1885: The American Telephone and Telegraph Company is formed as a subsidiary of then-parent American Bell Telephone Company with a charter to build and operate the original long distance network. By the end of the year, AT&T completes its first line, between New York and Philadelphia. The initial capacity of the line was one call.
1911: AT&T inaugurates service between New York and Denver, the longest line possible using loading coils. Developed around 1899 by Michael Pupin of Columbia University and George Campbell of AT&T, loading coils reduced the rate at which a traveling telephone signal weakens — making it possible to build longer telephone lines.
1914: The headquarters and operations center of the AT&T Long Lines division opens at 24 Walker Street, New York City, the oldest section of what later became AT&T’s corporate headquarters at 32 Avenue of the Americas. Long Lines, a unit of AT&T and the Bell System, builds and operates the interstate long distance network.
1915: Using the first practical electrical amplifiers, developed by AT&T’s Harold Arnold, AT&T opens the first transcontinental telephone line. The new line connects the network that AT&T had been building out in every direction from New York since 1885 with a separate network that had been constructed by AT&T’s Pacific Telephone subsidiary on the West Coast. In effect, it connects telephones throughout the continental United States. The ceremonial first call on Jan. 25 has four locations: New York City, San Francisco, the White House in Washington, D.C., and Jekyll Island, Ga., where AT&T President Theodore Vail is at the time. Service is available to all telephone customers, but at an initial price of $20.70 for the first three minutes between New York and San Francisco, volume is low.
1921: The AT&T network reaches its first overseas destination when service begins to Cuba via a deep-sea cable between Key West, Fla., and Havana. U.S. President Warren Harding inaugurates service on April 11 with a call to Cuban President Menocal. The capacity of the line is one call. A call between Havana and New York costs $13.65 for the first three minutes; a call between Havana and San Francisco costs $22.35.
1924: AT&T demonstrates long distance telephotography, now known as fax, with the transmission of pictures over telephone wires between Cleveland and New York. Commercial service begins in a handful of cities the following year. For many decades, telephotography had one major use — sending photos of distant events for use by newspapers.
1927: AT&T begins trans-Atlantic telephone service, initially between the United States and London. The conversations cross the Atlantic via radio. The initial capacity is one call at a time at a cost of $75 for the first three minutes.
1927: AT&T presents the first demonstration of television transmission in the United States. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover’s live moving images are transmitted over wire from Washington, D.C., to New York, where he was seen by AT&T President Walter Gifford and a large audience.
1934: AT&T inaugurates trans-Pacific telephone service, initially between the United States and Japan. Calls travel across the Pacific via radio. The initial capacity is one call at a time at a cost of $39 for the first three minutes.
1939-1945: The volume of long distance calls increases by 350 percent due to World War II. Because AT&T cannot build additional circuits during the war, we run ads asking consumers not to make long distance calls.
1941: The first non-experimental installation of coaxial cable in the network is placed in service between Minneapolis, Minn., and Stevens Point, Wis. Compared to such earlier transmission technologies as open wire or non-coaxial cable, coaxial cable has higher capacity and lower cost on high-volume routes. It also has sufficient bandwidth to carry television signals.
1943: AT&T installs the first automatic long distance telephone switch, the No. 4 crossbar, in Philadelphia. Operators at a switchboard attached to the switch dial long distance numbers, including area codes, which were introduced internally for this purpose. Previously, all long distance calls were completed by operators plugging into boards and talking to other operators in distant cities. The new switch cuts the time needed to complete a call from about 60 seconds to about 20.
1947: The first commercial microwave–relay system goes into operation, providing telephone and television circuits between New York and Boston. Network traffic for the next 35 years is carried primarily by a mixture of microwave relay and coaxial cable.
1948: AT&T begins offering networking services for television on facilities connecting major cities in the Northeast and Midwest. The service reaches the West Coast in 1951. Television networks use this service to transmit programming to their affiliated stations around the country.
1951: AT&T introduces customer dialing of long distance calls, initially in Englewood, N.J. The national rollout takes place over the second half of the 1950s. Until this innovation, all long distance calls required operator assistance.
1956: AT&T opens for service TAT-1, the first trans-Atlantic telephone cable. The initial capacity is 36 calls at a time at a price per call of $12 for the first three minutes. Since trans-Atlantic service opened in 1927, calls had traveled across the ocean via radio waves. But cables provide much higher signal quality, avoid atmospheric interference and offer greater capacity and security.
1964: AT&T opens TPC-1, the first submarine telephone cable across the Pacific. It went from Japan to Hawaii, where it connected to two cables linking Hawaii with the mainland. This brought the same improvements to trans-Pacific service that TAT-1 had brought to trans-Atlantic service in 1956.
1975-1976: Computerization of the network begins as AT&T installs the world’s first digital electronic toll switch, the 4ESS® , in Chicago. This switch could handle a much higher volume of calls (initially 350,000 per hour) with greater flexibility and speed than the electromechanical switch it replaced.
1983: AT&T installs the first fiber-optic cable in its long distance network, between New York and Washington, D.C. Whereas earlier systems transmitted electrical signals over copper wire or radio waves, fiber-optic cables transmit information as rapid light pulses down ultra-pure glass fibers. Fiber optics have much greater capacity and much lower costs than the technologies they replaced. Today, 98 percent of all AT&T domestic traffic travels over fiber-optic networks.
1987: AT&T replaces its 10-year-old Network Operations Center with a new center at the same location in Bedminster, N.J. The new center features a two-story-high status wall containing 75 video screens that allow a real-time view of the entire network in a glance and “dynamic routing” capabilities to maneuver calls.
1988: AT&T lays and opens TAT-8, the first fiber-optic submarine telephone cable across the Atlantic. It has a capacity equivalent to 40,000 calls, 10 times that of the last copper cable. (Today’s cables have capacities equivalent to over 1 million calls.)
1992: AT&T installs its first FASTAR® (fast automatic restoration) system in its network in Florida. FASTAR speeds the restoration of service after a fiber-optic cable cut from hours to minutes.
1999: AT&T installs the last new 4ESS® switch in its network, signaling our commitment to evolve from the company’s historic circuit switching to packet switching, the wave of the future.
1999: AT&T’s new Global Network Operations Center opens in Bedminster, N.J., on December 15. Staffed around the clock, the center manages all aspects of AT&T’s network, including domestic and global long distance, local, data, and eventually broadband and Internet services. It is three times the size of its predecessor, and features a 141–screen video wall to provide real-time information to network managers.
2000: The Global Network Operations Center holds its official grand-opening ceremony on Feb. 10.
2002: AT&T deploys a new nationwide intelligent optical network which restores service faster in the event of a failure or disaster. This new network also provides the capability to dramatically shorten provisioning time for new high-speed circuits for business customers who have direct access to the network.