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Video conference History

Video conferencing, up until a few years ago, was traditionally exclusively based on hardware (codecs) produced by companies such as Tandberg, Polycom, HP, Sony, Aethra, Lifesize and Radvision to mention a few. Development of software video conference solutions such as Bluejeans, Vidyo, Pexip, Zoom and Slack to mention a few, are progressively making inroads on the traditional technology turf.

Video communication/conference history

  • AT&T experiments with video phones.
  • The Gegensehn-Fernsprechanlagen, the world’s first video telephone service launches in Germany. This device is mostly used by the German post office, establishing a channel of coaxial cables running a hundred miles between Berlin and Leipzig.
  • NASA uses video communications to keep in touch with its astronauts during its first manned space missions. It used two radio links set up for video conferencing through UHF/VHF.
  • AT&T uses video communications for its Picturephone service. It is able to transmit very crude images in two directions via standard telephone lines. (1964)
  • Ethernet 10 Mbit/s protocol is released.
  • ARPANET , serves as a backbone for interconnection of regional academic and military networks
  • The development of personal computers contributes to a wider demand for video communication. Sending video images becomes practical now that the data communications components were in place, such as the video codecs along with the introduction of of broadband services such as ISDN.
  • PictureTel, creates one of the first real-time video conferencing systems (1986)
  • Tandberg develops its first picture telephone for ISDN (1989)
  • The linking of commercial networks and enterprises, marks the beginning of the transition to the modern Internet, and generated a sustained exponential growth as generations of institutional, personal, and mobile computers were connected to the network. Although the Internet was widely used by academia since the 1980s, the commercialization incorporated its services and technologies into virtually every aspect of modern life.
  • Cornell University develops CU-SeeMe video conferencing software for Mac in 1992 and Windows in 1994.
  • JCU from its location at Cairns TAFE, uses PictureTel ISDN videoconferencing to CRC in Townsville. The unit is relocated to the Smithfield campus the following year (1994)
  • The first commercial webcam, QuickCam, is introduced (1994)
  • PictureTel launches Concord 4500 and Venue 2000  (1995)
  • Fast Ethernet (100Mb/s) is introduced (1996)
  • JCU - acquires another 5 PictureTel ISDN videoconference units, 2 for Cairns and 3 for Townsville (1998)
  • Polycom introduces the ViewStation product line which includes models with multipoint capabilities and content sharing (1998)
  • Gigabit Ethernet (1Gb/s protocol) becomes available (1999)
  • Internet connections become faster and webcams are more common place.
  • Tandberg introduces IP capable H323 videoconferencing codecs
  • Polycom acquires PictureTel Corp
  • Skype, one of the first software based video chat services, provides communication free of charge over the Internet by voice, video and instant messaging using a personal computer.
  • JCU is one of the first to use Tandberg Movi (now Cisco Jabber) which uses ActiveX and allows standards based SIP based videoconferencing from desktop PCs.
  • Cisco acquires Tandberg
  • JCU - The JCU Singapore videoconferencing endpoints are now on the JCU network enabling connection over IP
  • The standard for Audio Video Bridging (AVB) is established, paving the way for the development of audio and video distribution without compression in real-time over IP.
  • JCU - Videoconferencing system upgrades commences, migrating from the XGA resolution and aspect ratio of 4:3 to high definition ( HD) 16:9 (aspect ratio)
  • Zoom launches its service
  • Microsoft announces that Skype for Business is replacing Lync in 2015
  • 65,000 organizations subscribe to Zoom Meetings
  • Zoom in partnership with Polycom introduces features such as multiple screen and BYOD meetings, HD and wireless screen sharing, and calendar integration with Outlook, Google Calendar, and iCal
  • Microsoft announces that Microsoft Teams will eventually replace Skype for Business.
  • JCU - launches Zoom for all staff and students

The refinement and improvement by the major video conference hardware manufacturers, continued throughout the 2000s with more and more software based video conference solutions appearing. Cisco, a network hardware manufacturer, progressively became a major video conference player after the Tandberg take-over in 2010.

The problem facing many organizations including government departments, educational institutions and global corporations, is to cost effectively, seamlessly and without a degradation in quality, transition from a hardware platform based endpoint system for video conferencing to a software/cloud solution. JCU has embarked on this journey and currently uses Zoom Meetings and a mix of existing hardware with Tandberg and Cisco codec endpoints deployed in fit for purpose video conference rooms. The university is currently experimenting with Zoom Rooms and has turned a previously traditional hardware based room system into a fully functional room at the Singapore Campus controlled from an iPad. Other Zoom Rooms have been set up at both the Cairns and Townsville campuses but have not yet been deployed in a common teaching space.


Zoom was introduced at JCU in March 2018 as the preferred software based video conference solution. Some of the major advantages of Zoom are:

  • inter-operates with the existing video conference hardware endpoints
  • used as an external host in TelePresence Management Suit (TMS) the video conference scheduler
  • meetings can be scheduled via Outlook

Zoom products:

  • Zoom Meetings — A collaborative cloud-based video and web conferencing product.
  • Zoom Rooms — A low-cost video conference room based system running on Apple and PC hardware, touch screen compatibility, and support for multi-screen setups
  • Zoom Video Webinar — A version of video conferencing that allows up to 100 active and 10,000 passive participants

Other software systems used for collaboration by JCU staff and students