The humble video chat is now a common staple in our society – we often don’t think about the intuitive and incredible amount of coding behind the scenes that goes in to having a live conversation through the pixelated screens in front of us. It all began in 1927 when the idea for the communicative channel was conceptualised by Bell Labs in the USA. As we’ll explore, the technology took several decades to gain any real traction for a variety of reasons; pricing woes, general disinterest, and an aging population that wasn’t ready for the leaps and bounds of the future.

It’s hard to imagine our modern day without the wonderous and futuristic technology at our disposal, especially when you consider how far we’ve come from the humble beginnings of clunky, expensive, and ultimately fledgling radio waves through AT&T’s first picturephone in the 1970’s – to the normalised and excessively prevalent video chats with sites like Omegle, ChatSpin & Zoom.

Let’s have a peek behind the curtain and have a bite-sized history of the video chat, and where it could go from here.

1970’s & 1980’s – Expensive Prototyping

The humble beginnings were littered with expensive rates and inferior image. The first iterations of video chatting technology plagued with general market disinterest and a pile of prototypes that would eventually pave the way forward. However, in these decades there was a severe lack of optimism, failed attempts plagued the telecommunications industry, shaking the confidence of executives for years to come.

1990’s – A Webcam Is Born

It wasn’t until the birth of the world wide web that the technology started to make its presence known. The early 1990’s saw the establishment of what is now known as the internet wherein the technologically inclined inventors began to tinker with video technology. In 1994, the first commercially viable option for chatting over the internet was put into the market, the affordable and colourless Connectix Webcam led to the first step in the technology for many years.

2000’s – The Chatting Renaissance

By the mid 2000’s, the notion of Video-Chatting was everywhere, thanks to more affordable internet pricing in comparison to telecommunicating alternatives. Suddenly, the market was inundated with programs and websites looking to take a foothold in the ever-growing market of visual communication. This decade birthed the Skype Video Call, the Instant Messenger Chat and the concept of communicable HD video.

It had taken over 30 years, but the concept was no longer a passing fancy, it was now mainstream.

2010’s – A New Generation & Handheld Hellos

The boom continued with flying colours thanks to an ever-increasing focus on technological breakthroughs and the advent of mobile technology. Apple was ahead of the game of course with the introduction of FaceTime and had a focus on phone technology being the future of visual communication.

More companies began seeing the advantages of video chatting and conferencing, quickly adopting the technologies as they came out and incorporating them into regular day-to-day work.

Beyond…:

The upward trajectory of the technology has no sign of slowing down. Being the main communicator and saviour for many during the tempestuous year of 2020, without the marvels of the communications channel, there would be a much heavier strain on the worldwide population, where do we go from here? Well, hard to say, seeing how far we’ve come in less than 50 years, there’s no telling what marvels await over the horizon, but we can’t wait to see.