70 Years of Connectivity
This year, CTTC is celebrating its 70th year in business. That’s 70 years of providing connectivity to the rural communities of central Texas. Things looked pretty different back in 1951. The world mainly communicated via hardwired telephones and the postal system and we were decades away from the introduction to the internet. But as technology changed, the world evolved and so have we. So as we celebrate our 70th year in business, we’re taking you on a nostalgia trip as we recall some of the technology we encountered through our many years of serving central Texas.
The invention of the rotary telephone precedes all of us, as it dates back as early as 1891. Before the invention of the rotary phone, callers picked up the receiver, cranked a handle, and were then connected to an operator who would patch them through to the person they were trying to reach. This lengthy process made many people realize that there was a need to cut out the middleman and allow callers to input the numbers themselves. While many inventors filed patents for phones that achieved this goal, one stood out as practical and affordable to manufacture–the rotary phone. The design of this technology included numbers positioned in a circle beneath a metal disc or dial. To make a call, the caller had to pick up the receiver and rotate the dial for each digit in the phone number–therefore “dialing a number”.
The Rotary Telephone had quite the run. It wasn’t until the 1970’s when the push-button tone dial phone was introduced. By the 1980’s, many households had upgraded and rotary phones were phased out.
The dial-up modem was a wonderful piece of technology that allowed us to get online after the birth of the world wide web in 1994. What started in the 1950s as a method of providing connectivity for the SAGE air-defense system became a mass-produced piece of technology for households worldwide. To get online, the device required an open phone line as it used public telephone networks to connect to servers and other computers. The process involved an exchange of data that created a strange and noisy side effect, known among technicians as “the handshake”. If you received a phone call while connected to the internet, you were booted off and forced to go through the whole connection process once again.
It was all thanks to America Online (AOL) that the internet experienced exponential growth in 1997. AOL was the downloadable software that allowed people to access the internet and email. It was also the first of its kind in which registered users could communicate in real-time via AOL Instant Messaging. Who could forget the significance of the away message? It was the original Facebook status update long before Facebook existed.
“How was it downloadable if you had no internet access?”, you ask? Enter the floppy disc, followed by the CD; both of which are retired methods of downloading software or files from a physical disc that you inserted into your computer. AOL mailed mass amounts of these discs–unsolicited–to households around the country. You may even recall throwing several in the trash. It was estimated that they spent over $300 million on approximately 1 billion floppy discs and CDs over a multi-year marketing campaign. After a 20 year run, AOL officially shut down in 2017.
The first mobile phones were more like two-way radios that fulfilled the need for faster communication among taxi drivers and emergency services. Rather than relying on base stations with separate cells, these devices utilized a mobile phone network created by one very powerful base station that covered a larger area. Motorola was the first company to produce the first handheld mobile phone in 1973. It weighed approximately 2.5 lbs., allowed for 30 minutes of talk time, and took 10 hours to charge. Its steep price also made it available to only a handful of people.
Between the 70s and the early 90s, the mobile phone went through several renditions; all of which produced a device that had weak battery life and was ultimately inaccessible to the average consumer. In 1997, Nokia released the NOKIA 6110; the first handheld mobile phone aimed at the average consumer. It was the first phone to feature mobile games such as snake, memory, and logic. It also had a calculator, currency converter, and a colored screen (4 colors to be exact).
In 2003, the first smartphone was introduced with the Palm One Treo 600. The phone was the first to feature multi-tasking abilities. Companies like Nokia and Blackberry followed suit and released their versions of the smartphone with full keyboards, cameras, and wi-fi capabilities.
The mobile phone world was forever changed in 2008 with the release of the Apple iPhone. Because of the iPhone, touchscreen interfaces became the new standard. Before long, Google produced its own version of the device with the creation of the Android platform. This ultimately put an end to the other operating systems that had previously been thriving. The competition was refocused on the iPhone and Android.
Since its inception, Netflix has revolutionized the way we watch movies and television shows and its success led to the creation of multiple competing streaming platforms that we use today.
When Netflix originally launched back in April of 1998, it was the world’s first online DVD rental company that carried 1000 titles. Customers logged on to Netflix.com, selected a movie, and had it mailed to their homes for $4 per DVD with an additional $2 for postage. Eventually, the business model changed to a subscription service allowing customers an unlimited number of rentals for a low monthly fee.
In 2007, the internet streaming option was introduced. At the time, it was only available on PCs and Internet Explorer. Users were also limited to 18 hours of free streaming each month depending on their selected subscription plan. Two years later, streaming was made available on smart TVs and Playstations and as their platform was made available to other countries outside the U.S., their title selection continued to grow. By 2016, Netflix was available in 130 countries across the globe.
Today, Netflix is both a streaming service and a production company–continuously building its library of original films and series in an effort to have exclusive content that edges out the competition like Hulu, Amazon, AppleTV, and Disney+. In 2020, the company spent $15 billion on the production of original content and that number is expected to continue to grow.
Modern Day Internet: Fiber
Though fiber internet may seem relatively new, the science of fiber optic cables dates back as far as the mid-1800s when scientists considered using the speed of light to transmit information. Researchers at the Corning Glass Institute continued to push this research forward. Approximately 100 years later, they invented the fiber optic wire. These wires carried 65,000 times more data than traditional copper wires. When the U.S. government happened upon this groundbreaking technology, it became the first big organization to utilize fiber optic cables to provide stronger links between computer networks.
Fiber optics has come a long way since then. With a signal that maintains speed and doesn’t deteriorate over long distances, it’s easy to see why the broadband fiber network is spreading fast. Its symmetrical speeds allow for seemingly instantaneous uploading and downloading, meaning businesses and households using fiber internet can operate several devices simultaneously. This allows families and growing businesses to operate multiple systems and devices without forcing them to sacrifice speed.
The need for broadband fiber internet is growing rapidly and CTTC is working diligently to fulfill that need for rural communities across central Texas. CTTC currently serves 4,600 members over a 4,000 square mile service area and the numbers are going up. In the last 12 months, CTTC installed 461 miles of fiber, providing faster and more reliable internet for our customers.
We’ve witnessed a lot of change since 1951. From landlines and cellular to fiber and broadband service as well, our services are constantly evolving. As technology continues to evolve, we will be right at the cutting edge of it with you; providing our customers with the same great service you have trusted for the past 70 years.
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