History of a live video call

The history and the concept of live video calls go back a lot further than many people might first imagine. First, let’s give the format its full name Video Telephony. The video call concept actually finds its origins back in the 1870s, the combination of emerging technologies of electrical telegraphy, telephone and radio underpinning the concept. The development of the idea had to wait until the 1920s when Scotsman John Logie Baird and AT&T’s Bell Labs began to create telecommunications systems and the early versions of television. In reality, the video call as we might begin to recognise it was to be a long way into the future.

By the 1980s-90s, the birth of videoconferencing was emerging, these were used rarely, generally in the domain of governments, and very large corporations who took the first steps into the video call space. The key to empowering a broader uptake of video calls depended on speed and cost evolution, faster speeds and much lower costs. These critical elements were the fundamental drivers.  Until Telecommunications could really merge the three pivotal landmarks of high speed, low cost and abundant widespread devices, video calls were out of reach for consumers. Video calls needed to be beyond the personal computer to advance from just an idea for the future. The rise of the ISDN line and broadband were to be the catalyst driving us towards a new world of video calling.

Success Has Many Fathers

Fact is sometimes stranger than fiction. Imagine that NASA officially landed on the Moon on July 20th 1969, the first time trying. Astronauts and fellow 33rd Degree Masons, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin so-say walked around on the Moon for around 3 hours. Somehow, they were able to broadcast a signal an extraordinary 384,400 kilometres away back to earth, this included audio and video. The transmitter looked a lot like an upturned umbrella. That’s quite some video call, think of trying to aim the signal, and consider how much power it would take to transmit. Such an achievement seems even more incredible given that the first mobile phone call had to wait a little longer. Martin Cooper a researcher and executive of Motorola made the first call on 3rd April 1973 and that was only audio. Apparently, Motorola still has the device, unfortunately, NASA lost all the videos filmed on the Moon and mislaid the telemetry data, after all, it was only the biggest technical achievement in history. Officially, man has not set foot on the Moon since 1972. And what happened to the Soviets, they were apparently in a race to the Moon and just gave up. One thing is for sure, video calling is now out of this world.

Mobile Video Calls - Still a Dream

Progress towards the great video calling transformation was still long away for the average person. This author, eager to escape the recession-ravaged UK in 1993 for a break in New York was reading the Financial Times on a KLM flight. The eye-catching story was that Rabbit Telecommunications, (Hutchinson Whampoa), was considering the networks further. The Rabbit died. The persistent and forward-looking Hutchinson Whampoa would later launch the highly successful Orange Telecom. Back in 1993, Rabbit however was limited to CT2 handsets that could only make calls within 100 meters of a Rabbit transmitter. It’s hard to imagine that such a solution existed, only Cell Net, (o2) and Vodafone were established in analogue and even text messages were yet to come. Video calls were still a distant dream.

The Dotcom Aftermath

If we consider that most of Europe really took just baby steps into the Internet in 1998, and that was really accessed by dialup Internet connections with very limited bandwidth and slow speeds and domestically the plugin for the PCs was mostly shared as a phone landline, video calls still remained more like some sort of a futuristic capability. The killer communications of the day were Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, and Excite Mail with a thing called ICQ. Many Dotcom companies had failed, online retail was tiny, and Amazon was still in its infancy, losing staggeringly vast sums of money. Even Apple was just part of the computer pack. Then very big things happened.

2003 A Video Call Odessy

You guessed it, on another KLM flight, this time to Amsterdam, the inflight magazine your author was reading had an intriguing article covering the recently founded Skype. A VoIP solution, (Voice Over Internet Protocol).  The ingenious Skype solution was founded by Niklas Zennström of Sweden and Janus Friis of Denmark and four Estonian developers. This allowed computers to be used for both video and audio calls for FREE. These days that might not seem a big deal but prior to the Skype moment, for most people a phone call internationally was costly. Now, suddenly, not only were computers being plugged into webcams but internet speeds were becoming revolutionarily faster. The need for speed was met by the introduction on-mass of broadband internet. Quietly and steady, everything got even better as PCs made way increasingly to Wi-Fi-enabled laptops. Once again, this might seem innocuous, but fast internet connections, untethered from wall connections with free video and audio calling globally were transformative. We have never looked back, yet most people have forgotten. The real boom ahead was close.

Three UK - Hutchinson Whampoa

Following a decade of staggering technical evolution with the mainstream internet, home computers and feature phones in almost every hand, we had a world dominated by Nokia. Now the dream of 3G video calling was about to emerge. 3G was within the reach of every hand that wanted it, the biggest loser was Nokia. There would be new big winners.


The legendary tycoon Sir Li Ka-shing’s Hutchinson Whampoa had pulled another rabbit out of the hat, this time it was a real bouncing bunny of tech. This long-established corporation, founded in 1863 by John Duflon Hutchinson launched Three (UK) “3” on 3rd March 2003. Finally, video calls could be made directly from mobile phones by ordinary people. 33 years after men apparently made video calls from the Moon, now they could even make video calls on the earth too. The effect was out of this world. Even though the early handsets were quite large, this was one giant step for the man in the street.

Be Appy

Almost lost and forgotten is the Apple Newton. This was an offline tablet, the first of its kind from Apple and it was the grandfather of the iPod touch, iPad and iPhone. The iPad and iPhone were perhaps the biggest leaps in video calling devices in history. On June 29th 2007, the iPhone was launched, and the impact on global communications has been profound. The Smart Phone was really driven by the iPhone, as important still was the App Store. The primary yet not exclusively the main competitor was to become Android and the Google Play Store. These environments meant much more to developers than can be imagined. Prior to the rise of the App stores and the rise of Amazon’s AWS (Amazon Web Services). A mega server place for Apps was transformational in allowing just about any developer to be unshackled from running its own expensive servers, the Apps flooded in and Smart Phone got really smart.

Video Calls for All

We think of FaceTime, an exclusive to Apple iOS video calling channel. But we should consider the multi-OS giants more so. These days, who hasn’t got one or many of voice call and video call applications? Be it WhatsApp, (Meta), Signal, (significantly more secure than WhatsApp), Telegram, the choice of revolutionaries and the less well known but Swiss-based ultra-secure Threema. We are now lavished with devices, be they laptops, PCs with webcams, gaming devices, tablets or Smart Phones. Somehow by 2022, we have video calls actually providing live coverage from hellish war zones with uncensored content rendering mainstream media, (MSM), second class at best.

Viral Video Calls

As the global community were plunged into a nightmare lockdown due to Covid CV19, we turned immediately to Zoom, Google Meet, and MS Meeting to keep in touch with friends and family and run businesses. Not only is the video call now universally familiar, but we are also in many cases dependent on them. From babies through to our old citizens, the video call is easy to use and depended upon. At least we forget, it’s been a long journey it took to get here. It will be 53 years on July 20th 2022 since NASA apparently made the Moon-Shot video call from far away. The giant leap for mankind that we can be sure of is that video calls and video shopping are within the reach and just a click away for everyone. One day is not a day of a week, one day is today, and we are ready to move you into V-tail. Thanks to many billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of smart minds and true pioneers, we can make V-tail a reality for your business today.

Let’s get you up and running for video call shopping, zoen.shop, ready to meet you face-to-face, because video channels bring us together.