Sunday

Remember This? Telstar

Back in July 1962, AT&T and NASA launched Telstar - a "telephone relay station in space" - into orbit. The name Telstar is a combination of "telecommunication" and "star", which is appropriate for the work it was made to do.

While Russia's Sputnik was the first human object to be put in Earth orbit back in 1957 (the year I first saw daylight), Telstar truly opened up the possibilities of a satellite communications network.

The launch was celebrated via a transatlantic phone call between Vice President Johnson and AT&T chairman Fred Kappel, but unfortunately after a few months in use, Telstar's electronics fizzled out probably as a result of radiation fallout from high-altitude nuclear tests conducted by the US. Oops.

Here is a link to a PDF of a National Geographic article of the time, describing the satellite and it's technology.

There was also a sort of "novelty song" (actually an instrumental) performed by the Tornados celebrating the launch that became a number one hit on both sides of the Atlantic - it used an electronic instrument known as a Clavoline, a sort of pre-synthesizer. I actually remember hearing this at the time (and thinking it was really cool), which makes me now feel positively decrepit. 

Telstar, looking a bit like the Death Star

2 comments :

John D Carmack said...

"...a result of radiation fallout from high-altitude nuclear tests conducted by the US."

And yet, the government is competent enough to run your healthcare. LOL!

Richard Keggans said...

Haha, well said