Add a note hereIt’s hard to view the Internet as having been in an experimental stage. Technologically, what’s now known as the Internet is a collection of myriad techniques from other communications methods and networks. Some might contend Internet experimentation started in the 1970s and continued into the 1980s. Initially the Internet was a US Department of Defense (DOD) research project aimed at developing survivable networks. Over time, participation in the research was expanded to include academic and private research institutions. By the mid-1990s, the DOD had its survivable network. Responsibility for various administrative and technical functions previously held by the military was turned over to non-government entities.

Add a note hereHistorically, and by example, telegrams—maybe even smoke signals or pounding on drums to send and receive coded messages—could be considered ‘‘data’’ communications. Telex service remains in use in some parts of the world. It had a counterpart in the United States called TWX. Telex service is an international service, whereas TWX is or was restricted to domestic US locations. Both services are enabled with a teletype, a machine created by combining telegraph key and typewriter technology. Telegrams are a service offering used when a teletype machine is used to create, transmit, and print a message for a third party. Telegrams ceased to be used in the early 1990s.

Add a note hereTelegrams, Telex, and TWX effectively died out in the 1990s. AT&T is said to have transmitted its last telegram in 1991. So the cannibalization of the telegraph by the telephone took almost a century.

Add a note hereIt’s almost too complicated to go into, but along the way, AT&T and the RBOCs had, and continue to have, great challenges with anything outside telephone or voice services. The combined entities had deep and credible resources and capabilities without equal, except perhaps IBM. However, getting these resources to market was impossible because restrictions on AT&T equipment manufacture prohibited sale of their products to any other than the former BOCs. One result of divestiture and deregulation freed AT&T to sell computer equipment in competition with IBM and others. But coincidentally with the historic event in the telecom industry, Intel and Microsoft blindsided and blew away the dreams of the white-coat, MIS department mainframe computer industry, and those who would see AT&T as a possible competitor to IBM.

Add a note hereSetting all the issues of selling computer or computer-like equipment aside, the former AT&T and new entities had been and would continue to be dominant in a small and growing market for what started out as computer communications or data services. After all, AT&T long lines were first to install digital transmission and switching equipment in their network. Earlier FCC decisions had clearly and cleanly marked a dividing line between equipment and services. On the communications side a piece of equipment specifically defined as a customer services unit (CSU) faced another piece of equipment called a data services unit (DSU). The CSU was part of the computer system. The telephone company installed the DSU and included an amount in the monthly service charge. These functions are now built into equipment the customer buys and the telephone company installs at the customer’s location or nearby equipment cabinet.

Add a note hereData communications has become a matter of buying compatible equipment and services. In a few short years, the Internet has taken hold across business and consumer or residential services like nothing in the past. Along with that change has come tough times for investors and employees, and opportunities for users to avail themselves of new capabilities. Now, and for the foreseeable future it’s ‘‘voice, data, and video.’’

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