Satellite TV with its amazing picture quality and loads of content is now a common household name. Not many of us would however, know the history of this amazing technology and how it redefined the very meaning of viewing content. Prior to 1962, any activity across the Atlantic was recorded and sent to Europe or America for viewing. It took days for the footage to reach and be viewed. That kind of a world is hard to fathom now that we have everything available to us at the push of a button. All this changed on 23rd July of 1962 when the first true broadcast took place via satellite in the history of the world.
The Telstar was the first communications satellite to broadcast live on our planet. The brainchild of AT&T, Telstar was launched into orbit by NASA on the 10th of July, 1962 and marked the first privately sponsored space initiative as there was a fee paid by ATT&T to NASA for putting this satellite into orbit. Can you imagine a contraption, the size of a big ball transmitting signals for a live broadcast from the orbit of the Earth? In 1962, this was unthinkable to the common man and entire cities came to a standstill when the broadcast took place. Ask your grandparents, some of them may have memories of that day.
This can be remembered as the birthday of satellite TV. Telstar orbited the earth in two and half hours and the technology was limited to the extent that it could only broadcast when both the Europe and US ground towers were visible. Essentially, it implied no more than 20 minutes of live transmission. The glimpses of a baseball games and President Kennedy’s speech would still be fresh in the minds of many people who witnessed this historic moment. The first transmission was from the US to Europe and then it was reversed in the next orbit of Telstar. This time Europe streamed live for viewers in US. Learn more here.
The Telstar eventually went kaput a few months later though it still revolves in orbit. Telstar in more ways than one was the symbol of the dawn of a new era. Popular culture picked up on the celebrity status of this satellite. Fashion houses rolled out ensembles and bands like Tornados made Telstar a blockbuster song of those times. Knowing the history of satellite television puts into perspective how long and far we have come since those days. The future of satellite TV will look at present times with the same nostalgia that we look at the 1960s and the hero of satellite TV – the Telstar.