Few inventions have changed the course of human history as radically and completely as the telephone system. No human creation since the printing press changed so much, so quickly. This was probably more true for businesses than anyone else, in fact. Electric voice communications fundamentally altered business on numerous levels.
Then, with subsequent leaps in telecommunications technology, business has always been among the earliest adopters and investors. From the telephone, to the cellular phone to VoIP, business has driven the development of the telephone because expanded communications mean expanded business.
Throughout most of the Age of Sail, paper letters were the mass communication system, and they were only as fast as the beast or machine harnessed to transport them. Europe and America were roughly three months apart, and it could take at least that long to travel across the continent itself.
News was slow to travel, and even as the railroads were established, there was no such thing as “instant” communication. Telegraphs helped, but they of course required trained Morse Code operators and had significant space and content restrictions, not unlike early cellular texting. It was crude and begging for a better solution.
With the rise of industrialization and the “speeding up” of the economy it caused, we needed better business communications. We got it in the form of the telephone, and what came after.
The Three Key Developments In Affordable Business Phone Systems That Changed Business Forever
I. The Telephone Exchange
Note, we're not talking about the telephone itself. The general impact of the telephone upon society has attracted speculation from people ranging everywhere between neurologists to philosophers to computer engineers. The telephone exchange is what truly changed business, initially.
The way early telephone system switchboards worked was entirely by hand. Automated exchange systems wouldn't be invented until the 1960s, so for over 75 years, there was a room full of people, virtually always women, manually routing the calls. Since this needed space, large businesses were able to support switchboards that covered their entire company.
This sped up intra-business communications drastically. Businesses had always been using cobbled-together systems (from strings-with-bells to pneumatic mail tubes) to ease communication within a large building. Now, wires could ensure every employee who needed to talk to someone, could.
Telephony had caught up with Industry.
II. GSM\Cellular Networks
While there were plenty of small evolutionary steps in the growth of the telephone system, and the changes accelerated once automated exchanges became common, the first true game-changer in telephony came with the creation of cellular phones.
Just as businesses had benefited initially from being able to speed intra-office communications, cellular technologies meant taking office work outside. Workers could be contacted in the field virtually anywhere, although price limitations kept cell phones from being an all-purpose solution.
As the cell network expanded to cover America, and then the globe, it became clear that business communications were growing beyond the limits of physical wiring.
VoIP telephone systems were the next logical step. As more work needed to be done out of the office, new solutions were needed to keep those workers in touch. In retrospect, it seems totally natural that business communications would jump onto the Internet as soon as they could.
Today, you can take your business anywhere in the world, or even go office-less, with VoIP communications. Anywhere the Internet touches can be part of your business, and your workers can be as productive in Mumbai as they can in Mumford.
From the birth of the telephone in the late 19th century, electric communications have been harnessed by business leaders the entire way to make yourselves faster, more agile, and better able to keep track of your workers in the 21st century.
We've come a long way from the days that governments and corporations would fling wooden ships onto the seas. But whether you think that changes your life is really up to you!