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computer conferencing[kəm′pyüd·ər ′kän·frəns·iŋ]
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
chatA text communication via keyboard in real time between two or more users on a local network (LAN) or over the Internet. Although the original use of the term was only for text, "chat" became popular for every two-way communication. Audio and voice evolved into "audio chat" and "voice chat." Videoconferencing and video calling became "video chat."
Live Chat for Support
Live text chat is a common website support system, allowing someone to be assisted by a company representative, who typically handles more than one site visitor at a time. Live chat is also called "live help" and "live support."
Chat, Texting and Instant Messaging
All three terms are used synonymously. Texting (SMS) is built into every cellphone and usage only requires the recipient's phone number. All other chat services use a computer or phone app. Some require establishing an account and creating a contact list (see text messaging and instant messaging).
Chatting Was Always Verbal
Before text chat became popular, "chatting on any phone" meant talking. See chat room, video chat and IRC.
|A Website Live Chat|
|A live chat on a website is very helpful for potential customers such as this example on Cisco.com. Although the young woman's headset might imply a voice call, this "Chat Live" session is text only.|
data conferencingSharing data interactively among several users in different locations. Data conferencing is made up of whiteboards and application sharing and are often used in conjunction with an audio or videoconferencing connection.
A whiteboard is the electronic equivalent of the chalkboard or flip chart. Participants at different locations simultaneously write and draw on an on-screen notepad viewed by everyone.
Application Sharing and Application Viewing
Application sharing is the same as remote control software, in which multiple participants can interactively work in an application that is loaded on only one user's machine. Application "viewing" is similar to application "sharing;" however, although all users can see the document, only one person can actually edit it. See whiteboard, application sharing, remote control software and T.120.
|In this example, two people are collaborating on a drawing that one of them pasted into the whiteboard while they were connected in a NetMeeting conference. Using the whiteboard's red marker, a particular area of interest was circled.|
videoconferencingA real-time video session between two or more users who reside in different locations. While videoconferencing supports several end points, the terms "video call" and "video chat" generally mean one-to-one. However, all the terms are used synonymously. See video calling and computer audio.
In 1964, AT&T unveiled its Picturephone at the New York World's Fair, but it was very expensive and there were few takers. Today, due to high-speed Internet access, video meetings have become commonplace for everyone with services such as Skype, FaceTime, Google Meet and Zoom (see videoconferencing software).
It Used to Be Only for Companies
In the 1970s, business videoconferencing was established between branch offices. By the early 1980s, in-house systems became popular after Compression Labs pioneered highly compressed digital video to shorten the data being transmitted over much slower lines than we now have. Ever since, various resolutions and frame rates have been used with speeds from 128 Kbps to multi-megabits per second.
|Room Systems - The Beginning|
|In the early 1980s, videoconferencing emerged with room systems like this unit from Tandberg, which Cisco acquired in 2010. (Image courtesy of Tandberg, www.cisco.com)|
|Early Internet Videoconferencing|
|Desktop videoconferencing became widely used after the universal adoption of Internet protocols in the late 1990s (see IP). This software from Polycom (now Poly) turned a Windows PC into a videoconferencing system. (Image courtesy of Poly, www.poly.com)|
ISDN and IP
ISDN was the traditional transport for private videoconferencing because it provided dedicated 64 Kbps channels that could be dynamically allocated. However, ISDN gave way to the Internet protocol (IP). In a private IP network deployed by either the enterprise or via carriers, the quality can be controlled.
Using the public Internet as transport provides reasonable quality without additional cost. Although congestion is inevitable, systems can throttle down to lower frame rates to eliminate most of the jerkiness.
Multipoint Conferences and Telepresence
A point-to-point conference between two people is straightforward, but a conference with several people requires moderating. A multipoint control unit (MCU) is used to mix the audio and highlight the frame of the dominant speaker or make it larger, which is necessary in large groups (see MCU). Multipoint conferences are also achieved by connecting to a carrier's conferencing network service. A more immersive environment for group meetings is achieved with multiple monitors and loudspeakers (see telepresence).
Firewalls often presented a problem for Internet videoconferencing because they are designed to block packets that were not previously requested. However, there are numerous ways of configuring routers and firewalls to accept videoconferencing data. A common method is to invite participants, who then click links to initiate a request. Another option is to place the video system in the demilitarized zone between the private network and the Internet (see DMZ).
Like a telephony PBX, a video PBX is used to switch calls and provide call forwarding and call transfer. Video network management is also required to adjust bandwidth, provide quality of service (QoS) and to log calls for accounting purposes. See videoconferencing standards.
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