Asterisk is a software implementation of a telephone private branch exchange (PBX) originally created in 1999 by Mark Spencer of Digium. Like any PBX, it allows attached telephones to make calls to one another, and to connect to other telephone services including the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services. Its name comes from the asterisk symbol, “*”.
For more info about Asterisk visit: http://www.asterisk.org/support/about
To start with Asterisk please refer these slides