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Very expensive videoconferencing systems rapidly evolved throughout the 1980s and 1990s from proprietary equipment, software and network requirements to standards-based technologies that were available for anyone to purchase at a reasonable cost.
Only in the late 20th century with the advent of powerful video codecs combined with high-speed Internet broadband and ISDN service did videotelephony become a practical technology for regular use.
Such an antecedent usually consisted of two closed-circuit television systems connected via coax cable or radio.
This technique was very expensive, though, and could not be used for applications such as telemedicine, distance education, and business meetings.
Attempts at using normal telephony networks to transmit slow-scan video, such as the first systems developed by AT&T Corporation, first researched in the 1950s, failed mostly due to the poor picture quality and the lack of efficient video compression techniques.
Videoconferencing implies the use of this technology for a group or organizational meeting rather than for individuals, in a videoconference.
Telepresence may refer either to a high-quality videotelephony system (where the goal is to create the illusion that remote participants are in the same room) or to meetup technology which goes beyond video into robotics (such as moving around the room or physically manipulating objects).
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In the 1980s, digital telephony transmission networks became possible, such as with ISDN networks, assuring a minimum bit rate (usually 128 kilobits/s) for compressed video and audio transmission.