Tech-Trivia : Did You Know? This Week in Tech-History …

“This Message Sent Around The World”

At 7:00 p.m. on August 20, 1911, a commercial telegram was sent by the telegraph operator at the Times, working on the seventeenth level of the newspaper’s headquarters in Times Square. The message made a westward journey from New York, and shortly afterwards, the very same operator received his transmitted message back, having arrived back to him eastwards.

The New York Times had wanted to find out how long a commercial telegram would take to travel around the world, so they tried it!

The message simply said “This message sent around the world.”   And it did indeed go around the world … in just sixteen and a half minutes!

Not bad, but that was a commercial telegram and therefore it wasn’t sent with all the priority that could potentially be mustered.
That honour went to President Roosevelt years before back in 1903 on July 4th (Independence Day) when his absolutely-top-priority message travelled around the world in just nine and a half minutes.
By way of comparison, that’s faster than it’d take to parcel-up your message, instruct a driver, team-up (& feed) some horses and get a mail-coach out of the yard and onto the road!

Talking of horses, the Pony Express became immediately obsolete and ceased trading just two days after the first trans-continental telegraph was sent many years earlier, during the American Civil war. Of course, sending a telegram in those early days was wildly expensive (a relatively short-distance telegram could likely cost $100 for a modern Twitter-equivalent message.

With the rate of pace of change these days, it’s easy to forget that technological progress even 150 years ago was still pretty awesome. For example, the 98-letter message sent from Queen Victoria to the US President Buchanan (in Pennsylvania, US) was very difficult to decipher and took 16 hours to send. It was nevertheless revolutionary to send electronic communications across vast oceans in 1858 and so the novelty of her message meant it was followed by a hundred-gun salute, street-parades, church-bell ringing and all other sorts of other excitement across the land.

Perhaps take a moment a think about that next time you send an encrypted video-message via WhatsApp to a friend back home whilst you’re abroad on your holidays!

Tech-Trivia : Did You Know? This Week in History …

‘Wireless World’

This week, on June 28th 1965, ‘Early Bird’ (Intelsat I) was activated. It wasn’t just another satellite; it was the first commercial communications satellite to be nestled in a geosynchronous orbit. This is where it ‘parked’  at 22,236 miles above the equator in the line of the earth’s rotation, appearing stationary to observers on the ground.

This is often referred to as the ‘Clarke Orbit’ after the sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke who popularised the concept. Before becoming a full-time writer, he was a radar specialist during World War II and in a paper published in “Wireless World” in 1945, he proposed the idea of a global communications network based on geostationary satellites, providing a consistent and uninterrupted communication service. However, most people know him for the science-fiction novel and film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’.

Intelsat was founded in 1964 as an intergovernmental organisation (IGO) called the International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation, with 149 nations originally participating. In 2001, it became a private company and now has one of the world’s most expansive satellite networks, providing video and broadband services to over 200 countries and territories around the world. Their network broadcasted the Apollo moon landing in 1969 to millions of viewers around the world.

More recently, we have Starlink, the project initiated by SpaceX, the private space exploration company founded by Elon Musk. It’s developing a satellite network with up to 12,000 orbiting satellites to provide high-speed internet access across the globe, even in remote and rural areas or warzones (e.g. Ukraine). Starlink satellites are in ‘low’ earth orbit (340 miles), meaning they’re much closer to the ground than traditional communication satellites, allowing for lower latency and faster speeds, especially as their satellites use lasers to communicate with each other, enabling them to transfer data much faster than traditional satellite internet, for example, a Starlink user can expect download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, compared to download speeds of around 10 megabits per second for a user with traditional satellite internet.

Next time you look up at the night sky, perhaps you might spare a thought for all those satellites up there and how far we’ve come since Arthur C. Clarke penned his visionary paper in 1945.