When Arthur C. Clarke penned the modern classic “2001, A Space Odyssey,” he surely had no idea that just years after his work was published life would truly imitate his work of literary art. This happened more specifically in the case of his descriptions from the article “Extraterrestrial Relays,” published in 1945. In the article, Clarke describes placing three ‘space platforms’ in outer space, placing them in orbit around the Earth’s equator. His intention of placing such space platforms, now known as ‘satellites’ in outer space was to create a global communications network by sending signals to and from these ‘space platforms.’ In1957 this vision was realized for the first time when the Russians launched the world’s first satellite, Sputnik. In the midst of Cold War tensions, the United States launched Explorer I in 1958 as a reply to the Russians, and went as far as to create NASA to perpetuate the US’s position at the head of the ‘space race.’ For good or ill, from this turbulent period in history satellite technology, to lead to developments like satellite television, satellite radio, and satellite internet, was born.
Surely at the beginning of satellite technology’s use the real goals were developing ways to use the technology for intelligence and government purposes. Secondary to these motives was the use of satellite technology to improve, develop and change everyday communications and international information sharing methods. Private companies, not governments, funded and spearheaded the first geosynchronous satellites put in orbit. For example, the very first television program to be widely sent by satellite was the boxing match ‘The Thriller from Manila.’ Delivered by HBO in 1976, this is one heavyweight match that would surely change history. Later in 1976, NASA scientist Emeritus H. Taylor Howard would develop a satellite television system that lead directly to his home, the first ever, working out of his garage!
While satellite television took a real hit in the 1980’s with the 1984 Cable Act, limiting what used to be the free acquisition of cable television programming as intercepted by satellite dish, the real march towards perfecting satellite technology never really ceased. Since the 1990’s a variety of companies have worked to develop a slew of important satellite technologies that range from communications, to intelligence and entertainment. While most people are aware of satellite TV due to its extreme popularity, not as many have used or are informed about satellite internet, however, this technology is quickly filling an important void in the internet community by plugging holes in the terrestrial broadband network’s map.
Looking at where the ‘wired’ world of high speed internet ends, there are many places where people still can’t get broadband, or high speed internet at all. These internet subscribers are stuck with dial-up, and simply can’t communicate or compete in a global world and marketplace. For this very reason, satellite technology is once again heading to the forefront of global importance with its satellite broadband service. Now, no matter where on Earth a person is located they can harness that same technology that has been astounding us for decades and go with satellite service!