent in the United States for a telephone.

While the details can be debated, telephones became quite popular rather quickly and ushered in the era of modern voice communication. Initially, however, telephones were often connected to one another. A business owner might connect his factory to his home, so his managers could get in touch with him when he was at home. The telephone switchboard, itself an important investment, made it possible to design flexible communication networks.

The Emergence of Modern Communication

Telephone networks relying on physical wires quickly spread in many countries and the world became smaller as far as communication was concerned. While physical networks using wires characterized much of the growth of voice communication in the 20th century, several key developments paved the way for cutting the cords.

In the 1920s, two-way radios hit the scene. These would become popular for police services and military forces because they didn’t rely on wires. Over time, the range of such devices greatly improved. By the middle of the 20th century, satellites were being put in space, which would eventually lead to communication satellites. These can be used to quickly send messages and data across the globe. Indeed, you can even buy satellite phones that connect to satellites.

The next big era of communication, including but not limited to voice communication, arguably occurred when fiber optic cables were laid across the oceans starting in the late 1980s and into the 1990s. These cables are a physical embodiment of the World Wide Web and now support Voice-over-the-Internet and p25 radio network communication, which can be used to connect P25 radios over the Internet, satellite communication, and more. These systems can use Radio Over IP (RoIP) to send radio signals over non-radio networks, like the Internet via fiber optic cables.

Communication technology will continue to evolve in the years ahead. This will make it easier for people to coordinate and communicate the world over. Some day, humanity may take to the stars, and if so, you can expect voice communication technology to evolve to support such efforts.

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