Statements of Excellence in Communications

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1900 - Telephone Transmission Extends Across and Between Major Cities

As telephone transmission extends across and between major cities, "loading coils" or inductors were placed along the lines to reduce distortion and attenuation or the loss of a signal's power.

Independently invented by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company's (AT&T) George Campbell and Michael Pupin of Columbia University, the loading coils were first used commercially in New York and Boston, almost doubling the transmission distance of open lines. Pupin was awarded a patent for the device in 1904, and AT&T pays him for its use.

1904 - Fleming invents the vacuum diode

British engineer Sir John Ambrose Fleming invented the two-electrode radio rectifier; or vacuum diode, which he called an oscillation valve. Based on Edison's light bulb, the valve reliably detected radio waves. Transcontinental telephone service became possible with Lee De Forest's 1907 patent of the triode, or three-element vacuum tube, which electronically amplified signals.

1915 - First transcontinental telephone call

Alexander Graham Bell made the first transcontinental telephone call to Thomas Watson-from New York to San Francisco-after trials using De Forest’s triodes successfully boost the long-distance signal. The world’s longest telephone line consists of 2,500 tons of copper wire, 130,000 poles, three vacuum-tube repeaters, and countless numbers of loading coils.

The accomplishments in communications encompass technological advances, as well as communication skills. Here are some of the key accomplishments since 1900.

1919 - Switching systems and rotary-dial telephones

Bell System companies began installing switching systems and rotary-dial telephones, though dial phones had been around since just before the turn of the century. The dial maed it easier for customers to place calls without an operator. The finger wheel of the dial interrupted the current in the phone line, creating pulses that correspond to the digits of the number being called.

1920 - Frequency multiplexing concept

AT&T developed the frequency multiplexing concept, in which frequencies of speech are shifted electronically among various frequency bands to allow several telephone calls at the same time. Metal coaxial cable was eventually used to carry a wide range of frequencies.

1947 - North American Numbering Plan

With the rapidly growing number of telephone customers, AT&T and Bell Labs developed the North American Numbering Plan, a system that assigns telephone numbers to customers in the United States and its territories as well as Canada and many Caribbean nations.

The first three digits of a typical number identified the area being called; the next three, called the prefix, located the closest central or switching office; and the last four digits represented the line number. Bell Labs conceived the idea of reusing radio frequencies among hexagonal "cells"—the beginning of the drive toward cellular communications. Mobile phones became an even more realistic dream with the invention of the transistor, which eventually made them possible.

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Great Accomplishments in Communications

1948 - A Mathematical Theory of Communication

Bell Labs’s Claude Shannon published the landmark paper "A Mathematical Theory of Communication," which provided mathematicians and engineers with the foundation of information theory. The paper sought to answer questions about how quickly and reliably information could be transmitted.

1949 - First phone to combine a ringer and handset

AT&T introduced the Model 500 telephone, the first that combined a ringer and handset. The classic black rotary phone, featuring an adjustable volume control for the bell and later a variety of colors, became a cultural icon.

1951 - Direct Long-Distance Calling First Available

In a test in Englewood, New Jersey, customers were able to make long-distance calls within the United States directly, without the assistance of an operator. But it took another decade for direct long-distance dialing to be available nationwide.

1956 - First Transatlantic Telephone Cable

The first transatlantic telephone cable—the TAT-1—was installed from Scotland to Nova Scotia, providing telephone service between North America and the United Kingdom.

Additional circuitry through London linked Western European countries such as Germany, France, and the Netherlands. A joint project of the United States, Canada, and Britain, the TAT-1 took 3 years and $42 million to plan and install, using 1,500 nautical miles of specially insulated coaxial cable. It handled up to 36 simultaneous calls and supplements existing telegraph and radiophone links. The first TAT-1 call was placed on September 25 by the U.K. postmaster to the chairman of AT&T and the Canadian Minister of Transport.

1962- First Commercial Digital Transmission System

Illinois Bell turned on the first commercial digital transmission system, known as the T1 (Transmission One), which eventually replaced analog lines.

The multiplexed system carrying voice signals had a total capacity of 1.5 million bits (or binary digits) per second and is less susceptible to electrical interference from high-tension wires. The T1 quickly became the main transmission system for long-distance telephone service and, eventually, local calls.

Bell Systems demonstrated the first paging system at the Seattle World’s Fair. Called Bellboy, the personal pager was one of the first consumer applications for the transistor. An audible signal alerted customers, who then called their offices or homes from a regular phone to retrieve their messages.

1962 - Telstar 1

Communications satellite Telstar 1 was launched by a NASA Delta rocket on July 10, transmitting the first live transatlantic telecast as well as telephone and data signals. At a cost of $6 million provided by AT&T, Bell Telephone Laboratories designed and built Telstar, a faceted sphere 34 inches in diameter and weighing 171 pounds. The first international television broadcasts showed images of the American flag flying over Andover, Maine to the sound of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Later that day AT&T chairman Fred Kappel made the first long-distance telephone call via satellite to Vice President Lyndon Johnson. Telstar I remained in orbit for seven months, relaying live baseball games, images from the Seattle World's Fair, and a presidential news conference.

1963 - Touch-Tone Telephone was Introduced

The touch-tone telephone was introduced, with the first commercial service available in Carnegie and Greensburg, Pennsylvania, for an extra charge. The Western Electric 1500 model featured 10 push buttons that replaced the standard rotary dial. A 12-button model featuring the * and # keys came out soon afterward and replaced the 10-button model.

1965 - First Electronic Central Office Switching System

The first electronic central office switching system, the 1 ESS, was installed in Succasunna, New Jersey, after years of research and planning and at a cost of $500 million. Switching systems switched telephone traffic through local central offices that also house transmission equipment and other support systems.

The 1 ESS had the capacity to store programs and allowed such features as call forwarding and speed dialing. The 4 ESS, developed by Western Electric in 1976, was the first digital switch and remained the workhorse system for several decades before increases in the transmission of data, as well as voice signals, spur new advances.

1968 - First 911 Call is Made

On February 16 the first 911 call was made in Haleyville, Alabama. Legislation called for a single nationwide phone number for citizens to use to report fires and medical emergencies was passed by Congress in 1967, and in January 1968 AT&T announced plans to put a system like this into place.

However, an independent company, Alabama Telephone, scrambled to build its own system and succeeded in beating AT&T to the punch. The numbers 911 were chosen because they were easy to remember and did not include any of the three digits already in use in a U.S. or Canadian area code. In Britain the national emergency number 999 had been in place since the late 1930s.

1973 - First Portable Cell Phone Call Made

The first portable cell phone call was made by Martin Cooper of Motorola to his research rival at Bell Labs, Joel Engel. Although mobile phones had been used in cars since the mid-1940s, Cooper’s was the first one invented for completely portable use. Cooper and his team were awarded a patent in 1975.

1975 - U.S. Military Begins Using Fiber Optics

The U.S. military began using fiber optics to improve communications systems when the navy installed a fiber-optic telephone link on the USS Little Rock. Used to transmit data modulated into light waves, the specially designed bundles of transparent glass fibers were thinner and lighter than metal cables, had greater bandwidth, and could transmit data digitally while being less susceptible to interference. The first commercial applications came in 1977 when AT&T and GTE installed fiber-optic telephone systems in Chicago and Boston. By 1988 and 1989, fiber-optic cables were carrying telephone calls across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

1976 - Common Channel Interoffice Signaling

AT&T introduced common channel interoffice signaling, a protocol that allowed software-controlled, networked computers or switches to communicate with each other using a band other than those used for voice traffic: basically a dedicated trunk, the network separated signaling functions from the voice path, checked the continuity of the circuit, and then relayed the information.

1978 - Public Tests of a new Cellular Phone System

Public tests of a new cellular phone system began in Chicago, with more than 2,000 trial customers and mobile phone sets.

The system, constructed by AT&T and Bell Labs, included a group of small, low-powered transmission towers, each covering an area a few miles in radius. That test was followed by a 1981 trial in the Washington-Baltimore area by Motorola and the American Radio Telephone Service.

The Federal Communications Commission officially approved commercial cellular phone service in 1982, and by the late 1980s commercial service was available in most of the United States.

1990s (Mid) - Voice Over Internet Protocols

The advent of Voice Over Internet Protocols (VoIP)—methods of allowing people to make voice calls over the Internet on packet-switched routes— started to gain ground as PC users found they could make long-distance calls for less.

VoIP technology was also useful as a platform that enabled voice interactions on devices such as PCs, mobile handhelds, and other devices where voice communication is an important feature.

2000 - 100 Million Cellular Telephone Subscribers

The number of cellular telephone subscribers in the United States grew to 100 million, from 25,000 in 1984.

Similar growth occurred in other countries as well, and as phones shrink to the size of a deck of cards, an increasingly mobile society used them not only for calling but also to access the Internet, organize schedules, take photographs, and record moving images.

How about that for a history. Slow-moving, huh? Well, as things move ever faster in 2017, who knows what new breakthroughs are going to happen? Ready to study communications and take your place on the teams developing new ways of doing things? This broad subject is a fascinating one, and you deserve a place on a program. Let us help you.