These days, we take it for granted that we can just turn on the TV and watch live news, sport or entertainment from around the world. Only half a century ago, this would have been impossible.
Although there wasn’t much coverage of it in the UK media, exactly 50 years ago this week, Telstar 1, the first active communications satellite went into orbit. The day after the launch by NASA, on 10 July 1962, the first telephone call by satellite was made, then the first fax by satellite was sent, the first images and video were transmitted, and the first live transatlantic TV broadcast took place. The rest, as they say, is history…
To me, the legacy of Telstar, as well as Sputnik – the first artificial satellite launched in 1957 – and the other early satellites, is just mind boggling. In fact, I think it is impossible to overestimate the impact of satellites on our life today. They do so many things – from communications to navigation to meteorology and much, much more – but basically they just make transmitting information around the world faster and easier. Without satellites, global interaction would be a fraction of what it is today. Maybe I’m being a bit too ‘romantic’ about it all, but I think satellites are one of history’s greatest inventions.
And although I’m not old enough to remember its release in 1962, the Tornados’ song Telstar keeps going round in my head as I write this (you’ll know the tune if you hear it!) The song was inspired by the satellite and featured a clavioline – one of the first electronic keyboards – and various other sound effects to give it an ‘out of space’ feel. It was a massive hit worldwide and shows just what a big impact the first communications satellite had on the popular imagination at the time.
So the next time you pick up your mobile phone or turn on your sat nav, think of Telstar and the communications revolution it started!
Image courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Posted at 2:03pm on 12th July 2012
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