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Live Via Satellite 89

markhb writes "40 years ago today, the first trans-Atlantic TV transmission made it out of the Maine woods and into history, via the original Telstar. The IEEE and Lucent plan to commemorate the event at three events today in Pleumeur-Bodou, France, Goonhilly Downs, England, and Andover, Maine."
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  • Ad? (Score:2, Funny)

    Was it an ad for TVs?
  • Disclaimer (Score:4, Funny)

    by tunah ( 530328 ) <sam.krayup@com> on Thursday July 11, 2002 @09:05AM (#3863635) Homepage
    The IEEE and Lucent plan to commemorate the event at three events today in Pleumeur-Bodou, France, Goonhilly Downs, England, and Andover, Maine

    Disclaimer: Slashdot is a subsidiary of Andover [andover.net]/OSDN [osdn.com]

    Oh, wait...

    • Andover?

      Yes slashdot is a subsidiary of andover.. andover andover andover *crash*.

      Then 15 people instantly post:
      Ooh it's been ./ed! ;o)

      Sorry, cheap joke.. I just couldn't help it.

  • 47 Channels, and there's still nothing on.
  • that this should follow a discussion about the digital dark ages and my mental edit of this line:
    The IEEE and Lucent plan to commemorate the event ....by having the original broadcasters arrested for not paying their fees for 10 years retroactive from the original broadcast.

  • All well and nice to commemorate this first signal and all....

    But didn't the Blair Witch Project come outta those woods too? They must be cursed, cause the utter shite that movies was still gives me nightmares.

    I won't ever go back in the woods again.

  • by anti-snot ( 555305 ) on Thursday July 11, 2002 @09:20AM (#3863718)
    Andover? I thought Andover went under?
  • Has it been that long? I thought they started with this in the 80's... But then again, everything started in the 80's according to my memory. Now guess my age :-)
  • 40 years ago today, the first trans-Atlantic TV transmission made it out of the Maine woods and into history, via the original Telstar.
    If they're celebrating this, shouldn't they broadcast it the same way as it was back then? I'm sure a good .. 5 people could watch it ;)
  • Where does the monkey go?
  • Goonhilly (Score:4, Informative)

    by andyr ( 78903 ) <andyr@wizzy.com> on Thursday July 11, 2002 @09:28AM (#3863757) Homepage Journal
    Visited Goonhilly some time ago. It has a number of dishes now - from the very old ones, the biggest, to the new ones. The old ones had to track small, weak satellites in low earth orbit, and consequently had a large diameter and had to slew fast.

    The newer ones are smaller, and often fixed, pointing to satellites in geo-stationary orbit.

    There there are a pair of microwave dishes (in and out?) that look small, but carry all the terrestrial traffic to/from Goonhilly.

    At the time (12 years ago ?) Goonhilly carried almost all Europes transatlantic traffic.

    Cheers, Andy!

    • Aerial shot of Goonhilly [multimap.com]

      http://www.multimap.com/map/photo.cgi?client=europ e&x=172388&y=21316&scale=10000&width=700&height=41 0&rt=overlay.htm
    • Just been there recently whilst on holiday for a few days in Cornwall.

      Enjoyed the new visitors centre and a tour of the site, my girlfriend also enjoyed it so it must have been good :-)

      There's a number of earth stations in Cornwall, as well as being the area in which most of the UK's international undersea cables terminate. It's steeped in communication history!

      More info on Goonhilly here [bt.com] (non-Flash version here [bt.com]).

  • Quoth the NASA site, "Frequencies used were 6,390 MHz uplink and 4,170 MHz downlink".

    Is this a typo? How were such frequencies possible in the early 1960s? And using less than 15 watts to boot!?
    • actually if you look into some extremely high priced equiptment the govt's used in 1960 you can find things up to 60ghz.

    • Marconi himself used to experiment with high power troposcatter at around 1 or 2 GHz around 80 years ago. In fact, during the 1950s and 60s the military and the phone company made extensive use of microwave troposcatter technology. They knew very well how to generate lots of microwave energy.

      Yes, they used tube technology including travelling wave tubes and Klystrons. We don't use them much these days because their lifetime is limited, they require high voltages and a heater, and they're not particularly efficient or low noise.

      Still, even today, when you need high power, many applications still use travelling wave tubes.

    • Microwave frequencies have been generated since before World War I. Do a search for "klystron tube" and you'll find several references.

      Klystrons are capable of hundreds of Gigahertz and Megawatts of power.

    • --
      Is this a typo? How were such frequencies possible in the early 1960s? And using less than 15 watts to boot!?

      I'm not sure I understant the '. . .using less than 15 watts. ..' part of the comment. It doesn't take much power to communicate with a satellite, especially a LEO. I've done it reliably using around a watt or so.

  • "40 years ago today, the first trans-Atlantic TV transmission made it out of the Maine woods and into history, via the original Telstar."
    • I can't say much for what they transmitted, but I like the name of the satellite.
    • Looks like other people liked the name too...

      From the Lucent Press Release

      The new communications satellite fired the imaginations of people around the world. The global television audience for the Telstar debut numbered in the hundreds of millions. An instrumental hit called "Telstar" by a British rock group, the Tornadoes, stayed on the Billboard Top 40 music chart for 13 weeks, including three weeks at No. 1. And Jazz legend Duke Ellington composed a short piece also entitled "Telstar."

      • It's also the name of the local high school for MSAD44 (school district including Andover, Maine), the name of a video rental place in Bethel, Maine, and I think there are a couple of other "Telstars" near there.
        • Yeah. If you drive by the high school, they have some big NASA-looking sign in front of the school. I skied against them in high school and the first time I saw the school, I thought it was some sort of high tech engineering company because of the sign out front.
    • I drive by the Telstar High School on my way to the Sunday River ski resort. Always wondered why it was called that!
  • yeah, can you imagine a world where tv newsreels where send via airmail to the broadcasting station?

    weird thought. we've come a long way in 40 years...
    • When I lived in Hawaii, most network television programming was shipped in from the mainland on videotape. Only special programs, like the evening network news, were sent via satellite.

      Many syndicated radio shows used to be distributed on LPs, you know, the big round black vinyl things.

  • by green pizza ( 159161 ) on Thursday July 11, 2002 @09:35AM (#3863789) Homepage
    http://www.lucent.com/minds/telstar/telstarsat.jpg [lucent.com]

    It sickens me that this is hosted by Lucent, but it does the job. Too bad more neat "online" photos wern't at this resolution...
  • "The IEEE and Lucent plan to commemorate the event at three events today in Pleumeur-Bodou, France, Goonhilly Downs, England, and Andover, Maine "

    That's great news! Goonhilly Downs needed a second big event to add to their annual "Laughing At Our Town's Name Festival".
  • it's just GOONHILLY DOWN - there's no extra "s"
    • erm.. you sure? Well my family lives round the corner, and that's what we've always called it.. Besides, the name of the station is Earth Station Goonhilly...
      • not 100% sure, but the mug that I'm drinking my tea out of RIGHT NOW says "Goonhilly Down". I bought it from BT's shop at their facility. Despite it being BT operated, the tour is quite interesting - definitely worth a look if you're down that way. Believe it or not, they actually have a small BT "high street" phone down there too. Just in case you were driving past the Earth Station and felt an urgent need for a new BT Response 'phone. Truly risible. Dishes are great, though!
  • It looks like ATT in the early 60's pretty much invented our whole world. And now, it's pretty much just 5000 minute calling plans and crappy stock performance.
    • That's because the ATT of the early 60's got busted up into the companies that run much of our world today...

      The baby bells, SBC, PacBell, etc...

      not to mention the research the old ATT funded all over.

      They did indeed invent much or our (techno at least) world.
  • It's hard for me, a child of the 80's, to picture a world without satellite communications. So much of the world's communication system is dependant upon satellites!

    Technology has come a long way. Three hundred years ago, it took months, years even, to send a letter to loved ones across the nation. Missionaries and adventurers, people who moved to different countries, different states even, would likely never hear the voices of their extended family again. Now, even residents of the jungle can connect to the internet via satellite, use vidcams and microphones for a direct conversation with their families, or call them up via cell phone. Communication has come a long way with the advent of satellite communications, among other things.

    It makes me wonder, though. What would happen if a massive solar flare or some such space phenomena took out all of the satellites? Would earth communications still function?

    I'm sure the ingenuity of the human race would reinstate communications soon enough. After all, one of the most important things in life is talking with the ones you love.

    • What would happen if a massive solar flare or some such space phenomena took out all of the satellites? Would earth communications still function?

      Well, landlines would... Anyone navigating by GPS would be in trouble though!
    • by renehollan ( 138013 ) <rhollan.clearwire@net> on Thursday July 11, 2002 @02:05PM (#3865491) Homepage Journal
      Lesse, what do you take for granted that didn't exist for me, a child of the 60s (I'm presuming here that by child of the xx's, you mean someone born in the early part of the xx decade -- in some contexts "child" in that phrase refers to an adolescent and not "under 10").

      0. ATMs and "multi-branch banking": no longer did you have to go to your branch to make deposits and withdrawls, nor did you have to deal with a human teller.

      1. VCRs: they didn't start getting popular until about 1979-1981, and cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Do you remember the VHS vs. Beta format wars?

      2. Compact Disks: radio stations started using them instead of records, calling them "laser disks" (not to be confused with video laser disks), and making a big deal of the quality (over well-worn vinyl). The first ones were around $3000. By 1986, you could get a portable for around $200.

      3. Cellular phones: about the size of a brick, access was available in few metropolitan areas. They first started to be used in cars, because of their bulk, replacing older-style "mobile phones", that were essentially radios.

      4. Pocket calculators. We got to use slide-rules in science class: pocket calculators were considered an unfair advantage for those students who could afford $150 for four functions and square root.

      5. Computers: the hobbyist Altair became available, with an 8080 CPU, and was featured in a January 1975 Popular Electronics article. The Apple ][, and a host of CP/M-based machines followed. As this is a geek forum, I'll dwell a bit on the pre-history of 1975-1981. The Altairs (and IMSAIs) were big, boxy, noisy, and expensive: I remember 256 bytes of memory costing $119. The 2102 1kbit static ram was a breakthrough: 8 kilobytes could fit on an S100 card (for the Altair or IMSAI) that was about the width and height of a notebook computer (thinner obviously). The only people who had such computers were die-hard geeks and hackers, generally with a hardware, rather than software bent: you built your own memory boards to save money, because pre-built boards where much more expensive than kits; and you scrounged HAM-fests for teletypes and built serial I/O and cassette interfaces (so you could save your programs). Altair Basic was a big deal: it only took 8 minutes to load from cassette. Dumb terminals could be had, but cost from one to three thousand dollars. The Apple ][ was one of the first compact, inexpensive computers: with a TV, disk drives, and DOS, a system could be put together for around $10,000.

      Of course, 1981 brought the IBM PC (which initially supported a cassette port: disk drives were still a luxery for many). Ten megabyte hard disks became available by the mid 80s (full-height). I mention this because however crude you might think the PCs of the 80s were compared to today's PCs, they were light-years ahead of the mid to late 70s prehistoric versions, which really could not be called "personal".

      By the mid-80s I had seen more technological innovation in 20 years, than my parents did since they were born: for them, the big things were affordable cars, planes, phones, TVs, and perhaps Cable TV. I suppose the really big thing for them was electricity.

      Of course, 20 years later we have recordable CDs and DVDs, digital cameras, miniture cell phones, the Internet, on-line billing, ordering, blogs, cyber-porn (can you imagine the porn industry when the only distribution medium was 16 mm film for a projector: "dirty magazines" with still pictures was all there was for most male teens to leer at -- today if you want hard-core porn, you probably do "read Playboy just for the articles"), MP3 players, digital TVs, PDAs, combination MP3 players, phones, and PDAs, instant messaging, personal FAX machines, satellite TV, home theatres, multi-channel sound (though quadraphonic kinda sputtered and died in the 70s), and so on.

      So, yeah, the last 20 years have been a whirlwind of technological progress. But the "slow, and dull" progress of the 60s and 70s, was, at the time, no less dizzying to those of us who lived through it (VCRs!: time shifting!! [evil teenage boy grin: live action pornography with sound!])

  • Pleumeur-Bodou (Score:2, Interesting)

    by monotoy ( 577581 )
    If you ever make it to northwestern france, be *sure* to check out the communication site at Plemeur-Boudou! It's very cool, you drive through a forest in a hilly landscape, and all of a sudden huge satellite dishes pop out like mushrooms ... and you can still visit this very first satellite. all in all, very impressive.
    • Re:Pleumeur-Bodou (Score:2, Interesting)

      by o'reor ( 581921 )
      Also pay a visit to the telecom museum, located in the main antenna basement (that huuuuuge white balloon that can be seen miles around). I think there's also a planetarium nearby. Beautiful place (I've lived in the area, I'm intending to go back there within a few months...)
  • More information... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RobinH ( 124750 ) on Thursday July 11, 2002 @10:13AM (#3863994) Homepage
    It's interesting to note that domestic television satellites didn't reach North America until 1972, 10 years after Telstar. Here's a link to a Communications Satellites Short History. [nasa.gov] From that page:

    In 1965, ABC proposed a domestic satellite system to distribute television signals. The proposal sank into temporary oblivion, but in 1972 TELESAT CANADA launched the first domestic communications satellite, ANIK, to serve the vast Canadian continental area. RCA promptly leased circuits on the Canadian satellite until they could launch their own satellite. The first U.S. domestic communications satellite was Western Union's WESTAR I, launched on April 13, 1974.
  • From the article:

    The televised transmission on July 11, 1962, showed an American flag waving in front of the Andover Earth Station ... That same day the first long-distance telephone call via satellite was carried by Telstar. During the call, President Lyndon Johnson spoke to Fred Kappel, then chairman of AT&T.

    Kennedy wasn't shot until November 22, 1963. This article claims LBJ was President on July 11, 1962. Then later the article mentions President Kennedy making a press release. It MUST be a conspiracy.

    Keeping on topic, someone mentioned earlier about what would happen if all the satellites went away... Well, I would guess there wouldn't be much on TV and a lot of pagers would not work but our domestic voice telephone network should continue to work ok, as well as communications with most of Western Europe. The only trouble I could imagine for the domestic voice network would be very remote stations linked via satellite instead of microwave and COs using GPS as an accurate time source without a backup. I'm fairly sure most of the voice network is terrestrial in nature, be it fiber or microwave.

  • That same day the first long-distance telephone call via satellite was carried by Telstar. During the call, President Lyndon Johnson spoke to Fred Kappel, then chairman of AT&T.

    I rather suspect that many transatlantic calls were made by test engineers long before anyone was bold enough to hand a phone to the President of the USA! <grin>

  • by Russ Nelson ( 33911 ) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Thursday July 11, 2002 @10:39AM (#3864145) Homepage
    When I was but a lad, we used to vacation in Rangeley Lakes, ME. My father (who worked for AT&T at the time) took the family over to Andover to see the ground station. I remember it as being this fantastically huge globe with a microwave transmitter inside it.

    Also, I remember my father taking us outside of our home on Long Island to see Telstar going overhead. Nowadays, you can see satellites just by looking up and waiting ten or fifteen minutes.
  • What does this mean?
    a video teleconference to re-enact the first satellite broadcast was planned.

    I'm imagining a bunch of people all conferenced up, trying to get ancient equipment up to send a trans-atlantic signal but meanwhile able to problem solve in real time with each other. Bizarre.

    Either that or they're going to do a videoconference that shows little more than a flag flying in front of the Earth Dome thing. ("Let's try to dumb it down some more, people, this isn't a re-enactment until the signal's a hazy, fixed frame. Oops -- our conferencing software heard the flag snapping in the breeze and automatically zoomed in a little to center on the speaker...")

    It's a brave new world.

  • I was attending summer school at the time. In 1962, like most college students, I did not have television sets in my dorm room; television sets were still fairly big, fairly heavy, and fairly expensive--and there were certainly no cable jacks in dorm rooms. It took a little searching to find a lounge somewhere in the university that had a TV set. And then I had to convince the people in the lounge to let me tune to the channel that was carrying it.

    I felt at the time that this was a turning point in history--like the first transatlantic broadcast over that technological wonder, the "coaxial cable," which I had seen as a kid. _I_ was fairly excited by it. But the general lay population hardly knew or cared about it. Some years before, when my family and I went into the schoolyard on a summer evening to view the Echo satellite, we had plenty of company. In contrast, the Telstar broadcast went virtually unnoticed.

    Well, of course, it WAS utterly boring. Speeches by dignitaries and some miserable scraps of French Ed-Sullivan-show-type entertainment--I think I remember some singers and some dancers.

    Yes, it WAS an historic moment--yet utterly forgettable.

    Later that year, an instrumental number named "Telstar" (for no apparent reason) made the top forty. Lots of people knew that tune. I'm not sure what percentage of them knew that "Telstar" was the name of a communications satellite.
  • This apparently commemerates the first official US-to-Europe transmission. I clearly remember that as soon as Telstar came up the French sent the first Europe-to-US program, a wonderful last-minute little program with a singer and live shots around Paris. This was the day *before* the officially planned "first" program from Europe. Tweaked the proper British authorities a bit as I recall. I saw it on network TV in the US. Yet I've never found any reference to it in TV histories or web sites. Doesn't someone else remember it?
  • This Nation has traditionally followed a policy of conducting international telephone, telegraph, and other communications services through private enterprise subject to governmental licensing and regulation. We have achieved communications facilities second to none among the nations of the world. Accordingly, the Government should aggressively encourage private enterprise in the establishment and operation of satellite relays for revenue-producing purposes. Putting satellites into government control would have been the equivalent of "closing the source", privatizing them meant many people working on many problems...sounds familiar. Ike was obviously a visionary, wonder what his opinion of Open Source software would be? Karl
  • by alext ( 29323 ) on Thursday July 11, 2002 @01:43PM (#3865344)
    The first worldwide TV program was 5 years later (June 25, 1967) - the Beatles in their Magical Mystery Tour mode doing "All You Need is Love." Covered 24 countries, 5 continents via Echo II (?) a satellite which had no transmitter, just a reflector.

    I'm sure some worthy celebs would like to commemorate this event - how about it Sir Paul/Mick?

    (Unfortunately, though alive I think I was probably tuned to Listen with Mother [whirligig-tv.co.uk] instead :( )
  • It's not an actively used technology but wasn't the first comsat to be used for a transatlantic TV signal Echo Ia? It certainly launched before Telestar I.

    For those of you too young to know: It was a great big silvered balloon. They blew it up when it reached orbit and bounced (as opposed to relayed) signals off it.

  • Wrong! The first transatlantic television transmission was via a satellite named ECHO. ECHO was nothing more than a reflective bag of gas that reflected the TV microwaves back to Earth.

    The first public transmission from Europe to the US "featured" Conrad Adenauer making a short, forgettable speech.
  • I thought that was an instrumental by The Ventures..?

  • by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Thursday July 11, 2002 @03:56PM (#3866291) Journal
    In 1978, PBS became the first North American broadcaster to use satellite transmission for the primary distribution of its programming.

    Before then, most broadcast networks used point-to-point connections such as AT&T's terrestrial microwave system to deliver content to sattions. Satellite was only used to acquire content for networks, not to distribute it to stations.

  • What I find interesting is that the development of long-distance fiber optics could make a large fraction of satellite use obselete. Already, the majority of international telephone and increasingly television signals are transmitted through fiber optic lines on long distance and undersea cables.

    Given fiber optics' HUGE data capacity, the day that fiber optics achieves the last mile data connection into the home residence cheaply is the day small satellite dishes become obselete.

    Essentially, satellites in the future will primarily used for communications beyond the reach of fiber optic lines, primarily in remote regions.
  • And for those of you interseted in the local pseudo-news coverage, the Lewiston Sun-Journal has it here [sunjournal.com].

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...