Video conferencing has a long history, and that history is studded with more than a few unusual events. From notable firsts to iconic and unrepeatable events, there have been a lot of moments in video conferencing have happened on the way to it being the ubiquitous technology it is today.
Read on as Roundee gives you the insight on three of the strangest video conferences to have ever occurred.
Unlike the telephone, it’s difficult to argue that there was a single ‘first’ video conference. The complexity of the technology meant that developments occurred in fits and starts over a period of decades, with some features arriving years before others.
Notably, in 1927, AT&T staged a press conference allowing future President of the United States (and then-Commerce Secretary) Herbert Hoover to address an audience in New York City from Washington, D.C. via a device called an ikonophone (from Greek: ‘image-sound’). This initial test was limited, however. While the audio was two-way, the video connect was one-way with the audience able to see Secretary Hoover, but Hoover unable to see them. Additionally, the equipment occupied half a room of cabinets, limiting its utility.
The first commercially available completely two-way video conferencing service was in Nazi Germany, operating between post offices in Berlin and Leipzig. This network would later be expanded to include Hamburg, Nuremberg and Munich before being discontinued in 1940 during World War II.
While video conferencing systems have been extensively used aboard aircraft for the benefits of dignitaries, politicians and businesspeople, as well as on spacecraft to provide links back to Earth for astronauts, these systems are usually fixed and bespoke.
A truly impressive moment in video conferencing history was a call made by Daniel Hughes on May 19, 2013. Hughes – an adventurer – utilized a satellite modem and a standard HTC mobile phone to place a video call from the summit of Mount Everest. Made in support of the UK children’s charity Comic Relief annual drive against poverty, Hughes called in from 8,848 meters above sea level to the news studios of the British Broadcasting Corporation.
The most musical
The advent of internet protocol-based videoconferencing in the 1990s solved many of the compression and bandwidth issues that still plagued software developers, even more than a decade after the development of video coding standards.
These developments were notably celebrated at the 1998 Winter Olympics, held in Nagano, Japan. During the opening ceremony, famed Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa led an orchestra made up of musicians located across five concerts in a rendition of the Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Part of the rationale for demonstrating this technology during the ceremony was video conferencing’s deep and long history in Japan, with Japanese firms making many important advances in technology.
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