The Telephone’s History & The Internet’s Future?

In my presentations, I have pointed out that the Internet is still very much in its early stages.  There are tremendous gaps in the availability of high speed, low latency Internet everywhere.  It will only be at some point in the future that we could truly expect to have a visual conversation with almost anyone, almost anywhere on the globe. 

Beyond expanding connectivity, there are other factors standing in the way of ubiquitous high quality visual communications.  First, the software – the interface that users have to deal with – is quite awkward.  Second, the mindset or culture of users seems not to have changed yet to readily accommodate visual conversations over the Internet everywhere.

Indeed, I use a rough parallel that we are today with the Internet about where we were with the telephone at the end of the 1920s.  That was more than fifty years after the telephone had been invented.  Of course, we’re not even fifty years into the life of the Internet.

While there were many articles written at the time about the impact of telephones on society, the economy and life, even in the 1920s (or 30s or 40s or 50s …) telephone usage was not taken for granted.  Among other things, long distance calling was not widely considered to be something most people would do.  Mobile telephony wasn’t anywhere close to existence.

The chart below shows the pattern of historical adoption of telephones in the US from 1876 until 1981. 


From the perspective of 1981, never mind 2014, the first fifty years of telephony were the early age. 

And since 1981?  We’ve seen mobile phones overtake land lines in worldwide usage and become much more than devices for just talking to people.

So imagine what the next 100 years of Internet development will bring.