Chapter 1. A Telephony Revolution

Table of Contents

Asterisk and VoIP: Bridging the Gap Between Traditional and Network Telephony
The Zapata Telephony Project
Massive Change Requires Flexible Technology
Asterisk: The Hacker’s PBX
Asterisk: The Professional’s PBX
The Asterisk Community
The Asterisk Mailing Lists
Asterisk Wiki Sites
The IRC Channels
Asterisk User Groups
The Asterisk Documentation Project
The Business Case

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

Mahatma Gandhi

When we first set out—nearly five years ago—to write a book about Asterisk, we confidently predicted that Asterisk would fundamentally change the telecommunications industry. Today, the revolution we predicted is all but complete. Asterisk is now the most successful private branch exchange (PBX) in the world, and is an accepted (albeit perhaps not always loved) technology in the telecom industry.

Unfortunately, over the past five years the telecom industry has continued to lose its way. The methods by which we communicate have changed. Whereas 20 years ago phone calls were the preferred way to converse across distances, the current trend is to message via text (email, IM, etc.). The phone call is seen as a bit of a dead thing, especially by up-and-coming generations.

Asterisk remains pretty awesome technology, and we believe it is still one of the best hopes for any sort of sensible integration between telecom and all the other technologies businesses might want to interconnect with.

With Asterisk, no one is telling you how your phone system should work, or what technologies you are limited to. If you want it, you can have it. Asterisk lovingly embraces the concept of standards compliance, while also enjoying the freedom to develop its own innovations. What you choose to implement is up to you—Asterisk imposes no limits.

Naturally, this incredible flexibility comes with a price: Asterisk is not a simple system to configure. This is not because it’s illogical, confusing, or cryptic; on the contrary, it is very sensible and practical. People’s eyes light up when they first see an Asterisk dialplan and begin to contemplate the possibilities. But when there are literally thousands of ways to achieve a result, the process naturally requires extra effort. Perhaps it can be compared to building a house: the components are relatively easy to understand, but a person contemplating such a task must either a) enlist competent help or b) develop the required skills through instruction, practice, and a good book on the subject.