Imagine a world without global unified communications, before it was possible to call, text, or videochat anyone you’d like to from that small portable computer you carry with you everywhere. This globe of ours would be a pretty stagnant place for businesses too, which take for granted the ability to pick up the phone and hold a conference call and can now use the power of IP communications to stay connected digitally with employees, partners and customers alike across a multitude of channels.
That’s why we celebrate National Telephone Day on April 25. The holiday commemorates that fateful day in 1876 when Alexander Graham Bell introduced the first version of a telephone (which he dubbed the “electric speech machine”) and changed the world forever. With the famous first words spoken over a phone line, to his assistant Thomas A. Watson—“Mr. Watson…come here…I want to see you”—we were off to the races in terms of instant communication.
Since 1876, the telephone has given rise to a slew of innovations, including unified communications. What a journey it’s been. Some of us remember when actual human switchboard operators put calls through and phone numbers consisted of prefixes that were actually words.
Many of us can still remember when phones were rotary affairs that plugged into a wall jack at home and there were only a few in the house. There was one in the kitchen, one in the living room, and maybe one in the bedrooms—though this last development came much later. Teenagers for decades had to endure their parents listening to everything they were talking about.
In offices, “desk sets” sat monolithically on each desk, tied to an extension number and a physical location. It was usually someone’s job description to be responsible for “moves, adds, and changes,” as employees came and went and got new office digs. Hold buttons, intercoms, transfer capability, and the like seemed internecine. If you weren’t at your desk, you couldn’t do your job.
There was the breakup of Ma Bell and the rise of competitive telecom after 1984, followed by the development of the World Wide Web and the innovation of VoIP. Now, smartphones, SIP trunks, cloud services, and full unified communications have become the underpinning of the modern, streamlined, borderless business, where employees are liberated from those desksets for good.
It’s astonishing that one man’s invention has led to all of this. So celebrate National Telephone Day. If it weren’t for Mr. Bell, Star2Star wouldn’t be delivering IP-based productivity to support the unique business goals of businesses of all sizes, and companies everywhere wouldn’t be bringing as much as they do to the economy and to their communities. And maybe pick up the phone and call your mom, dad, kids, siblings or an old friend—just because you can.