While call conferencing has now become a very popular tool to establish fast and efficient communication between people who need to keep in touch but are physically miles apart, the basic human need to connect within groups has always been a primal trait. If you think about it, the earliest conference calls were made using drum beats and smoke signals.
In layman’s terms, a conference call provides a platform for many people to connect to each other whenever there is need to discuss something. The earliest instance of a device used for phone conferencing may be the Jordanphone invented by Asen Yordanoff, a Bulgarian, in 1945. It was a wireless device that could transmit the voice on the regular phone to a loudspeaker so that many people could hear the person on the other side.
Bell Labs was the first to work on the concept of telephone conferencing around 1956. Then it was in early 1960s that American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) dabbled with teleconferencing. The device used was known as Picturephone and was publicly exhibited in 1964 at the New York World’s Fair. The visitors were allowed to speak to people with the help of this device. This device needed three phone lines to manage video and audio, with a picture appearing on a very small screen every 2 seconds. It was a very expensive and bulky device which did not find much support with corporate world. Then in early 70s relay chats or IRC was introduced. It was then developed into the Instant Messengers that are very popular today.
Digital communications brought about a revolution in teleconferencing services. A voice conference is now much more than three or more people connected together on a single phone call. A conference bridge allows a number of people to dial independently to a teleconference. The earliest conference bridges carried analog signals and their processing capacity was limited. Modern conference bridges have nearly a thousand ports and allow a number of electronic conferences to be conducted simultaneously.
Modern conferencing solutions, along with web based software, have made it possible for service providers to provide their customers with a plethora of conferencing service options. Visual communication is possible with the help of computer screens and data files are shared via internet. Recording a conference, attendee polling etc are some of the additional benefits available while conducting training seminars, sales presentations or board meetings. There are free conference call services like Microsoft Net Meeting that come bundled with the Windows OS, but the security may not be good enough for business conferences.