“The Next Communication Revolution” circa 1996

Way back in the Dark Ages (1996) I wrote about the path I thought video conferencing needed to go to become ubiquitous: Videoconferencing technology needed to be “easy-to-use”….by anyone. This is 2015, err 2021, has my vision come true?  

You can download the whole, very short, article here (the next revolution) but, I will re-type it below so Google sees it (hey, it’s all about the views, the views….haha).

It is helpful to understand that Skype, Facetime, and like video communication apps evolved from “desktop videoconferencing”.  

I reserve the right to edit it a bit (not to change the content) since I am a so much better writer now. 😉


The Next Communication Revolution?

by Mike Pihlman, August 1996

Throughout history there have been fundamental developments that have changed the way we communicate:  Language, writing, the printing press, and the telephone are four examples.

As the need to communicate over distances increased the richness of face-to-face communication decreased while the complexity required to communicate increased.

When we are face-to-face, we communicate interactively with ALL our senses (see, hear & touch) and we can exchange information easily (Here, look at this…).

Today’s technology provides us with the means to communicate very effectively over great distances, but, several key features of face-to-face communication are lacking:

  • A telephone call is highly interactive buts lacks visual cues and the ability to easily exchange information.
  •  The Internet is not real-time and does not provide adequate visual and audio information…..yet.  (Editor: I bundled email and other Internet-like applications under this one heading.  Also, make note of the word…..yet)
  • The fax provides information exchange, but, only on paper or in a file.

Desktop videoconferencing combines many of these capabilities into one package but it is still–for the average person–difficult to install and use.

The next revolution in communication will come when anyone, regardless of technical capability, can install and use a device that provides natural face-to-face communication capabilities at a distance.  The technology becomes invisible to the user.  

But building this kind of system may require a whole new way of thinking.

Almost all of the products on the market today use the computer as their platform.  But the computer, as we know it, can be a very difficult tool to use and maintain.  If we continue adding complexity to the user’s devices we will only limit the number of people who want to use it, or are capable of using it.

If we want to provide face-to-face communication capability at a distance, how do we do it?  Do we continue to develop it around current computer technology?  Do we build new devices?  Do we integrate our communication into the TV?  Do we relocate the complexity to a central location?  Does the $500 network computer fill the bill?

However we do it…..we need to keep one thing in mind above all others:

Can this new communication device be easily used by ANYONE?  If not…..then we are missing the point.  



I will dig up more article on the history of desktop videoconferencing and post them periodically here.

STEM / STEAM Special Note:

To those of you who use this technology (video chat, video conferencing, etc) on your cell phones, at work, at Starbucks, or at home, remember that it took years of development and technical innovation (not to mention cultural change) by thousands of people in this industry to make it easy for you, in 2015 or now 2020, errr, 2021, to communicate easily visually.  To them I say: Thank You!  


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