Media Technology and Society: A History: From the Telegraph to the Internet

By Brian Winston | Go to book overview

16

THE SATELLITE ERA

DOMESTIC SATELLITES

Comsat’s less than triumphal international progress was matched by its faltering advance domestically, although, initially, the company proved as attractive a stock as Congress had hoped. The 50 per cent available to the public was snapped up by 150,000 buyers and the value of their holdings, an average of twenty shares per person, doubled to $100 million. Otherwise Comsat suffered a string of defeats.

The site of the first of these was over the ground stations, then costing around $10 million each. The international ground station market had developed very much as expected with all the usual players involved—Marconi in Hong Kong and on Ascension Island; Plessey, GEC and AEI at Goonhilly; Nippon with Hughes, Mitsubishi with TRW and Bell in Japan; Siemens in Germany; ITT in Spain; RCA in Canada; Philco in Italy and Bell in France. The station in Bahrain had been built by Marconi but was not owned by the local government but by Cable and Wireless. In contrast, Comsat was not involved in this market, not even in the US, but it wanted to be. In 1966, following fruitless negotiations between it and the US carriers who had built the stations it was running, the FCC issued the Solomonic judgement that seven of the eight in question should be controlled on a fifty-fifty basis for three years. The Alaskan station was to be wholly owned by Comsat. The carriers’ ownership interests in Comsat, AT&T’s 25 per cent for example, complicated this matter.

The FCC found against Comsat on another important issue. The military, who permanently used some 17 per cent of the carriers’ total terrestrial system, let bids for ten satellite circuits to Hawaii and points west. The FCC forbad Comsat from bidding and determined that it should be a carriers’ carrier, which is to say an organisation having nothing to do with users, only carriers. Via these, the military were soon spending over $20 million a year on leasing Intelsat satellite

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Media Technology and Society: A History: From the Telegraph to the Internet
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Introduction: A Storm from Paradise 1
  • Part I - Propagating Sound at Considerable Distances 17
  • 1 - The Telegraph 19
  • 2 - Before the Speaking Telephone 30
  • 3 - The Capture of Sound 51
  • Part II - The Vital Spark and Fugitive Pictures 65
  • 4 - Wireless and Radio 67
  • 5 - Mechanically Scanned Television 88
  • 6 - Electronically Scanned Television 100
  • 7 - Television Spin-Offs and Redundancies 126
  • Part III 145
  • 8 - Mechanising Calculation 147
  • 9 - The First Computers 166
  • 10 - Suppressing the Main Frames 189
  • 11 - The Integrated Circuit 206
  • 12 - The Coming of the Microcomputer 227
  • Part IV - The Intricate Web of Trails, This Grand System 241
  • 13 - The Beginnings of Networks 243
  • 14 - Networks and Recording Technologies 261
  • 15 - Communications Satellites 276
  • 16 - The Satellite Era 295
  • 17 - Cable Television 305
  • 18 - The Internet 321
  • Conclusion: the Pile of Debris 337
  • Notes 343
  • References 351
  • Index 361
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