Saturday, July 23, 2016

O/T: 54 Years Ago This Afternoon, President Kennedy Used Telstar 1 -- To Broadcast A Live TV Address, From The US To The UK

In so doing, he (and Walter Cronkite, later broadcasting the nightly news -- and rather improbably, the Chicago Cubs, immediately prior thereto -- whose game at Wrigley, with the Philadelphia Phillies was broadcast to England for a few moments, while President Kennedy waited to begin his prepared remarks) paved the way for the global lightning-fast internet we now take for granted. If you are looking at these YouTube video-feeds in Wolverhampton, Tokyo or Dakar -- you may well be seeing the below, bounced off a satellite -- one of hundreds of far-advanced great great grandchildren of Telstars 1 and 2.

Here more than a half century on, those early, ginger steps led to this day: letting us stay in touch with one another live, and instantly, from Japan to Antarctica, from to Kenya to Canada, and from the US to Turkey. Simply amazing, for those of us who still remember a time when it was not so:

. . . .Telstar 1 was an experimental active communication satellite built by Bell Systems. It was launched with assistance from NASA in July 1962. Approximately 400 transmission sessions were conducted by the satellite with multi-channel telephone, telegraph, facsimile, and television signals in the six month period after Telstar was launched. Hundreds of technical tests and measurements were also made which would help later satellites revolutionize the communications industry. [In the Cubs middle innings, batter Tony Taylor, was seen hitting a ball pitched by Cal Koonce to the right fielder George Altman. Then the video feed cut away to President Kennedy, speaking live in Washington, DC.]

A few months later, during November 1962 the command subsystem on the satellite failed. A brief restoration of services was made in early 1963, however within six weeks the command subsystem again failed. The cause of the failures was due to degradation of transistors, caused by Van Allen belt radiation increases later attributed to very high level troposphere American & Soviet nuclear weapons tests then being conducted. . . .

It is hard to overstate what a "wow factor" that moment in television history held. Kids across the nation watched, glued to their (overwhelmingly) black and white TV sets, as their parents explained satellite orbits. It even inspired/generated an eponymous No. 1 pop-hit, by the Tornados -- in both the UK and the USA. Here's a bit of that live presidential address, at about 24 minutes and 53 seconds in.

Now you know -- off (fittingly, now) to see Star Trek Beyond. . . smile. . . .

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