Turn Back the Dial: 30 Developments in the History of the Phone

History of the Phone

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On March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell called his assistant Thomas Watson to his laboratory with the words “I want to see you.” And the reason this unassuming phrase was so significant is not what was said, but the means by which it was delivered and heard. Those were some of the first words uttered through Bell’s newly developed telephone – one of human history’s most pioneering devices.

Since Bell’s first message, telecommunications technology has, of course, made giant leaps forward. And throughout the centuries, there have been a remarkable series of innovations in the field, all of which have led in some way to the modern phones we know and use today. This list examines the most important stages in the history of the phone and, in doing so, shows just how far the device has come since Bell’s day.

Methodology

To build this list article, we first turned to similar authoritative articles that detail major milestones in telecommunications history. In particular, we consulted pieces outlining the many developments made during the lifetimes of the telephone as well as its predecessor, the telegraph. These listicles included the following:

• BGR, “How we stopped communicating like animals: 15 ways phones have evolved”
• CBC News, “5 major moments in cellphone history”
• National Academy of Engineering, “Telephone Timeline”
• CNN, “A visual history of the telephone”

In addition, in order to determine the most crucial milestones in the development of the phone, we studied articles describing in greater detail the advancements found on the aforementioned lists and considered the role that such innovations have played in the progress of telephony over time. Those developments ultimately selected for inclusion were deemed to be the most significant of their kind.

The ordering, meanwhile, was based simply on chronology, with the list progressing from the earliest telephone-related development to the latest advancement to have been made in the field.

30. Robert Hooke discovers that sound travels more quickly through wire

30. Robert Hooke discovers that sound travels more quickly through wire

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While Alexander Graham Bell is popularly seen as the father of the telephone, experiments in the field of telephony actually began at least 200 years before Bell made his legendary first call. For example, by using his own type of string telephone, British scientist Robert Hooke had discovered by 1664 that sound can travel quite a way through wire. In his pioneering study Micrographia, which was published for the first time that year, the polymath claimed to have “by the help of a distended wire, propagated the sound to a very considerable distance in an instant.” This suggested that in theory it may be possible for two parties to have a conversation even if they aren’t physically close to each other. The concept – which has been replicated by children playing with cups and strings the world over – works on the principle that sound is carried through vibrations in matter as well as the fact that sound waves travel at a greater pace via solid materials than through air. And while Hooke’s work now seems primitive, those rules of acoustics are the same ones upon which modern phones have been developed.

29. Francis Ronalds creates the electrostatic telegraph

29. Francis Ronalds creates the electrostatic telegraph

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Before it became possible to relay audio messages via electrical signals, many people communicated via telegraph technology. And the roots of this invention go back to 1816 with the creation of a prototype device by Englishman Francis Ronalds. Still, while Ronalds’ work would establish the first revolutionary building blocks in telecommunications, the method he employed to try and relay a message was relatively simple. Using an extended piece of glass-insulated wire, Ronalds sent electrical pulses from one device to another – in this case, two specially designed clock faces that had the hands removed and instead featured letters. After the success of Ronalds’ experiment, moreover, he theorized that this device – or one like it – could in turn be used to send messages quickly and accurately. Despite its significance, though, Ronalds’ work was actually rejected at the time by a British official who couldn’t see any use for it. Perhaps as a result, the inventor failed to patent his device.

28. Samuel Morse sends the first telegraph message

28. Samuel Morse sends the first telegraph message

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Following Ronalds’ work, many scientists and inventors began perfecting their own telegraph systems. Estonian Baron Pavel Schilling created an electromagnetic telegraph in 1830, for example; David Alter, meanwhile, is credited as being the first American to come up with a similar device – in 1836. However, perhaps the most famous name in early telecommunications is Samuel Morse, who along with Leonard Gale and Alfred Vail created arguably the world’s most influential telegraph machine by around 1835. This was operated by forming a single electrical circuit around a battery, with the resulting signal then transported through wire to a recipient. What’s more, as a way of translating those signals into easily communicable messages, Morse and Vail created their own method of electronic “language” – the famous Morse code – to be used between two operators. After the two men had received backing from Congress, moreover, they developed a telegraph line between Washington, D.C., and Maryland. This would lead to Morse sending the very first telegraph message – the somewhat ominous-sounding “What hath God wrought!” – to Vail in 1844.

27. Alexander Graham Bell is given the patent for his telephone

27. Alexander Graham Bell is given the patent for his telephone

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Undoubtedly, there are few figures as important to telecommunications as Alexander Graham Bell. As the man who is generally recognized to have invented the telephone, Bell opened the door for all further innovations to come in the field. Meanwhile, the Bell Telephone Company – of which Bell was a co-founder – and its successive subsidiaries would help spread his work all over the United States. Interestingly, though, it was the very absence of sound that led this pioneer to attempt to broadcast it. Perhaps spurred on by his founding of a school for deaf people, Bell began using telegraph messages as a way to teach speech to the hearing-impaired, and it was while testing this system that Bell realized the possibilities of transmitting sound over a wire. Furthermore, he soon theorized that he may be able to electronically mimic the fluctuations present when sound is carried through airwaves by using variations in an electric current. Bell must have thought there was something in his preliminary experimentation, too, as he patented his version of the telephone in 1876.

26. Alexander Graham Bell makes the first telephone call

26. Alexander Graham Bell makes the first telephone call

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In order to accurately convert the human voice into an electronic signal, though, Bell first had to find an intermediary between natural acoustics and electromagnetic waves. His solution came in the form of the liquid transmitter – a metal cone with a bit of parchment tightly stretched over its base. Bell also attached a cork to the parchment, inserted a needle into the cork and placed that end of the cone over an acidic solution. In addition, a battery was hooked up to the needle. And Bell’s experiments with this set-up yielded an intriguing result: the parchment moved when exposed to sound. What’s more, the resulting vibrations helped achieve the current variations that the inventor had been searching for – variations which transformed sound waves into an electrical charge. In 1876, then, Bell’s rudimentary telephone was ready for testing, and the historic first phone call was made in his scientist’s laboratory between him and his assistant, Thomas Watson. Writing in his journal, Bell recalled speaking the words “Mr. Watson, come here – I want to see you” into the telephone’s mouthpiece. These words were broadcast to his colleague in the adjoining room, and as Bell would relate in his diary, “To my delight, [Watson] came and declared that he heard and understood what I said.”

25. George W. Coy creates the commercial telephone exchange

25. George W. Coy creates the commercial telephone exchange

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Alexander Graham Bell’s pioneering work may have created the world’s first fully functioning telephone, but at the time that device came to fruition commercial telephone exchanges weren’t possible. In fact, until the late 1870s telephones could only make and receive calls between sets to which they were physically wired, making the device far from practical for wider connectivity. However, George W. Coy invented an ingenious solution to this problem that would influence the future of telecommunications. Using a mixture of carriage bolts, handles from teapot covers and wire procured from women’s garments, the telegraph office head designed a switchboard that linked a number of telephones to a single point. This ingenious device could then reroute calls to similarly connected devices. Coy’s invention was first put into use in 1878 in New Haven, Connecticut, and it not only paved the way for similar commercial telephone exchanges but also simplified the process of making longer-distance communications.

24. The first payphone is installed

24. The first payphone is installed

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During their first few years of service, telephones were not readily available to anyone other than well-off individuals or businesses. Moreover, in order for a member of the public to make calls, they first had to purchase a subscription – a requirement that would prove inconvenient in the face of an emergency, for example. As legend goes, it was one such emergency that urged inventor William Gray to come up with the first public payphone. Gray had been denied access to a phone to find help for his stricken wife – a situation which is said to have given him the idea to create what became a coin-operated system that allocated calls on a pay-per-use system. And following its introduction in 1889, the payphone spread from one location in Hartford, Connecticut, to multiple locations across the United States. What’s more, it secured Gray’s place in telecommunication history. The pioneer’s 1903 obituary in the Hartford Courant claimed that he “popularized the telephone” and credited him with making “it possible to use the telephone in a public manner in public places without the necessity of an attendant.”

23. Almon Strowger creates the rotary dial phone

23. Almon Strowger creates the rotary dial phone

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Though George W. Coy’s switchboard made telecommunication easier, it could still be subject to human error. And as each switchboard required a human attendant, one Missouri-based mortician called Almon Strowger feared that operators would accidentally or intentionally divert calls meant for him to rival providers. Consequently, in 1891 Strowger devised a system of “selector rods,” to be installed in telephone exchanges, that enabled phones to be operated remotely from home and which would allow users to connect without the need of assistance. Five years later, Strowger updated his design to operate with a much more user-friendly rotary wheel system which converted movement from one’s fingertip into electrical signals responsible for connecting a signal. Then following the Bell Telephone Company’s acquisition of Strowger’s invention in 1916, the rotary dial phone became a common sight in American households, and the device would eventually do away entirely with the need for manually operated switchboards.

22. The first ever overseas call is made

22. The first ever overseas call is made

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Thanks to modern technologies like satellites and antenna systems, making overseas calls is no problem to today’s telephone users. Back when telephone lines still existed on physical wires, though, communicating between two countries was almost impossible. And it wasn’t until 1900 that the first ever international phone call – between the United States and Cuba – was made. Placed by John W. Atkins of the International Ocean Telegraph Company, the momentous call required that telephone wires be joined to the telegraph cable that traveled from Florida to Havana. But while the experiment was ultimately a success, communication on the line was far from crystal clear; the first words Atkins heard on the line were “I don’t understand you.” Following that call, however, and despite the clear advantages of international telephony, it wasn’t until two decades later that cables for the purpose were laid between the two countries: around 127 miles of wire, placed underwater through the Florida Straits. Nevertheless, Atkins’ message proved that overseas telecoms were in fact possible, even if they needed a little time to fully coalesce.

21. The dial tone comes into service

21. The dial tone comes into service

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The implementation of the rotary dial system in the early 1900s was not without its issues. For example, if rotary dial telephone users began dialing before a connection could be made, they may have inadvertently called the wrong household, as some of the electrical information relayed by the numbers chosen could have been lost along the way. The answer to this problem, however, lay in the now-familiar dial tone, which gently told customers when their call was ready to be placed. Its origins lay in the work of German engineer August Kruckow, whose 1908-implemented “Amtston” bore some resemblance to the sound of Morse code. And come 1919 the dial tone had reached American shores; the “steady humming sound” described by The Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch that year would grow to become a recognizable tone to millions of Americans.

20. Alexander Graham Bell makes history’s first transcontinental call

20. Alexander Graham Bell makes history's first transcontinental call

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Almost 40 years after Alexander Graham Bell’s first call, telecommunications had taken giant strides forwards. But physical distance was still a problem when it came to enabling customers on opposite U.S. coasts to converse with each other. Nevertheless, since 1885 the American Telephone and Telegraph Company had been working on a long-distance telephone line between New York and San Francisco. And that line was finally completed in 1915 thanks to the addition of loading coils – devices that boost a signal’s strength over lengthy stretches of wire. The honor of making the debut transcontinental call fell – again – on Bell and his associate Thomas Watson, who repeated their very first telephone conversation almost verbatim – albeit for the latter’s glib reply, “It would take me a week now.” And in a sign of just how much telecommunication technology had increased, a New York Times report during that period claimed that “[Bell and Watson] heard each other much more distinctly than they did in their first talk 38 years ago.”

19. Herbert Hoover makes the first videophone call

19. Herbert Hoover makes the first videophone call

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In the 21st century, videochat services like Skype and FaceTime have made conversing face-to-face on a call an everyday occurrence. Yet while these programs are both relatively recent additions to the communications world, video calling itself isn’t an entirely new development. In fact, the very first videophone can be traced back to AT&T scientist Herbert E. Ives, who led a team whose creation made televised conversations possible as early as the 1920s. Like early television sets, the system worked using a Nipkow disc, which transformed visual information into electronic signals, but unfortunately it could only offer one-way broadcasts. Despite this flaw, the machine attracted attention when it was unveiled with a 1927 address from soon-to-be U.S. President Herbert Hoover in Washington, D.C., to the Bell Telephone Labs in New York City. Nine short years later, though, German engineer Georg Schubert would devise a two-way videophone system that improved upon the AT&T design.

18. AT&T creates the first mobile phone service

18. AT&T creates the first mobile phone service

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Cell phones may seem like a relatively recent invention, but the preliminary technology behind making and taking calls on the move was already set up decades before wealthy ’80s consumers first picked up their chunky mobile devices. In fact, the Bell System’s Emergency Radiotelephone Service. It wasn’t until five years later, however, that AT&T sought Federal Communications Commission (FCC) permission to launch facilities across the U.S. that would act as land stations for their mobile telephone systems. Come 1946, moreover, the company’s “Urban” mobile phone service for automobiles – which operated using FM frequencies and served those in major metropolises – had been developed and was first launched in St. Louis, Missouri, in June of that year. And within two years, this network already boasted 4,000 subscribers and was connecting 117,000 calls each month.

17. Al Gross patents the first pager

17. Al Gross patents the first pager

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While pagers have long since fallen out of favor with most of the general public, their reliability is such that the devices are still preferred over smartphones by emergency service personnel to this day. Fittingly, then, the very first pager was initially implemented by the staff of New York City’s Jewish Hospital in 1950. Patented by walkie-talkie inventor Al Gross the year before, the innovation harnessed radio signals to relay urgent messages to those inaccessible by regular phones. And although some medics originally grumbled that the device would ruin their leisure time, the pager was still destined to catch on and even pave the way for the cellular phone. Meanwhile, though Gross himself wasn’t to make his fortune from the device, he was nevertheless happy about its popularity. The Los Angeles Times quotes him as having said, in 2000, “[Pagers have] permeated our society… and I’m delighted.”

16. Ericsson creates the first automatic mobile phone system

16. Ericsson creates the first automatic mobile phone system

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After the walkie-talkie became a crucial piece of kit during World War II, telecommunications companies theorized about the possibility of making similar mobile radio technology available to the general public. And after years of supplying the Swedish police with mobile radio communication devices, it was Ericsson subsidiary Svenska Radioaktiebolaget that finally went forward with a mass-marketable system. This was the MTA – the world’s first automatic mobile phone, which went into operation in 1956 and was intended to be used in cars. But although the MTA, a.k.a. the Mobile System A, was a revolutionary device, it was still a somewhat inconvenient one. Most notably, the technology needed to get the machine working – which included relays and radio tubes – required massive amounts of electricity to operate and pushed the MTA’s weight up to a staggering 88 pounds. Over the years, though, companies like Motorola began working on their own versions of the MTA, and their efforts would give birth to equally innovative designs.

15. The first ever transatlantic call is made

15. The first ever transatlantic call is made

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Though radiotelephones had made communication between North America and Europe possible since 1927, the process was costly and inconvenient. But as new technologies came into existence following World War II, the ability to more easily connect both sides of the Atlantic was within reach. And what resulted was the TAT-1, the world’s first transatlantic phone line. Its construction began in 1953, and it required three years and $42 million to implement. That line was jointly brought into being by Bell System, the British Post Office and the Canadian Overseas Telecommunication Corporation, and the project succeeded thanks to newly invented insulated cables and undersea repeaters necessary to amplify a signal that reached almost 2,000 nautical miles. As a result, effective communication between two continents became a possibility, and this new era was announced in 1956 with a three-way conversation between AT&T President Frederick Kappel, Canadian Transport Minister George C. Marler and British Postmaster General Dr. Charles Hill.

14. Cordless technology is created

14. Cordless technology is created

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It’s easy to view cordless phones as a modern innovation, but the technology they utilize actually existed long before their use became widespread. Still, sources differ on when the cordless telephone was invented and by whom. Some historians, for example, credit George Sweigert with making the first patent claim for such a device in 1966. However, Texas-based inventor Dr. Raymond P. Phillips Sr. has been heralded in some quarters as the cordless phone’s true creator, even if his patent wouldn’t be fully recognized until 1987. What’s more, Thomas Carter’s 1959-launched Carterfone – which enabled an individual with the phone to speak to those with mobile two-way radios – would also prove that users didn’t need to be attached to handsets to speak long-distance. However it first came into being, though, the cordless telephone would eventually become a mainstay in homes all over the world and pave the way for the cell phone.

13. Telstar 1 is launched

13. Telstar 1 is launched

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In the latter half of the 20th century, exciting developments in rocket technology made space exploration a very real possibility. But besides allowing astronauts like Yuri Gagarin and Neil Armstrong to boldly go where no man had gone before, aerospace advancements would also be responsible for changing the fabric of modern telecommunications. In 1962, for instance, Telstar 1 – the first active communication satellite ever launched – was sent into orbit. A joint venture by NASA and communications organizations such as Bell Labs and the U.K.’s General Post Office, Telstar 1 was capable of broadcasting transmissions way beyond the reach of those achieved by microwave antennae. As a result, television and telephone companies alike were now able to instantly send and receive signals between continents, paving the way for the ubiquity of both live TV broadcasts and long-distance calls. Later artificial bodies like Syncom 2 – the first satellite with a geosynchronous orbit – would further extend the reach of international communications.

12. Push-button pads are introduced

12. Push-button pads are introduced

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Although rotary dial phones were an important step in personal telecommunications, the technology involved made connecting customers a slow process. Bell Telephone, however, began working on a radical new design that culminated in the introduction of the push-button phone in 1963. Rather than make a caller wind a dial multiple times to produce their desired number, this new pad merely required them to tap out their requested path via a series of buttons. And push-button pads not only saved customers time inputting their signal routes, but they were also quicker at connecting calls. How? Thanks to their use of a tone dialing system, which cut down on the number of signals needed to translate a phone number. Despite their immediate advantages, though, push-button phones didn’t flood into transatlantic households overnight, only becoming commonplace in British and American homes in the 1980s.

11. Caller ID is introduced

11. Caller ID is introduced

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Being able to talk to someone over the phone is a wonderful thing. That said, most phone users would rather avoid speaking to certain people from time to time, and it’s Theodore Paraskevakos they have to thank for the ability to screen their calls. Paraskevakos’ pioneering caller ID device worked by converting numerical information – like an incoming caller’s telephone number – into a series of electronic pulse trains which would be transmitted from one phone to another. At the opposite end of the line, this series was then converted back into a readable form displayed on a screen. After around three years of work, Paraskevakos’ device had its first prototypes ready in 1971, and at that time, the creator was already envisioning the benefits that this system would bring about aside from identifying callers. For example, his 1971 “Decoding and display apparatus for groups of pulse trains” patent even suggested that the machine “could represent the callers [sic] bank balance” – a suggestion that predates modern telephone banking.

10. Martin Cooper places the ever first successful portable cellular phone call

10. Martin Cooper places the ever first successful portable cellular phone call

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While Ericsson’s MTA revolutionized mobile telecommunications, its bulk and weight made moving around with it outside of a car completely impractical. What’s more, in the U.S. in particular frequencies allocated for mobile telephone use were few and far between, resulting in lengthy connection times for its weary user base. Nevertheless, Motorola found solutions to both of these problems with its DynaTAC 8000X handset – the first ever commercially available portable cell phone. That creation weighed just less than two pounds, making it a featherweight device compared to the MTA. In addition, the company solved the waits experienced by mobile users by dividing its operating areas into various different cells that could harness a larger sway of frequencies. The first prototype of the DynaTAC phone was ready come the early 1970s, and Motorola VP Martin Cooper made history in 1973 by placing the first call on the device to Bell Labs competitor Joel S. Engel.

9. NTT launches the first ever commercially available network for cell phones

9. NTT launches the first ever commercially available network for cell phones

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While Motorola was busy working on the licensing of its DynaTAC device, Japanese company NTT had already beaten it to a huge milestone in cellular communication. Specifically, in 1979 the corporation unveiled the first commercial cellular network for mobile phones – although for a period this was still limited to car phones. Like Motorola’s later system, NTT’s network was realized by dividing a single area into different sections, using cell towers in a bid to make mobile signals easier to manage. What made this system truly remarkable, though, was the amount of resources needed to make it a success; in the Tokyo metropolitan area alone, 88 base stations had to be installed. And despite its costly subscription service – customers each paid $2,000 just to sign up – this 1G network was quickly to spread throughout Japan. Similar networks would soon be set up overseas, too.

8. The DynaTAC 8000X goes on sale

8. The DynaTAC 8000X goes on sale

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Following the DynaTAC’s first successful use in 1973, Motorola went through a lengthy process of licensing its product with the FCC. However, the company’s hard work paid off just over a decade later with the release of the DynaTAC 8000X – the first ever commercial cell phone – in 1984. Yet although the phone arguably opened the door to a whole new era of mobile communications, the model itself wasn’t that impressive by modern standards. Indeed, the DynaTAC 8000X’s bulky size, heavy weight and low battery life made it a far cry from present-day cell phones. Plus, its eye-watering price tag – the equivalent of $9,000 in 2014 – made the device unavailable to all but the richest consumers. Nevertheless, the DynaTAC 8000X arguably remains the most important telephone in the history of mobile communications. And what’s more, its use in films like Sixteen Candles and Wall Street has made it an iconic part of 1980s culture.

7. The world’s first smartphone is unveiled

7. The world's first smartphone is unveiled

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When Apple debuted the iPhone in 2007, it felt like a seismic shift towards a new era of cellular phones. But despite this device’s undoubted influence on future telecommunications, it wasn’t actually the first smartphone launched onto the market. In fact, that honor falls to the Simon Personal Communicator – a progenitor to today’s modern gadgets and a device that, amazingly, was originally revealed in 1992. Developed by Apple’s corporate rival IBM, the Simon was essentially a combination of a cellular phone and a PDA. The product featured email, calendar and address book facilities – stored with the help of a comparatively meager two megabytes of memory – while functioning as a mobile telephone to boot. However, what made the Simon truly trailblazing was its ability to run third-party programs in addition to its inbuilt features, thus paving the way for the current breed of apps.

6. Neil Papwell sends the first text message

6. Neil Papwell sends the first text message

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SMS communication has become immensely popular in the past couple of decades; to wit, in 2011 in excess of an astonishing two trillion such messages were sent in the U.S. alone. However, text messaging actually existed as a concept at a surprisingly early stage in the history of mobile telephony: reportedly, civil servant Matti Makkonen came up with the idea as early as 1984. It was in 1992, though, that the very first text message – simply reading “Merry Christmas” – was sent by Sema employee Neil Papworth via a computer to a mobile handset. Still, while this was undoubtedly a momentous event, the SMS wasn’t an overnight sensation. Understandably, it was only when mobile handsets became equipped with the necessary features to compose messages that texting took off, and from there, a worldwide phenomenon was born.

5. VocalTec releases the first commercial VoIP

5. VocalTec releases the first commercial VoIP

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Although communication via a rudimentary form of email had been possible since Ray Tomlinson’s pioneering ARPANET message in 1971, the technology necessary to support an audible conversation with people online needed more time to develop. And after several breakthroughs by the likes of MIT’s Lincoln Labs – which created the first wideband audio codec – computer coms made a breakthrough in 1995 with the release of VocalTec’s Internet Phone program. Costing around $60 upon its release, the product was seen as a less expensive alternative to traditional international phone calls and succeeded thanks to software that could adequately compress audio data into packets small enough to be sent over the internet of the time. As the world’s first commercially sold VoIP – as well as one of the first pieces of software widely sold over the web – Internet Phone spawned a whole host of imitators. Certainly, conference-calling programs like Skype owe a lot to VocalTec’s innovative design.

4. Full internet service is released on cell phones

4. Full internet service is released on cell phones

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By any measure, the 20th century was a momentous era for telecommunications. Indeed, the medium had already experienced vast amounts of change in a relatively short space of time, culminating in the 1990s with pocket-sized cell phones that would surely have been beyond the wildest fantasies of Alexander Graham Bell. Fittingly, then, the century ended with yet another momentous innovation – and one, moreover, that would influence the upcoming crop of smartphones. In 1999 Japanese company NTT DoCoMo unveiled i-mode, a cellular phone service that granted customers full internet usage on their devices. This made many websites accessible on the go thanks to a compressed form of HTML and introduced cellular phone users to brand new possibilities – like the ability to do online shopping without having to sit down in front of a computer. More excitingly, though, the service may have also given some people their first taste of life on the internet, as home connections in late ’90s Japan were not that popular, possibly because they were particularly expensive at the time.

3. Sharp launches the first camera phone

3. Sharp launches the first camera phone

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Just one year after the introduction of a full internet service to cell phones, Japanese consumers could experience yet another telecommunications milestone by snapping up the world’s first mobile phone featuring an in-built digital camera. Released by Sharp in 2000, the J-SH04 contained a 110,000-pixel image sensor as well as a 256-color display. And though its technology feels rudimentary today – the iPhone 7’s 12-megapixel camera has more than 100 times the clarity of the J-SH04, for example – the device’s capabilities were unlike anything before it. That being said, for whatever reason, Sharp itself limited the new device to just the Japanese market, and camera phones wouldn’t make their way to Western shores until 2002, thanks to companies like Vodafone and Sprint.

2. Samsung releases the first phone with MP3-playing capabilities

2. Samsung releases the first phone with MP3-playing capabilities

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Today, it’s unusual to see anyone listening to music in public on anything but a mobile phone. However, during the late ’90s cellular devices had neither the battery life nor memory available to support both calls and an MP3 player. That all changed in 2000 – three years after the first MP3 players were commercially released – with the release of the Samsung Uproar. Selling at $400 per unit, the Uproar offered its users approximately one hour’s worth of tunes – enough to satisfy any casual music lover’s needs. Shortly afterwards, though, Siemens unveiled the SL45, which further tackled the problem of limited storage by hosting a slot designed for an external memory card. And as technology has advanced, cell phones now pack enough space to each store several artists’ entire discographies. Perhaps that fact led to Apple phasing out its once-popular iPod Classic MP3 player in 2014.

1. Apple launches the iPhone

1. Apple launches the iPhone

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“Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along and changes everything.” These were Steve Jobs’ words of introduction at the iPhone’s launch in 2007, and time has proved his statement to be less hyperbolic than it may at first have seemed. Billed as a three-in-one cellular phone, MP3 player and platform for online communication, the iPhone popularized many current standard features of cell phones – touchscreen capability, for example. However, possibly the device’s most innovative associated feature came in the form of the App Store. That platform has allowed a whole host of third-party companies like Uber to build entire businesses out of catering for customers’ on-the-go needs. And less than a decade after the iPhone’s launch, sales of its various models have reached an incredible one billion. What’s more, the product has allowed parent company Apple to consistently claim at least an 11 percent portion of the smartphone market – and over the past ten years, that figure has been as high as 23 percent for some quarters.