HOME > Historical Information > Timeline of Telecommunications

Timeline of Telecommunications
- A compilation of various timeline and historical date references/sources -

I have compiled dates and events from several sources, both online and paper documents.  Even though I found a couple of conflicts between sources over exact dates, for the most part these can be considered accurate.  Color coded dates in the timeline indicate which reference was used for each event.

  • Bill's 200-Year Condensed History of Telecommunications - May 1998 [DETAILS]
  • America's Network Directory/Telecom Sourcebook - 1997 (contributed by Roger Conklin)
  • The Magic of Communications booklet; Bell System publication - July 1951
  • A Telephone Chronology - from the 1924 Bell Almanac
  • Strowger Progress - History and Development of the Strowger Automatic Telephone System (chart)
  • Other references [cited in brackets]


1200 BC - Homer talks about signal fires in the Illiad.

700 BC to 300 AD - Carrier pigeons used in Olympic games

1588 AD - Arrival of the Spanish Armada announced by signal fires

Voice telegraphs used hundreds of years BC through the Middle Ages and in the Canary Islands today.

~1800 AD - A line of canon from Buffalo to NYC used to announce Gov. DeWitt Clinton's inaugural trip through the Erie Canal. It took 80 minutes.



1791 - The Chappe brothers, in France, were in their teens and were going to schools some distance apart but visible to each other. They obtained permission to set up a signaling system so they could send messages to each other. Their semaphore system consisted of movable arms on a pole whose positions denoted letters of the alphabet.

1793 - The Chappe brothers established the first commercial semaphore system between two locations near Paris. Napoleon thought this was a great idea. Soon there were semaphore signaling systems covering the main cities of France. Semaphore signaling spread to Italy, Germany and Russia. Thousands of men were employed manning the stations. Speed: about 15 characters per minute. Code books came into play so that whole sentences could be represented by a few characters. Semaphores weren't very successful in England because of the fog and smog caused by the Industrial Revolution. Claude Chappe headed France's system for 30 years and then was "retired" when a new administration came into power. There were semaphore systems in the U.S., especially from Martha's Vineyard (an island near Cape Cod) and Boston, reporting to Boston's Custom House on the movement of sailing ships. This was also true around New York City and San Francisco. Samuel F.B. Morse, the inventor of the electric telegraph, reportedly saw the semaphore system in operation in Europe. The last operational semaphore system went out of business in 1860. It was located in Algeria.

1837 - Cooke and Wheatstone obtain a patent on telegraph. Morse publicly demonstrates his telegraph. *[Note 3]

1840 - Congress was requested to provide funding for a semaphore system running from NYC to New Orleans. Samuel Morse, it is said, advised against funding of this system because of his work on developing the electric telegraph.

1843 - FAX invented by the Scotch physicist Alexander Bain.

1844 - Morse demonstrates the electric telegraph.
*[Note 1]: Samuel F.B. Morse demonstrates his telegraph by sending a message to Baltimore from the chambers of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. The message, "What hath God wrought?," marks the beginning of a new era in communication.

1844 - Morse's first telegraph line between Washington and Baltimore opens in May. *[Note 3]

1847 (March 3) - Birth of Alexander Graham Bell, Edinburgh, Scotland.

1851 - There are 51 telegraph companies in operation

1856 - Western Union formed by six men from Rochester, N.Y. They start an acquisition spree.

1858 - Burglar Alarm - Edwin T. Holmes of Boston begins to sell electric burglar alarms. Later, his workshop will be used by Alexander Graham Bell as the young Bell pursues his invention of the telephone. Holmes will be the first person to have a home telephone. *[Note 1]

1861 - Both coasts are connected. There are now 2250 telegraph offices in operation nationwide.

1865 - Maxwell mathematically predicts the propagation of electromagnetic waves through space. *[Note 3]

1866 - First transatlantic telegraph line successfully laid. Prior to the cable, sending messages between the United States and Europe took 11 days.

1866 - Uninterrupted transatlantic communications are established with the successful laying of the first telegraph cable on 27 July. *[Note 3]

1867 - The first Atlantic cable, promoted by Cyrus Field, was layed on July 27th.

1870 - Thomas Edison invents multiplex telegraphy.

1871 (April 1) - Bell arrived in Boston to start his work in the teaching of the deaf.

1872 - Western Union buys the telegraph equipment manufacturing firm, Gray & Barton, and renamed it Western Electric.

1875 (June 2) - Bell's theory of the telephone confirmed by experiment.

1875 - First words transmitted by telephone.



1876 - Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone. Elisha Gray files a patent application 3 hours after Bell. Over 600 patent suits filed during the next 11 years. Settled in Bell's favor. Bell offers his patent to Western Union for $100,000. I obtained the following item years ago from Warren Bender, of A.D. Little, Inc. Warren published it in an early issue of the Transactions of the IEEE Systems, Man & Cybernetics Society. I would like to share it with you.

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell and his financial backer, Gardiner G. Hubbard, offered Bell's brand new patent (No. 174,465) to the Telegraph Company - the ancestor of Western Union. The President of the Telegraph Company, Chauncey M. DePew, appointed a committee to investigate the offer. The committee report has often been quoted. It reads in part:

"The Telephone purports to transmit the speaking voice over telegraph wires. We found that the voice is very weak and indistinct, and grows even weaker when long wires are used between the transmitter and receiver. Technically, we do not see that this device will be ever capable of sending recognizable speech over a distance of several miles.

"Messer Hubbard and Bell want to install one of their "telephone devices" in every city. The idea is idiotic on the face of it. Furthermore, why would any person want to use this ungainly and impractical device when he can send a messenger to the telegraph office and have a clear written message sent to any large city in the United States?

"The electricians of our company have developed all the significant improvements in the telegraph art to date, and we see no reason why a group of outsiders, with extravagant and impractical ideas, should be entertained, when they have not the slightest idea of the true problems involved. Mr. G.G. Hubbard's fanciful predictions, while they sound rosy, are based on wild-eyed imagination and lack of understanding of the technical and economic facts of the situation, and a posture of ignoring the obvious limitations of his device, which is hardly more than a toy... .

"In view of these facts, we feel that Mr. G.G. Hubbard's request for $100,000 of the sale of this patent is utterly unreasonable, since this device is inherently of no use to us. We do not recommend its purchase."

The amusing thing about this letter, in retrospect, is that Bell obtained controlling interest in Western Union by 1882!

1876 (March 7) -The first telephone patent, No. 174,465 was issued to Alexander Graham Bell.

1876 (March 10) - First complete sentence of speech transmitted by telephone in Boston.

1876 (June 25) - Bell exhibited the telephone to the judges at the Centennial Exposi-tion, Philadelphia.

1876 (October 9) - Bell conducted the first successful experimental two-way talk over the telephone between Boston and Com-bridgeport, Mass., distance of 2 miles.

1876 - First complete sentence transmitted by telephone.  First conversation by overhead line, 2 miles-Boston to Cambridgeport.

1876 - Edison invents the electric motor and the phonograph.

1877 - Western Union has first telephone line in operation between Somerville, MA and Boston.

1877 - Bell Telephone Company formed, with Alexander Graham Bell as "electrician" and Thomas Watson as "superintendent."

1878 - First telephone directory, New Haven, CT, and had 21 listings.

1878 (January 28) - First commercial telephone exchange in the world opened at New Haven, Conn.

1880 - American Bell founded. 30,000 phones in use. Bell spoke over a 1300-ft beam of light using his patented Photophone equipment.

1880 - 30,872 Bell telephone stations in the United States.  Conversation by overhead line, 45 miles-Boston to Providence.

1881 - Mr. Eckert who ran a telephone company in Cincinnati said he preferred the use of females to males as operators. "Their service is much superior to that of men or boys. They are much steadier, do not drink beer nor use profanity, and are always on hand."

1881 - Bell Telephone company purchases Western Electric Company.

1881 - Conversation by underground cable, 3/4 mile.

1882 - Bell has controlling interest in Western Union and Western Electric.

1884 - Paul Nipkow obtains a patent in Germany for TV, using a selenium cell and a mechanical scanning disk. First long distance call: Boston to NYC.

1884 (September 4) - Opening of telephone service between Boston and New York, 235 miles.

1884 - Conversation by overhead line (hard-drawn copper), 235 miles - Boston to New York.

1885 - Theodore Vail becomes President of AT&T. Leaves in 1887 to go to South America to install electric traction systems.

1885 The Bell Telephone Company formed a new subsidiary, American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T).

1885 (March 3) - Incorporation of American Telephone and Telegraph Company, New York City.

1887 - Heinrich Hertz shows that electromagnetic waves exist. *[Note 3]

1887 - Idea of automatic exchange (Russia). *[Note 4]

1888 - Heinrich Hertz produces radio waves. *[Note 2]

1889 - Almon B. Strowger invents switch having line contacts in circular rows inside a cylinder. Controlled by push-buttons on telephone.

1890 - Herman Hollerith gets a contract for processing the 1900 census data using punched cards. His firm was eventually named IBM in 1924.

1890 - 211,503 Bell telephone stations. 

1891 - Invention of 1,000 line switch with disc bank having ten concentric rows of line contacts. Not used commercially. Formation of Strowger Automatic Telephone Exchange.

1892 - Almon Strowger, the St. Louis undertaker, became upset on finding that the wife of a competitor was a telephone operator who made his line busy and transferred calls meant for him to her husband. "Necessity is the mother of invention" so Strowger developed the dial telephone system to get the operator out of the system. He forms a Chicago firm, Automatic Electric, to manufacture step-by-step central office equipment (which is now owned by GTE). The first automatic C.O. was installed in LaPorte, Indiana. I discovered in Ralph Meyer's book, Old Time Telephones, that actually, in 1879, Connelly, Connelly and McTighe patented an automatic dial system, although they did not commercialize it.

1892 (October 18) - Opening of long distance telephone service, New York to Chicago, 950 miles.

1892 - Conversation by overhead line, 900 miles-New York to Chicago.

1892 - First commercial Strowger installation; LaPorte, Indiana, USA. Used switcher with 100 line disc-type banks.

1893 - An early form of broadcasting was started in Budapest over 220 miles of telephone wires serving 6000 subscribers who could listen at regular schedules to music, news, stock market prices, poetry readings and lectures.

1894 - Basic patents expire; period of intense competition begins.

1894 - Invention of gear-driven switch with "zither" (piano wire) line banks.  Not used commercially. 200-line "zither" board with ratchet drive installed at LaPorte, Indiana, USA.

1895 - Guglielmo Marconi invented the radio.

1895 - Third installation at LaPorte, Indiana.  Earliest use of switch with semi-cylindrical bank and shaft with vertical and rotary motions. Invention of earliest dial-type calling device.

1896 – Invention of selector trunking; first use of dial telephones in large exchange (Augusta, Georgia, USA).

1896 - Marconi patents wireless telegraph. *[Note 2]

1898 – Earliest use of relays for switch control instead of direct operation of magnets over line wires. First die cast switch frame.

1899 - Name of Bell Telephone Company changed to American Telephone and Telegraph.

1899 -  Strowger Automatic goes abroad (Berlin, Germany). Earliest use of automatic trunk selection with busy test.

1900 - John J. Carty, Chief Engineer of NY Tel (and later AT&T), installs loading coils, invented by Michael Pupin, to extend range and utilizes open wire transposition to reduce crosstalk an inductive pickup from ac transmission lines. AT&T paid Pupin $255,000 for the use of his patent. There are now about 20,000 telcos in business. There are now 856,000 telephones in service.

1900 - 676,733 Bell telephone stations owned and connected.

1900 – Basic trunking principles established for large exchanges.  Bank terminals molded in plaster of Paris.

1901 – Formation of Automatic Electric Company to take over Strowger Automatic Telephone Exchange.  Installation at Fall River, Mass., used line banks with fiber insulators and aluminum fillers.  First use of “slip multiple.”

1901 - Marconi transmits first trans-Atlantic radio message (from Cape Cod). *[Note 2]

1901 - Guglielmo Marconi sends first transatlantic wireless signals, 12 December. *[Note 3]

1902 - First conversation by long distance underground cable, 10 miles - New York to Newark.

1902 – First installation in Chicago begun. Earliest use of measured service in automatic exchanges.

1902 - Poulsen-Arc Radio Transmitter invented. *[Note 3]

1903 – Large Strowger installations placed in service in Grand Rapids, Dayton, Akron, Columbus.

1903 - AIEE Committee on Telegraphy and Telephony formed. *[Note 3]

1904 – First use of multi-office trunking, and connections between automatic and manual offices (Los Angeles, Califonia).

1904 - John Ambrose Fleming invents the two-element "Fleming Valve". *[Note 3]

1905 – Earliest extended use of party lines and reverting calls.  First system using common battery talking (South Bend, Indiana).

1905 - Marconi patents his directive horizontal antenna. *[Note 3]

1906 - Lee deForest invents the vacuum tube.

1906 - Conversation by underground cable, 90 miles-New York to Philadelphia.

1906 – Invention of Keith Line Switch, resulting in enormous reduction in cost of automatic boards. First used at Wilmington, Delaware.

1906 - Dr. Lee de Forest reads a paper before an AIEE meeting on the Audion, first of the vacuum tubes that would make long distance radiotelephony possible. Reginald Fessenden broadcasts Christmas Carols on Christmas Eve from Brant Rock, MA. *[Note 3]

1907 - States start to regulate telcos. Mississippi was among the first. (The idea of regulation goes back several centuries, when in England, innkeepers were required to post their charges to prevent gouging. (I wish it applied to plumbers.) "Common carrier" regulation refers to government approval of tariffs filed by railroads, truck lines, telcos, etc which provide the terms and conditions whereby the public can make use of their services.

1907 -Theodore Vail returns as President of AT&T (and Western Union). He is responsible for the concept of "end-to-end" service that guided AT&T and other telcos in providing the C.O., transmission systems, and CPE that lasted until the Carterphone and Specialized Common Carrier Decisions.

1907 – First installation in Canada (Edmonton, Alta.).  Invention of small dial and two-wire system eliminating ground at subscriber’s station.

1907 - The world's first transatlantic commercial wireless services is established by Marconi with stations at Clifden, Ireland and Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. *[Note 3]

1908 – First two-wire system (large dial) installed at Pontiac, Illinois. Earliest use of automatic, intermittent ringing.  Installation at Lansing, Michigan.  Features use of small dial, secondary line switch, and 200-point selectors and connectors.

1909 - Western Union and AT&T are closely locked.

1909 – Invention of out-going secondary line switch, resulting in economy of inter-office trunks.  First used at San Francisco.

1909 - Marconi shares the Nobel Prize in Physics, with Karl Ferdinand Braun for their work in the development of wireless telegraphy. *[Note 3]

1910 - Peter DeBye in Holland, develops theory for optical waveguides. He was a few years ahead of his time. Interstate Commerce Commission starts to regulate telcos.

1910 - The Mann-Elkins Act enacted, putting interstate communications under the purview of the Interstate Commerce commission (ICC)

1910 - 5,142,692 Bell telephone stations owned and connected.

1910 – Strowger system introduced in Hawaii and Cuba. Earliest use of dialing over toll lines.  Introduction of revertive ringing tone.

1910 - The first commercial radios are sold by Lee de Forest's Radio Telephone Company. *[Note 3]

1911 - Conversation by overhead line., 2,100 miles -- New York to Denver.

1911 – Formation of Automatic Telephone Manufacturing Co., Ltd. For production of Strowger system in England.

1911 - Using loading coils properly spaced in the line, the transmission distance for telephone reaches from New York to Denver. *[Note 3]

1912 – First Strowger installation in England (Epsom “Official Switch”).

1913 - The Kingsbury Agreement. Mr. Kingsbury was an AT&T vice president. In his famous letter to the U.S. Government, AT&T agrees to divest its holdings of Western Union, stop acquisition of other telcos, and permit other telcos to interconnect.

1913 - The Kingsbury Commitment precludes un-approved expansion, and permits connections to network.

1913 - The U.S. Justice Department filed its first antitrust suit against Bell, charging an unlawful combination to monopolize transmission of telephone service in the Pacific Northwest.

1913 - Conversation by overhead line, 2,600 miles--New York to Salt Lake City. Conversation by underground cable, 455 miles-Boston to Washington.

1913 – Strowger system introduced in Australia and New Zealand. Development of key-type impulse sender, and Simplex dialing on toll lines.

1914 - Underground cables link Boston, NYC and Washington.

1914 (February 26) - Boston-Washington under-ground telephone cable placed in commercial service.

1914 – Automatic Switches used as traffic distributors in manual exchanges (Indianapolis, Indiana and Defiance, Ohio).

1914 - The last pole of the transcontinental telephone line is placed in Wendover, Utah, on the Nevada-Utah state line. *[Note 3]

1915 - Vacuum tube amplifiers used the first time in coast-to-coast telco circuits. In opening the service, Bell, in New York, repeated his famous first telephone sentence to his assistant, Mr.Watson, who was in San Francisco, "Mr. Watson, come here, I want you." Watson replied, "If you want me, it will take me almost a week to get there." E.T. Whitaker develops the sampling theorem that forms the basis of today's PCM and TCM technologies.

1915 (January 25) - Opening of First Trans-continental telephone line, New York to San Francisco, 3600 miles.

1915 (October 21) - First transmission of speech across the Atlantic by radiotelephone, Arlington, Va., to Paris.

1915 - first conversation by transcontinental line, 3,650 miles-Boston to San Francisco. Speed transmitted for the first time by radio telephone from Arlington, Va., across the continent to San Francisco, over the Pacific to the Hawaiian Islands, and across the Atlantic to Paris.

1915 – Development of modern covered switch with horizontal relays – used at St. Paul and Minneapolis.  First use of cast iron switch frame at Hazelton, Pennsylvania.

1915 - Direct telephone communications opened for service at 4pm, EST. Alexander Graham Bell, in NY, greets his former assistant, Thomas Watson, in San Francisco, by repeating the first words ever spoken over a telephone, "Mr. Watson, come here I want you". Mr. Watson would reply that it would take him a week to get there. *[Note 3]

1916 – Earliest community automatic exchange network installed in Wisconsin.

1917 – Rapid expansion in the use of private automatic branch exchanges. Development of remote alarm equipment for unattended exchanges.

1918 – First installation using rotary primary line switches (Elyria, Ohio).

1918 - Edwin Armstrong develops a receiving circuit - the superheterodyne. *[Note 3]

1919 – First Strowger board manufactured for Bell System (Norfolk, Virginia).

1919 - Radio Corporation of America (RCA) is formed. *[Note 3]

1920 - Bell introduces its own step-by-step offices that were previously acquired from Automatic Electric. G. Valensi develops the time domain multiplexing concept.

1920 (July 16) - World's first radiotelephone service, between Los Angeles and Santa Catalina Island, opened to the public.

1920 - 11,795,747 Bell telephone stations owned and connected.

1920 – Beginning of wide-spread adoption of Strowger equipment for metropolitan areas both in the U.S. and abroad.  First installation of call-indicator equipment for automatic-manual connections in multi-office areas.

1920 - The first regular commercial radio broadcasts begin when AM station KDKA of Pittsburgh delivers results of the Harding-Cox election to its listeners. Radio experiences immediate success; by the end of 1922, 563 other licensed stations will join KDKA. *[Note 1]

1920 - Westinghouse Radio Station KDKA is established (2 November). *[Note 3]

1921 - The Willis-Graham Act allows telcos to merge with permission of the States and the Interstate Commerce Commission.

1921 (April 11) - Opening of deep sea cable, Key West to Havana, Cuba, 115 miles.

1921 - Conversation by deep sea cable, 115 miles-- Key West, Fla., to Havana, Cuba.
First conversation between Havana, Cuba, and Catalina Island by submarine cable, overhead and underground lines and radio telephone-distance 5,500 miles. Extension of Boston - Philadelphia cable to Pittsburgh - total distance 621 miles. President Harding's inaugural address delivered by loud speaker to more than 100,000 people. Armistice Bay exercises at burial of unknown soldier delivered by means of Bell loud speaker and long lines to more than 150,000 people in Arlington, Va., New York and San Francisco.

1921 - Wirephoto - The first electronically-transmitted photograph is sent by Western Union. The idea for a facsimile transmission was first proposed by Scottish clockmaker Alexander Bain in 1843. *[Note 1]

1921 - First radio broadcast of a sporting event (Dempsey/Carpentier Heavyweight Championship Prize Fight, 2 July). *[Note 3]

1922 - Ship-to-shore conversation by wire and wireless between Bell telephones in homes and offices and the S. S. America 400 miles at sea in the Atlantic.

1922 – Introduction of improved steel wall telephones and improved desk stands (Type 21).

1922 - Alexander Graham Bell dies at his summer home in Beinn Breagh, near Baddeck, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia (August 2). Telephone service is suspended for one minute (6:25pm-6:26pm) on the entire telephone system in the United States and Canada during the funeral service (4 August). British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is formed. (It would receive it's Royal Charter in 1927). *[Note 3]

1923 (June 7) - Radio broadcasting networks had their beginning with a hook-up of four radio stations by long distance telephone lines.

1923 (December 22) - Opening of Second Trans-continental telephone line, southern route.

1923 -- 14,050,565 Bell telephone stations owned and connected.  Successful demonstration of transoceanic radio telephony from a Bell telephone station in New York City to a group of scientists and journalists in New Southgate, England.

1923 – First British Post Office announces adoption of Strowger system (with Director) for London.

1923 - Meetings at New York and Chicago of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) are linked by long distance lines connected to loudspeakers so that both meetings could follow the same program (14 February). *[Note 3]

1924 – Strowger exchange installed throughout Canal Zone. First Strowger “Directors” installed in Havana.

1924 - Directive short wave antenna is developed by Professor Hidetsugu Yagi and his assistant, Shintaro Uda. *[Note 3]

1925 - Bell Telephone Laboratories founded. 1.5 million dial telephones in service out of 12 million phones in service.

1925 (October 1) - Opening of long distance telephone cable, New York to Chicago.

1925 – Introduction of the Monophone – first hand set telephone of modern type.

1925 - The Combined Line and Recording (CLR) method of handling toll calls over long distances (100 miles or more) is introduced experimentally by Bell Systems. It reduces the handling of toll calls from 13 minutes (in 1920) to 7 minutes. *[Note 3]

1926 - Baird in Scotland and Jenkins in the U.S. demonstrate TV using neon bulbs and mechanical scanning disks. P.M. Rainey at Western Electric patents the PCM methodology.

1926 – Introduction of the Type 24 Dial – modern, quiet-running, long-life calling device. Strowger system adopted by Japan.

1926 - The first public test of radiotelephone service from New York to London. *[Note 3]

1927 (January 7) - Opening of transatlantic telephone service between New York and London, 3500 miles.

1927 (January 17) - Opening of Third Trans-continental telephone line, northern route.

1927 (April 7) - First public demonstration of television by Bell System engineers, by wire and radio.

1927 – First “Director” installation in London.  Introduction of line switch with self-aligning plunger.

1927 - Television - Philo Farnsworth demonstrates the first television for potential investors by broadcasting the image of a dollar sign. Farnsworth receives backing and applies for a patent, but ongoing patent battles with RCA will prevent Farnsworth from earning his share of the million-dollar industry his invention will create. *[Note 1]

1927 - First public demonstration of long distance transmission of television. Formal opening of telephone service between the US and Mexico, and also, Mexico- London, via New York. *[Note 3]

1928 - Zworykin files patents on electronic scanning TV using the iconoscope.

1928 – First extended use of Strowger 200-point Line finder. Introduction of improved Monophone designs.

1928 - A joint meeting of the AIEE and the British IEE is held over radiotelephone channels, with the respective groups assembled in New York and London. *[Note 3]

1929 (December 8) - Commercial ship-to-shore telephone service opened.

1929 – U.S. Navy begins use of Strowger equipment. Monophones made available in color.

1930 - AT&T introduces much higher quality insulated wire.

1930 (April 3) - Opening of transoceanic telephone service to Argentina, Chile and Uruguay and subsequently to all other South American countries.

1930 – Development of new small switchboards of unit type. Networks of small Strowger exchanges installed in Italy.

1931 – Development of Strowger Remote Toll Board. First installed in Elyria, Ohio.

1931 - Radio Astronomy - While trying to track down a source of electrical interference on telephone transmissions, Karl Guthe Jansky of Bell Telephone Laboratories discovers radio waves emanating from stars in outer space. *[Note 1]

1931 - AT&T inaugurates the Teletypewriter Exchange Service (TWX) November 21. *[Note 3]

1932 – Development of unattended private automatic branch exchanges. Two-line Monophones introduced.

1933 – New small private automatic exchanges introduced.

1933 - Edwin Armstrong demonstrates frequency modulation (FM) to Sarnoff. *[Note 3]

1934 - Federal Communications Commission founded. Combined functions of RF spectrum allocation previously handled by the Federal Radio Commission and interstate regulation for common carriers. Introduced "value-of-service" pricing which required the subsidization of residential subscribers to speed the availability of nationwide telephone service.

1934 - Congress passes Communications Act of 1934, with a goal of universal service at reasonable charges as its key tenet. The FCC was formed.

1934 – Introduction of new self-contained desk Monophone molded in bakelite (Type 34A3).

1935 - First telephone call around the world. About 6700 telcos in operation.

1935 (April 25) - First around-the-world telephone conversation by wire and radio.

1935 – New “all positions” transmitter. New bakelite wall Monophone (Type 35A5).

1935 - The first around-the-world telephone conversation takes place. (April 25)
Western Union's "Telefax" begins operating. Telefax sent telegrams, manuscripts, line drawings, maps and page proofs for magazines. *[Note 3]

1936 – Small, compact community automatic exchanges introduced.

1936 - BBC begins regular television service. *[Note 2]

1936 - Invention of coaxial cable is announced at a joint meeting of the American Physical Society and the IRE (April 30). *[Note 3]

1937 - Bell introduces the Model 300 improved handset.

1937 (December 8) - Opening of Fourth Transcontinental telephone line.

1937 - Seven-hour radio broadcast of the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England. *[Note 3]

1938 - Bell introduces crossbar central office switches.

1938 - The power of radio is demonstrated by Orsen Wells with the broadcast of "War of the Worlds". This causes telephone traffic to peak in nearly all cities and on long distance lines. *[Note 3]

1939 - WU introduces coast-to-coast fax service. John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry invent the first electronic computer at the University of Iowa. In 1973 a judge ruled in a patent infringement suit that their research was the source of most of the ideas for the modern computer.

1939 - The Golden Gate Exposition (San Francisco) and New York Worlds Fair are opened. These exhibit the newest technologies, including the Voder (synthesized speech) and television. FM is used by Bell Laboratories in a radio altimeter that uses signal reflections from the surface of the earth. *[Note 3]

1940 (June 24) -Television transmitted over coaxial cable from Convention Hall in Philadelphia to television studio in Radio City, New York.

1940 - FM Police Radio Communications begin in Hartford, CT.  *[Note 3]

1941- Konrad Zuse in Germany develops the first programmable calculator using binary numbers and boolean logic.

1941 - The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor affects the telephone system of the United States by causing tremendous traffic peaks in all cities, and an increase from 100 to 400 percent in long distance telephoning - which already is at a record high of 3 million messages. (The United States would again experience this phenomenon in 2001, during the 11 September attacks.)  Radar successfully detects the attack on Pearl Harbor, but the warnings are ignored. *[Note 3]

1942 (December 21) - Opening of first all-cable transcontinental telephone line with completion of buried cable, connecting existing cable systems of East and West.

1942 - The first section of telephone line is completed along the Alcan Highway, from Edmonton, Alberta, to Dawson Creek, British Columbia. The Alcan Highway begins at Dawson Creek. *[Note 3]

1943 - Philadelphia is the last city to have telephone service supplied by different local carriers (until the recent deregulatory moves by Congress and the FCC.) Western Union and Postal Telegraph permitted to merge.

1943 (August 22) - First equipment for the dialing of called telephone numbers in distant cities directly by the operator placed in service in Philadelphia.

1943 - Construction of a telephone line from Calcutta, India to Kunming, China, along Stilwell Road, begins at Ledo, Assam. *[Note 3]

1944 - A telephone submarine cable is laid across the English Channel. *[Note 3]

1945 - AT&T lays 2000 miles of coax cable. Arthur C. Clarke proposes communications satellites.

1945 - Western Union installs the first commercial radio beam system. *[Note 3]

1946 - AT&T televises Army-Navy game in Philadelphia and transmits it to NYC

1946 - AT&T has 8 VF channels on microwave from Catalina Island to Los Angeles. Raytheon has a microwave link transmitting audio from WQXR in NYC to Boston.

1946 - FCC's Recording Devices Docket required telcos to furnish connecting arrangements for conversation recorders. The use of "beep tones" required when conversations are recorded.

1946 (February 12) - New York-Washington co-axial cable circuits opened for television transmission on an experimental basis.

1946 (June 17) - Opening of experimental mobile radiotelephone service in St. Louis.

1946 - Mobile telephone service is placed into commercial use in St. Louis, Missouri. The beam traveling-wave tube is announced by Bell Telephone Laboratories. This tube is an important amplifier for broadband communication. *[Note 3]

1947 - Telcos install nationwide numbering plan. Bell Telephone Laboratories has a 96-channel PCM experimental system working between Murray Hill, N.J. and NYC and quickly discovers the need for repeaters for long-distance service.On December 23, Bell Telephone Laboratories introduces the germanium point contact transistor and in the following year the alloy junction germanium transistor. TI introduces the silicon-based transistor in 1958.

1947 (August 15) - Opening of commercial telephone service for passengers on certain trains running between New York and Washington, D.C.

1947 (Nov. 13) - Opening of New York-Boston radio relay system for experimental service.

1947 Invention of the point contact transistor by Brattain and Bardeen. (December 23). Demonstration of mobile telephone equipment from a United Airlines plane to ground stations. *[Note 3]

1948 - The Hush-A-Phone case had its beginning. The Hush-A-Phone Corp. had developed and was marketing a cup-like device placed on a phone's mouthpiece to increase privacy of conversations. The Bell System complained to the FCC about this "foreign attachment."

1948 - Invention of the junction transistor. *[Note 3]

1949 - AT&T introduces the famous black rotary Model 500 telephone.

1949 - Bell Labs publishes Shannon's seminal theory of relay logic so important in the development of modern computers.

1949 - FCC's Jordaphone Docket (1949 - 1954). A precursor to Part 68. Jordaphone and three other manufacturers of answering machines sought FCC approval for their use on telco lines. The FCC decision left the matter to the states as only about 1% of telephone calls at that time were interstate. Commissioner Frieda Hennock filed her famous opposition in favor of the petitioners.

1949 - Justice Department files antitrust suit against AT&T. The Department wanted Bell to divest Western Electric, and to separate regulated monopoly services and unregulated equipment supply, among other actions.

1949 (October 17) - Dialing of transcontinental telephone calls by operators started with the joining of toll dialing networks on East and West coasts.

1949 - The volume of telephone calls reaches 180 million a day! *[Note 3]

1950 - 75% of lines are party lines.

1950 (Sept. 30) - Television network facilities extended to include 72 television stations in 42 cities, making television available to one half the population of the nation.

1952 - The first database was implemented on RCA's Bizmac computer. Reynold Johnson, an IBM engineer, developed a massive hard disk consisting of fifty platters, each two feet wide, that rotated on a spindle at 1200 rpm with read/write heads. These were called "jukeboxes".

1953 - John Pierce proposes deep space communication. *[Note 3]

1954 - Gene Amdahl developed the first computer operating system for the IBM 704. Sony introduces the first transistor radio that sold for $49.95. Raytheon introduces the transistor for hearing aids replacing its line of subminiature tubes. Zenith's highly successful hearing aids using subminiature tubes, about the size of a pack of cigarettes with a separate battery pack sold for about $25.00. The new transistor hearing aids reduced the size of the electronic package to about the size of a box of matches with an internal battery and sold for about $100. The first in-the-ear hearing aids appeared about 1955-1956.

1954 - US Air Force's SAGE system sets precedent for computer communications, including use of modems. *[Note 3]

1955 - According to Ken Krechmer, A.W. Morten and H.E. Vaughan describe the development of a real modem in their BSTJ paper, Transmission of Digital Information over Telephone Circuits, May 1955. Reynold Johnson at IBM develops the first disk drive.

1955 - Recorded announcements of disconnected and changed numbers begin to be used in some small dial offices. *[Note 3]

1956 - AT&T's Consent Decree. In 1949, the Department of Justice wanted AT&T to divest itself of Western Electric.The court ignored the Department of Justice's request. Instead, as the result of the Consent Decree, AT&T got to keep WE; however, it could only stay in the field of telecommunications and it had to license its patents to others.

1956 - Antitrust suit settled with Consent Decree. This decree permits AT&T to retain Western Electric Co., requires AT&T to stay within a particular market, and dictates non-exclusive patent licenses.

1956 - The Hush-A-Phone case was decided in favor of Hush-A-Phone Corp. It establishes that harmless non-Bell equipment may be attached to the network.

1956 - The Bell System and the British Post Office inaugurates service on a transatlantic telephone cable, TAT-1.  The 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded to the inventors of the transistor: Dr. Walter H. Brattain, Dr. John Bardeen and Dr. William Shockley.  *[Note 3]



1956 -. Telco tariffs did not permit customers to add even shoulder rests, let alone noise reducing Hush-a-Phone cup over the microphone. In North Carolina, one was not permitted to place a cover on a telephone directory. (This latter issue was stricken by order of the North Carolina Supreme Court.) The Hush-a-Phone court decision was important because it permitted customer-provided equipment that a privately beneficial and not publicly harmful could be connected to the network. Hush-a-Phone permitted the use of acoustically and/or inductively coupled answering machines, such as Jordaphone, and also fax machines. Previously, AT&T permitted only Government and newspaper wire services to connect fax machines and wire photo equipment. One of the early founders of a fax manufacturing company met with Walter Gifford, President of AT&T in the early 1920s to obtain permission to connect wire line fax equipment to the network for use by newspapers. He said:

"Mr. Gifford, I believe you permit anyone to speak English over you network?"

Mr. Gifford replied, "Why, yes."

"How about foreign languages?"

"Yes, of course."

"Is it OK to whistle or to make unintelligible noises?"

"Yes, of course."

"Well, how about my fax machine? It makes a noise similar to bleep, bleep, bleep."

Mr. Gifford did not object and the news services got permission to connect their fax and wire photo equipment.

1957 - October 4, the Russians launched the first satellite, Sputnik.

1957 - Soviet Union launches Sputnik, humanity's first artificial satellite, on October 5. (note date conflicts with date above)  *[Note 3]

1958 - AT&T introduces datasets (modems) for direct connection. Jack Kilby, Texas Instruments, developed the first integrated circuit. TI introduces the silicon-based transistor which soon eclipsed germaninum devices in production volume. Seymour Cray at Control Data Corporation develops the first transistorized computer, Model 1604. He later uses liquid nitrogen to enhance the speed of CDC's line of supercomputers.

1959 - AT&T introduces the TH-1 1860-channel microwave system. The FCC's Above 890 MHz Decision allowed private microwave systems.

1959 - In the Above 890 ruling, the FCC makes available portions of the radio spectrum to private microwave systems.

1960 - AT&T installs first electronic switching system in Morris, IL. There are now 3299 telephone companies.

1960 - ECHO I communications satellite is launched on 12 August. Provides first satellite television broadcast of 1962.
Laser is invented. *[Note 3]

1961 - Bell Telephone Labs release design information for the touch-tone dial to Western Electric.

1961 - Len Kleinrock of MIT publishes "Information Flow in Large Communication Nets", considered a seminal paper on packet-switching theory. *[Note 3]

1962 - AT&T introduces T-1 multiplex service in Skokie, IL. Telephone cables now start to use plastic insulation. Paul Baron of RAND introduces the idea of distributed packet-switching networks.

1962 - Comsat formed. American Broadcasting Company requests FCC to allow domestic satellites to distribute TV programs. Approximately 10,000 computers are in service.

1962 - United States Congress passes the Communications Satellite Act. T1 carrier is put into commercial service. The first transatlantic transmission of a TV signal via the TELSTAR satellite. (July 11).  EES™ Electronic Switching Systems is introduced. *[Note 3]

1963 - Microwave Communications Inc. (MCI) filed an application with the FCC to offer specialized voice and data services over a microwave system it wanted to build between Chicago and St. Louis.

1963 - AIEE and IRE merge to form IEEE (January 1).  Paul Baran of RAND publishes "On Distributed Communications Networks," outlining the operations of packet-switching networks capable of surviving node outages. NASA announces that the new Syncom II communications satellite has been used successfully to transmit voices live between the U.S. and Africa. At the time of the conversations, Syncom II hovers 22,000 miles over Brazil. The satellite is the first successful synchronous satellite. This mean that the satellite's revolution matches the daily revolution of the earth about its axis, so that the satellite seems to remain "stationary" over the same earth location. A telephone hotline connects Soviet and American leaders (August 30). Touchtone phones are introduced to replace the rotary dial phones. *[Note 3]

BBN develops the first modem.

1964 - IBM releases its famous Model 360 computer that eventually led to $100 billion in sales over its life cycle. George Heilmeier, at RCA's research labs, invents the liquid crystal display. Douglas Englebart at SRI patented the idea of the mouse.

1964 - An improved stock ticker tape machine (designed, developed and manufactured by Teletype Corporation) is placed into service at the New York Stock Exchange. The ticker, which transmits stock prices to brokerage houses nearly twice as fast as the previous system, has a capacity of ten million shares a day without incurring delays. (June 22).  IEEE Group on Communication Technology is formed. (July 1.) *[Note 3]

1965 - AT&T introduces stored program controlled switching. There are now 2421 telephone companies.

1965 - K. C. Kao and G. A. Hackham publish influential paper on fiber optics. The first commercial communications satellite, Early Bird, later named Intelsat 1, is launched into orbit from Cape Kennedy. The 85-pound satellite is a synchronous satellite, matching the earth's rotation to hover over the same spot all the time. (April 6). The Soviet Union launches its first communications satellite and carried out transmissions of television programs. The satellite is named "Molniya 1", which translates to "Lightning 1". (April 23). *[Note 3]



1966 - Tom Carter sues AT&T to permit connection of his phone patch. Court remands the case to FCC. (One writer stated Tom Carter filed for $1.25 million damages and received $300K. His original complaint had been filed in 1958.)

1966 - Suggestions made by Kao and Hockham that optical fiber could be used for long distance transmission

1966 - Lawrence G. Roberts of MIT publishes "Towards a Cooperative Network of Time-Shared Computers" which outlines the ARPANET plan. Worldwide direct telephone dialing has its first public demonstration, a call from Philadelphia to Geneva, Switzerland. (June 15). *[Note 3]

1967 - Larry Roberts at the Advanced Research Projects Agency publishes a paper proposing ARPANET.

1967 - Bell Laboratories announces a new solid-state source of high frequency radio waves. The "LSA diodes" emitted millimeter waves, a part of the radio frequency range that could carry about nine times more telephone calls than all lower frequencies combined. An LSA diode and its power supply is about as large as a deck of cards. (February 15). An experimental cordless extension telephone is introduced by Bell Laboratories (June 30).  *[Note 3]

1968 -FCC approves Carterphone Decision. AT&T ordered to revise tariffs effective 1/1/69 to permit connection of CPE. (It took about 10 years of legal action to get Part 68 of the FCC rules in place and operational by 1978). AT&T starts development of the Integrated Digital Services Network (ISDN). Gary Englehart at Stanford Research Institute demonstrates the first combination of a keyboard, keypad, mouse, windows and word processor. Dan Noble, IBM, developed the 8-inch floppy disk. Its capacity increased from 33K in 1971 to 1200K in 1977. AT&T starts 56 Kbps service. Pieter Kramer (Philips) invents the compact disk.

1968 - FCC's Carterfone decision permits interconnections of non-Bell equipment to telephone lines.

1968 - FCC starts proceeding to set aside spectrum for land mobile communications.

1968 - Bell System adopts the use of "911" as a nationwide emergency telephone number (January 12). Huntington, Indiana became the first U.S. city served by the Bell System to receive the new universal emergency telephone number "911". (March 1). *[Note 3]

1969 - FCC asks National Academy of Science to recommend an interconnection policy. The Department of Defense initiates the ARPANet, which led to the development of Internet. Initially computers at Stanford University and UCLA are connected.

1969 - In its MCI decision, the commission authorizes MCI to build and operate private line facilities between St. Louis and Chicago.

1969 - ARPANET begins 4-node operation (UCLA, Stanford Research Institute (SRI), UC Santa Barbara and University of Utah.
Video and Audio are transmitted back from the first Moon landing (July 20). UNIX Operating System is developed. *[Note 3]

1970 - AT&T introduces its ESS#2 electronic switch. Intel introduces its popular 4004 4-bit microprocessor which starts the evolution of Intel"s famous line of 386, 486 and Pentium processors. There are now 1841 telephone companies. AT&T permitted to sell its teletype (TWX) service to Western Union.FCC approves the Domestic Satellite Order (which was nine years in the making).

1970 - Bell Telephone Labs release design information to Western Electric for the production of Modular Telephone Cords and Jacks.

1970 - Corning Glass demonstrate highly transparent fibers, and Bell Laboratories demonstrates semiconductor lasers that could operate at room temperature; these demonstrations help establish the feasibility of fiber-optic communications. *[Note 3]

1971 - The NAS Report recommended that an equipment certification program could be established to prevent harm to the network caused by hazardous voltages, excessive signal power, improper network control signaling and line imbalance. FCC establishes the PBX and Dialer and Answering Devices Committees to recommend certification standards based on the NAS Report. Satellite decision (nine There was also the Computer I Decision. (Western Union wanted to make use of excess CO computer capacity to do data processing. This decision led to procedures to assure no cross-subsidization between regulated and unregulated activities.) Gary Starkweather, Xerox, patents first laser printer. A couple of years later HP and Canon jointly introduce the first commercial laser printers. FCC establishes the PBX Advisory Committee and the Dialer and Answering Devices Committee and were terminated on the approval of Part 68. The PBX Committee's report was turned over to EIA where it eventually as a voluntary standard, 470. The Dialer and Answering Devices meetings were so contentious that no report was published. The Specialized Common Carrier Decision allowed MCI to get its private line service started over its St. Louis - Chicago route.

1971 - The Intelsat IV communications satellite goes into commercial operation. Initially it has 830 circuits in service and linked ground stations in 15 countries. The DUV (Data Under Voice) is introduced. It permits signals to "hitch-hike" on existing microwave radio systems by using the lower end of the frequency band not normally used for voice. Ray Tomlinson writes the first email program. The @ sign is used for the first time in an email address. *[Note 3]

1972 - IEEE Communications Society is established on 1 January.  Jon Postel writes the specifications for Telnet. IEEE Proceedings publishes its first issue on computer communications. Guest Editors are Paul Green and Robert Lucky. A demonstration of the ARPANET at the 1972 IEEE International Conference on Computer Communications. *[Note 3]

1973 - Docket 19419 on Pricing of Datasets opened up the necessary technical background for Docket 19528 which led to the development of Part 68. This docket also established a Federal-State Joint Board. A two-week cross-examination of Larry Hohmann, AT&T's Director of Engineering by FCC attorney Michael Slomin provides much of the technical information that led to Part 68 of the FCC's Rules.The Joint Board's recommendations were adopted in part. A companion docket covered standardization of physical connectors needed for the interconnection program proceeded in parallel. In Docket 19808, the famous Telerent Decision, the Commission permitted states to have their own interconnection programs so long as they were no more stringent than the Federal program. This decision was appealed twice to the 4th Circuit Court then went all the way to the Supreme Court for final approval. (As a result telcos when they want to initiate a special intrastate service must file a tariff for the service and a "network disclosure" document that clearly identifies service and equipment requirements.) Docket 20003 was an economic study prepared by the Commission for Congress to show estimated economic effects of permitting private ownership of telephone terminal equipment an permitting competition in interstate telecommunications. The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is introduced making it easier to transfer data information. Harvard grants a PhD to Bob Metcalf . His thesis describes Ethernet.

1973 - Bell Telephone Labs released design information to Western Electric for production of the Com-Key 416, the first KTU-less key system which was less susceptible to damage caused by lightning storms.

1973 - Robert Metcalfe invents Ethernet at Xerox PARC. Ethernet uses a cable rather than a radio channel as the transmission medium. The "Touch-a-matic" telephone is introduced. It can automatically dial a call anywhere in the U.S. at the touch of a single button. Its solid-state memory allows dialing up to 32 pre-coded telephone numbers. Construction of a new, high-capacity coaxial cable system, called L5, is completed between Pittsburgh and St. Louis. It has the capacity of carrying 108,000 simultaneous telephone conversations, three times the capacity of any previous system. File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is introduced. *[Note 3]

1974 - First domestic satellites in operation. AT&T introduces the digital subsriber loop. BBN opens the first public packet-switched network. Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn discuss connecting networks together to form an "internet". They collaborate in creating aTransmission Control Protocol (TCP). The Department of Justice files its antitrust suit against AT&T. The Consent Decree, resulting therefrom, required AT&T to divest itself of the 24 Bell Operating Companies by 1984. Value-added (packet-switched networks) come on the scene.

1974 - Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn publish "A Protocol for Packet Network Interconnection", in IEEE Communications Magazine, which outlines design of a Transmission Control Program (TCP). The term "Internet" is used for the first time. Western Union launches Westar, the nation's first domestic communications satellite. New York Telephone inaugurated Dial-A-Joke, an addition to the recorded announcement field. During the first month of operation, more than 100,000 calls a day are made to the number. *[Note 3]

1975 - Summary: There are now 1618 telcos and 140 million phones in the U.S. Bell companies supply 85% of the lines; GTE: 10%. Smallest telco had 19 subscribers. About this time the last manual telco switchboard in Maine is retired.

Notes on GTE: Started in 1918 in Wisconsin by two men who bought the Richland Center Telephone Co. On vacation in California, they discovered a telco for sale for $1 million. Its purchase was financed by Paine Webber. By 1945, they owned 22 telcos in 19 states. In 1955, they merged with Gary Telephone which owned Automatic Electric (founded by Amon Strowger). In 1957, they picked up telco properties in Florida and in 1959, Lenkurt, a manufacturer of microwave equipment.

1975 - Bell Telephone Laboratories released production design information to Western Electric for electronic key systems.



1975 continued -. The First Report and Order in Docket 19528 led to Part 68 of FCC rules. A court stay was lifted on June 16, 1976 to permit the registration program to go into effect for toll restrictors, answering machines and data modems. Popular Electronics features the MITS Altair 8800 computer which is considered the first personal computer. Fiber optics being trialed in the U.S. and Europe. FCC's Docket 20099 meetings from 1974 through 1983 establishes carrier-to-carrier interconnection standards. After the breakup of the Bell System, this activity was taken over by the Exchange Carriers Standards Association, later known as the Alliance for Telecommmunications Industry Solutions (ATIS). Docket 20774 establishes standard plugs and jacks for the registration program.

1975 - Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN) opens Telenet, the first public packet data service. Viking is launched. Lands on Mars in 1976 and sends back data to Earth. Transmission testing begins on the T4M, highest-capacity, short-haul digital transmission system in the U.S. The new system, linking Newark, NJ to New York City, transmits 274 million "bits" of information per second over a single coaxial tube. *[Note 3]

1976 - Digital radio and time division switching introduced. Alan Shugart, IBM, introduced the 5.25-in floppy in 1976. (Much later, in 1987, SONY introduced the 3.5" floppy). Floppies were first introduced with IBM's PCs when they first came on the market in 1981. The telephone companies support "The Consumers Communications Reform Act of 1976" H.R. 12323, which was endorsed by more than 90 members of the House. This proposed legislation would have retained the telephone companies' monopoly. The FCC counters with its Docket 20003, Economic Implications and Interrelationships Arising from Policies and Practices Relating to Cusotmer Interconnection, Jurisdictional Separations and Rate Structures .Resale and sharing of carrier services permitted. Other Common Carriers (OCCs) now have access to telco Foreign Exchange (FX) and Common Control Switching Arrangement (CCSA) private network facilities.

1976 - Centennial of the Telephone. IEEE establishes the Alexander Graham Bell Medal to commemorate of the centennial of the telephone's invention and to provide recognition for outstanding contributions in telecommunications. Amos Joel, William Keister and Raymond Ketchledge are the first recipients. COMSTAR is launched and begins commercial service. It is in permanent orbit over the Galapagos Islands. *[Note 3]

1977 - The Second Report and Order in Docket 19528 survived challenge in the Court of Appeals 4th Circuit. This item provided rules for telephones, key systems and PBXs. The order was challenged again all the way to the Supreme Court, which permitted the registration program to begin on October 17, 1977. The FCC completed program implementation rules by July 1, 1978 in the Third Report and Order. Registration of phones, KTSs and PBXs begin. MCI wins a court challenge to its Execunet Service which permitted the public to make use of its long distance facilities.

1977 - Voyager spacecraft is launched. Sends back signals from Jupiter (1979-1980), Saturn (1981), Uranus (1986) and Neptune (1989).  Bell Laboratories announces the development of the MAC-8, a microprocessor suited for a wide range of telecommunications applications. *[Note 3]

1978 - Commission rejects telephone companies' request for the Primary Instrument Concept in which all subscribers would be required to have at least one phone provided by the telephone company.

1978 - TAT-1, the world's first transoceanic telephone cable was retired (November 27). TCP split into TCP and IP. *[Note 3]

1979 - The Fourth Report and Order established rules regarding equipment-to-equipment connections. Docket 79-143 established rules for analog OPS and tie line equipment. GTE requests FCC to convene a special task group to develop recommendations for inclusion of T-1 services into Part 68. Dan Brinklin, while still in college, introduces the Visicalc spreadsheet which becomes a spectacular success. Docket 79-105 requires telcos to stop capitalizing premises wiring and the states set up amortization schedules for the eventual transfer of premises wiring ownership to the premises owners.

1979 - A 62,000-mile microwave telecommunications system is completed within Saudi Arabia. *[Note 3]

1980 - AT&T introduces the DataSpeed 40, a forerunner of the current generation "smart terminals" having the capability of doing various forms of data processing rather than serving solely as input terminal to a computer. This led to the Computer II Decision which came up with a binary test: Was the device for "basic" service; or was it for "enhanced" service? Enhanced services had three subdivisions: Protocol conversion, data processing, and information retrieval. All of this led to the Computer III Decision and the Open Network Architecture concept in 1989. Digital local offices and optical fiber transmission being deployed. Switching System #7 is being gradually deployed.

1980 - First use of the "900" number. *[Note 3]

1981 - Docket 81-216, the "Omnibus Docket" was so called because it contained about two dozen items, including make-busy, digital systems, more on premises wiring, party lines, reducing dc on-hook resistance requirements and many more. It took several years to clear all of these items. Hayes introduces its landmark 300-bps modem. IBM introduces its PC in August 1981.

1981 - Bell Telephone Labs design of a network-embedded database of Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) for calling card customers to be accessed by public telephones over Signaling System 7. (Today, improved architectures of this kind underlie all Intelligent Network services.)

1981 - First cellular mobile telephone service is offered, in Saudi Arabia and Scandinavia. A new telephone service, DIAL-IT® allowed a caller to listen to the voice communications between the Space Shuttle Columbia and the ground command center. *[Note 3]

1982 - (January 8) - Antitrust suit dropped after AT&T accepts government's proposal.

1982 - The first full-color two-way video teleconferencing service is offered. The development of TFM (Time Frequency Multiplexing). *[Note 3]

1983 - In the CBEMA Decision, an outgrowth of the Computer II Decision, the Commission requires telcos to publish a "Network Disclosure" statement providing information of interconnection and operability requirements for new services. Carolyn Doughty, Bell Telephone Laboratories, files a patent on Caller ID.

1983 - The Cleaved Coupled-Cavity (C3) laser was introduced. The single frequency tunable laser emitted a light so pure that over a billion bits of information per second could be sent through a glass fiber. (April). The first commercial cellular phone system is introduced in Chicago. (October 13). *[Note 3]


BREAKUP OF AT&T (actually started in January of 1982)

1984 - Court orders divestiture of AT&T based on Department of Justice suit. Fred Henck, publisher of Telecommunications Reports and Bernie Strassburg, retired Chief of the Common Carrier Bureau, in their book covering the divestiture of AT&T estimated that legal fees and settlements cost AT&T more than $5 billion. (A Slippery Slope - The Long Road to the Breakup of AT&T). Another great book on this subject is "The Rape of Ma Bell".

FCC decisions released relative to turning over previously installed premises wiring to premises owners; Congressionally mandated hearing aid-compatibility requirements for "essential" phones. FCC permits registration of privately owned "instrument operated" coin phones.

1984 - IEEE Centennial. Breakup of AT&T. (January 1). Local area signaling service is introduced. The service is used to trace nuisance calls, transfer calls, and provide other advanced calling services. (May 20). AT&T and NASA space shuttle Discover launch its second Telstar 3 satellite. September 1 - Domain Name Service (DNS) is introduced. DNS is used mostly to translate between domain names and IP addresses, and to control Internet email delivery. *[Note 3]

1985 - FCC decisions related to registration of CPE for T-1 and subrate digital services

1985 - AT&T Bell Laboratories combine 10 laser beams on a single optical fiber demonstrating the capability of lightwave systems to carry 20 billion bits per second (equal to 300,000 telephone calls.) is assigned on March 15 to become the first registered domain. *[Note 3]

1986 - FCC decision to phase out line-powered channel service units. The National Science Foundation introduces its 56kbps backbone network.

1986 - TAT-3 transatlantic cable is retired (Sept. 1)  An Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) is deployed, capable of handling voice, data and video. (December 16). *[Note 3]

1987 - Ameritech files for registration of switched 56 Kbps digital service CPE. This was integrated with the SW Bell petition to include ISDN in the rules in October of 1991. (It took until 1991 for EIA to develop technical standards for this service.) Bellcore introduces the Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) concept which has the potential of multimedia transmission over the nation's copper loops. SONY introduces the 3.5-in floppy. Philip Estridge, IBM, developed the first hard drive for PCs. It held 10MB. N.J. Bell is the first to implement Caller ID.

1987 - Superconductivity is discovered - the transmission of electricity without resistance through low temperature material.
TDD (telecommunications device for the deaf) is initiated. *[Note 3]

1988 - Congress passes the Telecom Trade Act of 1988 in response to alleged dumping of telecom systems in the U.S. by foreign manufacturers. One aspect was the requirement of all imported telecom equipment to comply with all applicable FCC requirements. Enforcement is by U.S. Customs.

1988 - FCC issues Docket 88-57, based on an EIA petition for clarification of previous premises wiring policies. (An order was released in 1990 which elicited about ten petitions for reconsideration. The final order was released in June 1997 clearing many outstanding issues.)

1989 - Congressional decision requiring all new customer-owned phones to be hearing aid compatible. The Computer III Decision leading to the Open Network Architecture concept was to allow unbundled access to all enhanced service providers, everyone receives equal quality and pricing, standard accounting guidelines and to have the BOCs determine what services are needed and how to tariff these services. (There were 118 different services proposed; about half of them could be offered and about 20% of the proposed would have to wait for new technology.) NSF ups its backbone network from 56kbps to T-1.

1990 - AT&T filed a petition to strengthen DID rules for prevention of toll fraud. EIA filed a petition to require digital security coding for cordless phones to prevent random dialing that interfered with 911 operations. Docket 90-313 requiring hotels/motels and coin phones to provide equal access to competing long distance carriers was resolved in 1992.

1991 - Docket 91-281 establishing nationwide caller ID went into effect in late 1995. There are a number of related of related issues yet to be resolved. The Telephone Consumers Protection Act, among other things, required the use of "fax branding" to identify the source of incoming faxes. There were a couple of court cases which delayed application of fax branding to PC fax cards until 1995. Southwestern Bell files to include ISDN in Part 68. The final rules for ISDN went into effect on November 13, 1996. (Canada had essentially the same rules in place for the preceding five years.) Note that AT&T started development of ISDN about the same time that Part 68 was introduced.



1992 - The World Wide Web is born - the brain child of CERN physicist Tim Berners-Lee. Congress required all agencies to metricize their rules. A major impact was on Part 68 plug and jack drawings. We wish to thank a special TIA task group under George Lawrence that managed this job expertly and professionally. The first audio and video multicasts are broadcast over the Internet.

1993 - Telecom Relay Service (TRS) available for the disabled. The NSF network backbone jumps from T-1 to T-3. The Internet browser MOSAIC is introduced at the University of Illinois.

1994 - TRS becomes the fastest growing telecom service in the U.S. The Commission requested comments on technology for location of any station behind a PBX that made an E911 call. There were over 120 responses. The Netscape Internet browser is introduced. Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. sign the NAFTA agreement. NSF is working to build a very high-speed backbone called VBNS. Internet is pretty much world-wide with the exception of most of the African interior, Pakistan, Mongolia, Cuba and some areas in South America and Southeast Asia. Real Audio introduced to Internet which allows one to hear in near real time. Radio HK, the first 24-hr Internet only radio station, starts broadcasting.

1996 - TIA files to harmonize Part 68 with Canada's CS-03 after working five years with Canada's TAPAC group They did their homework well, getting industry concurrence before filing. Canada approved its version on August 14, 1996. Because of the impact of Congress' revision of the Telecommunications Act, the FCC was swamped with 80 new rulemakings to be completed by August of 1996, and so approval of the harmonized Part 68/CS-03 was delayed. It was approved on July 30, 1997.. The Commission instituted a "negotiated rulemaking" procedure for requiring phones in the workplace to be hearing aid compatible. As a result, approval took slightly more than a year and was announced in the Federal Register on August 14, 1996. And, it was announced that the industry will form a new group (Lockheed) to administer the new North American numbering plan. A waiver process was adopted that allows manufacturers to register stutter dialtone devices. Currently, there are almost 1400 telcos still in business. In 1996, Digital Equipment Corporation introduced its line of Alpha microprocessors using 64-bit RISC architecture and operating up to 533 Mbps.



February 1996 - Congress passed the 1996 Telecommunications Act which requires FCC to develop 80 new rulemakings within a six-month period leading to increased competition is all aspects of telecommunications. "Central-office implemented coin phones" are now required to be registered as a result of opening this market to competition.

In early 1996 ANSI approved an ADSL standard for the Discrete Multitone (DMT) version. Another competing concept called Carrierless Amplitude and Phase Modulation (CAP) is currently in the running. The ADSL concept spawned an exposion of related concepts that permit transmission over copper up to close to 100Mbps. New copper fabrication techniques have opened the avenue of very high speed data (multimedia) transmission in excess of 100 Mbps over useful ranges for premises wiring.

September 1996 - Rockwell announced a 56 kbps modem chip set designed for Internet applications. 56K download (PCM); 33.6 upload (analog). Technical committees start development of standards for this new technology. Ccntroversy erupts over the fact the modulation technology limits the theoretical speed to about 53K because of Part 68's signal power limitation requirements to prevent crosstalk to third parties. Actually, because of line impairments the fastest practical speed is around 42 to 44K.

November 1996. FCC network protection standards for Switched 56 and ISDN go into effect. USTA Annual Report says there are 170 million copper access loops in service nationwide, increasing at the rate of 5 million annually. Internet 2 is proposed to connect university computers together by means of one gigabyte pipes using SONET and ATM networks.

1997 - February 25, 1997 - Lucent announced development of wireless loops with 128K ISDN capability. Rockwell receives FCC registration for its 56K PCM modem to be used by Internet service providers.

June 12, 1997 - The U.S and the E.U. reach agreement on mutual recognition of product testing and approval requirements covering everything from lawnmowers, pharmaceuticals, recreational craft to telecom equipment.

June 17, 1997 - FCC issues NPRM for BICSI petition to require the use of twisted-pair premises wiring to prevent crosstalk. Many issues outanding from the premises wiring docket 88-57 finally resolved. Micosoft buys WebTV that claims to have 85,000 subscribers. Canada releases draft of its proposed ADSL terminal equipment standards covering DMT and CAP/QAM technologies.

July 30, 1997, the Commission approves the harmonization of Part 68 and Canada's CS-03 network protection standards to be effective April 20, 1998.

January 1998, Rockwell, Nortel, Paradyne and others announce an ADSL-lite program called Consumer ADSL or CDSL which will download at about 1Mbps based on CAP technology. In contrast the T1E1 and international standards seem to be heading for DMT technology with download speeds around 6 to 8 Mbps.  Other competing modes include Rate Adaptive DSL and another called Multiple Virtual Line (MVL) which can offer up to eight virtual phone lines sharing 768 kbps in one or both directions up to 24 kilofeet and working over in-home wiring.

February 1998 - V.90 56K standard was approved ending months of difficult negotiations and modem wars. Most of the older 56K modems can be upgraded by software downloading to work with the new standard.


Bill's 200-Year Condensed History of Telecommunications - This file originated on the FCC web site but has since disappeared and reappeared on various sites including

William von Alven,
Manager, FCC Part 68 Operations
May 1998

"First, a few notes on the 14th Part 68 Training Seminar held in Albuquerque on February 18 - 20 , 1998. These seminars, always well-attended, are very important for assuring "experience retention". Human beings are very ephemeral. When they retire, change jobs, or otherwise disappear, their experience goes with them. These seminars have been and will be an excellent means for assuring continuity of information necessary to keep our multi-supplier telecommunications system working.

The first seminar was sponsored by EIA in 1979 and was held at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. The FCC's Part 68 Measurement Guide, developed by FCC engineer, Ed Lang, was the centerpiece of the meeting. About 450 people attended and the price was $35.00, including luncheon. Since then George Washington University sponsored five seminars at various locations over the country, and EIA/TIA sponsored the remainder at two-year intervals.

After the Phoenix seminar in 1990, a number of attendees asked me for a copy of my presentation in which I covered a list of events that led to the development of Part 68. I hadn't written my talk; however, it was published in the February 1990 issue of the Billboard. I am reprinting it here with some updates."

*Other sources: [Note #]




  4. An anonymous visitor to my website contributed these timeline dates/events.  I have not had time to verify the dates or events that he sent.

  5. From year 1994 FOCUS magazine (published by AT&T for its employees.)


1889 Gray (USA) Installation of first payphone for coins in bank in Hartford at Connecticut (USA) by patented idea of  William Gray. *[Note 4]

1890 Introduction to receiver ring-shaped magnet. *[Note 4]

1890 White (USA) Invention of carbon contact microphone with carbon powder between two electrodes, where one is movable. *[Note 4]

1891 First "under sea" cable between France and Great Britain. *[Note 4]

1893 Heaviside and Thompson (USA) Idea of artificially increase induction to counteract bad results of capacity. *[Note 4]

1895 Introduction of signalization lamps instead of floppies. *[Note 4]

1895 Installation payphones in town hall in Milwaukee. *[Note 4]

1896 Keith and Erickson (USA) Invention of rotary-dial device. *[Note 4]

1896 Introduction to phone, inductor (generator of signalization currents). *[Note 4]

1899 Pupin and also Campbell (USA) Invention of pupinization. *[Note 4]

1900 First telephone derivative paths (by Carter's idea 1886). *[Note 4]

1902 Krarup (Denmark) Invention of krarupization. *[Note 4]

1906 Molina from American Telephone and Telegraph Company (USA) invention of registry. *[Note 4]

1912 Palmgren and Betulander (Sweden) Invention of marker. *[Note 4]

1913 Roberts and Reynolds (USA)Invention of multiswitch (crossbar) by idea of Roberts 1901. *[Note 4]

1913 Pupinization of air lines (range to 3000 km) USA. *[Note 4]

1913 Pupinization of telephone wire from Washington - New York - Boston (650 km). *[Note 4]

1914 First launch of telephone exchange with automatic switch  indirectly controlled (rotary system Great Britain). *[Note 4]

1915 First launch of telephone exchange with automatic switch  indirectly controlled (Panel system, USA). *[Note 4]

1919 Palmgren and Betulander (Sweden)Improvement of crossbar. *[Note 4]

1923 Antoine Barnay (France)First rotary dial telephone was developed. *[Note 4]

1924 Bell Telephone Company (USA)The mobile telephone was invented and introduced into New York City police cars. *[Note 4]

1926 First crossbar switch indirectly controlled (Sweden). *[Note 4]

1938 ErwinInvention of automatic switch "walk round" system. *[Note 4]

1938 Application of multiswitches with electric motor drive. *[Note 4]

1941 Introduction of touch-tone system. *[Note 4]

1943 First interstate automatic telephone exchange in Philadelphia (USA). *[Note 4]

1946 First commercial mobile telephone service became available in St. Louis, Missouri (USA). *[Note 4]

1881: First long-distance line, between Boston and Providence, R.I. *[Note 5]
1908: AT&T President Theodore Vail sets a goal of Universal Service: providing high-quality telephone service to any American who wants it. *[Note 5]
1915: AT&T engineers transmit speech across the Atlantic Ocean by wireless radio. *[Note 5]
1917: Bell System engineers demonstrate oneway radiotelephone transmission from airplane to ground. *[Note 5]
1919: AT&T introduces dial telephones. *[Note 5]
1923: AT&T longdistance lines connect stations in the first network-radio broadcast. *[Note 5]
1925: The Research and Engineering Departments of AT&T and the Western Electric Company are incorporated as ell Telephone Laboratories. *[Note 5]
1927: Wireless telephone service between New York and London. *[Note 5]
1927: Don Juan, the first fulllength movie with sound uses AT&T equipment and the next year, Warner Bros. produces The Jazz Singer with AT&T equipment. *[Note 5]
1947: Bell Labs scientists Shockley, Bardeen and Brattain invent the transistor. *[Note 5]
1950: The first microwave relay system opens between New York and Chicago. *[Note 5]
1951: Directdistance dialing begins, enabling customers to call long distance without operator assistance. *[Note 5]
1954: Growing out of attempts to make a silicon transistor, the Solar Battery is developed by Bell Labs. *[Note 5]
1958: Bell Labs scientists Shawlow and Townes conceive basic principles of the laser. *[Note 5]
1964: Touch-Tone telephones introduced. *[Note 5]
1964: Picturephone attracts crowds at the New York World's Fair. *[Note 5]
1965: "Improved Mobile Telephone Service" directly connects car phones to the rest of AT&T's network. *[Note 5]
1967: Toll-free 800 service debuts. *[Note 5]
1968: AT&T establishes "911" as the nationwide emergency telephone number. *[Note 5]
1970: The FCC sets aside frequencies for mobile communications and AT&T proposes building the first high capacity cellulartelephone system, choosing Chicago as the test city. *[Note 5]
1977: AT&T designs and operates the world's first commercial fiber-optic system. *[Note 5]
1981: First cellular license. FCC authorizes AT&T's "Advanced Mobile Phone Service," a decade after AT&T's initial application. *[Note 5]
1982: AT&T agrees to divest all wholly owned Bell operating companies' exchange operations and two years later formal divestiture ends the Bell System. *[Note 5]
1987: Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) introduced, first method for implementing Information Superhighway. *[Note 5]
1992: AT&T becomes the first company ever to earn two Malcolm Baldrige Quality Awards -both in the same year! *[Note 5]
1993: AT&T replaces Exxon as the most valuable company in the world, based on market value of outstanding stock. *[Note 5]
1994: AT&T and McCaw merger completed. *[Note 5]