Early satellite TV predictions highlighted instant communication potential

Excerpt from the October 16, 1965, issue of Science News Letter

Early Bird satellite

EARLY BIRD  Engineers work on Intelsat I, also known as Early Bird, one of the first international communication satellites. It launched in 1965 to relay and broadcast TV signals between Europe and the United States.


Satellite TV predicted — Thirty-thousand-watt satellites transmitting radio and television directly into homes without the need for ground stations are the prediction of Radio Corporation of America board chairman David Sarnoff…. Such satellites could handle three TV and three radio channels at once, with little modification necessary in present home antennas. “When we can communicate instantly to everybody, everywhere,” he said, “we will set in motion a force whose ultimate political, social and economic impact upon mankind cannot be calculated today….” — Science News LetterOctober 16, 1965


Communication satellites provided global coverage just in time for televising the first moon landing, in 1969. Cable companies began using satellites to send TV programming from station to station in 1975, and the following year, a Stanford electrical engineer built an antenna to receive the first home transmission. Now, satellite TV, phone and Internet make instant communication an everyday experience with the world-changing impact that Sarnoff foresaw. 

Bethany was previously the staff writer at Science News for Students. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

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