Friday, 23 July 2021

1962-alpha epsilon 1

Launched into orbit just under a fortnight prior, the Telstar 1 communication satellite relayed the first live transatlantic television broadcast (see also here, here and here) on this day in 1962. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was supposed to give the inaugural address but the engineers acquired the signal before the US president was ready and to avoid dead-air filled the first few minutes with a televised baseball game from the Wrigley Field in Chicago before rotating through studios and field stations in Washington, DC, Quebec City, Cape Canaveral and the Seattle World’s Fair. Kennedy’s speech consisted of direct appeals to Europe that America wouldn’t devalue its currency and further frustrate plans for post-war recovery (see also) before giving the stage to news anchors Walter Cronkite (CBS, previously) and Chet Huntley (NBC) in New York and the BBC’s Richard Dimbleby in Brussels for a panel discussion of this marvel of technical achievement that they were part of. Later that evening, the first satellite telephone call was carried out between parties US vice president Lyndon Johnson and the head of AT&T (the company whose Bell Laboratories were primarily responsible for it) and in the following months, synchronised time between the continents and facilitating the first computer-to-computer data. By November, a casualty of the geopolitics that pushed such advancements as showcase and civilian applications, due to ongoing high-altitude nuclear testing that irradiated surround space, Telstar’s transistors were overwhelmed and eventually failed and could not relay signals. Though no longer transmitting, Telstar I and II (launched the following summer) are still orbiting Earth and will continue to do so for millions of years barring interference by another body.