A History of Your Office Phone

The office phone is an underestimated tool that business owners and employees probably don’t put much thought into. Due to advances in cloud computing and increased access to communication tools, we use the office phone every day without much thought about how it became such an integral part of our business communications.

To get a better understanding of this, let’s start at the beginning.

Humans have been communicating since the dawn of time; whether through sounds or images. If you’re familiar with the history of telephones, then you know that Alexander Graham Bell was the one who invented the telephone on 1876 and successfully executed the first bi-directional transmission of clear speech, but the way office phones operated and looked has seen its highs and lows.

In the years after Bell’s invention, telephone switchboards were used to connect two parties so that they can communicate. Telephone lines were already connecting individuals in Massachusetts by 1877 and a phone call meant using a switchboard that required an operator to manually connect the two callers using a panel of jacks and wires. In the beginning, people were using phones that were made of wood and hand-cranked; then, Bell made some much needed improvements to the telephone and introduced the candlestick telephone, we can imagine this as an office phone sitting upright on the desk.

In 1878, two years after the telephone switchboard exchange was invented, the first commercial North American telephone exchange opened in Connecticut. Although the first North American telephone exchange was designed and built by George W. Coy, it was actually Thomas Edison and Tivadar Puskas who initially proposed the idea of a telephone exchange which was then built by the Bell Telephone Company in 1877 and inspired future designs.

With this new communication technology taking hold of the country, switchboards were increasing in size and eventually had to be separated so that multiple operators could handle the switchboards. As a result, there was a conversion to a Panel Machine Switching System in the 1920s, which was an early type of automatic telephone exchange that eliminated the need for multiple switchboards. Almon Strowger further pushed the development of communication and the office phone in 1892 with the invention of the rotary dial telephone, advertised as “one of the answers to the modern cry for greater efficiency in everything.” The first installation was in 1892 and shared the telephone market with the candlestick until the 1930s. The rotary dial telephone remained a popular choice as a home and office phone until the 1960s.

In 1951 the first direct dialing distance service was implemented in New Jersey, which allowed a caller to call any other user outside of the local calling area without operator assistance. At this time, there were only 11 cities that were able to dial using an area code and seven digits. Modems started being used in 1958 for direct connection by way of phone lines which were used to transmit and decode digital data. The introduction of modems eventually led to the introduction of echo cancellation, broadband, radio, and our beloved Wi-Fi.

As cell phone electronics were being developed in the 1960s, push button phones were replacing the rotary dial phones. The office phone was now easier to use and with answering machine technology gaining popularity, people’s behavior when it came to communicating was changing.

Early versions of VoIP were being explored in the 1970s for improved circuit redundancy and network availability in the event of infrastructure failures, since circuit-switched networks were more vulnerable to failure. Regardless of this idea, the circuit switched network remains at the center of infrastructures. For the next two decades, advances were made that lead up to the creation of the Asterisk Private Branch Exchange and what we know today as the modern office phone system.

Office Phone Systems of Today

There’s no doubt that office phone systems have seen monumental changes throughout the decades. Although the way we communicate has evolved to meet growing demand, our need as people to communicate with one another will never disappear.

POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service), also referred to as Analog, was the standard service offered by telephone companies from the year Bell invented the phone in 1876 to 1988. Today, there are several options for office phone systems, including hosted PBX, IP PBX, and mobile solutions.

Today’s office phone systems are much more convenient and can even centralize your business communications without much tech experience. If your office phone systems aren’t allowing you to stay in touch with the people most important to your businesses success (i.e. customers, employees, and partners) then how can you expect your business to grow? If you’re looking for robust and easy-to-use office phone systems for your small business, rest assured that there are practical choices for your business communications and getting all the right components to meet your unique demands and needs.