As I was driving along the by-ways of the Chicago ‘burbs on Monday, Gertie, our trusted GPS system, was ordering me to hee instead of haw, while my cell phone signaled that a message was pending. I wondered to myself if our internet service was still interrupted at home and what I could warm up in the microwave for supper. As I drove along, our local public radio station began broadcasting NPR’s All Things Considered. Host Robert Siegel began with this opening line:
“Fifty years ago on this date, space became TV-friendly. It was one small moment for an orbiting satellite called Telstar 1, one big leap for couch potatoes everywhere.”
Fifty years ago . . .
. . . I was a young girl, on the cusp of becoming a teenager, with my head usually buried in a book, dreaming of knights in shining armor defending the castle gates or a chance encounter with George Chakiris, snapping his fingers and dancing westward along the Eisenhower Expressway toward me. My world still felt idyllic then. I felt safe in the bosom of my family. The brutal assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King had not yet occurred, nor the civil unrest that would come as the decade wore on. I was too young to understand Viet Nam, and there were but three national television stations to choose from, ABC, CBS, and NBC – and they went off the air every night to the tune of our national anthem.
As I listened to NPR yesterday, the music of the Tornadoes’ playing Telstar filled my head. I thought of Walter Cronkite’s broadcast, live, across the United States with Chet Huntley, his competitor, in San Francisco and across the Atlantic Ocean to the BBC’s Richard Dimbleby. There was even a cheer from the crowd at a Cubs baseball game in Chicago’s Wrigley Field. How exciting it felt back then; this idea of instant communication across continents and oceans and outer space. I had little idea of what it truly meant or what phenomenal changes it would mean for all of us these fifty years later, but, looking back, the changes have been nothing short of mind-boggling. I think I am more in awe now when I think of all that small satellite in outer spaced, birthed by Ma Bell and raised by the enterprising minds of those who dared to think outside of that little box that sat in our homes all across this globe.
I could wax on about all that the Telstar broadcast shepherded into our lives. Instead, I think I’ll just let it speak on its own as you ponder how instantaneous communications now is and how we take it for granted. The link above is about 10 minutes in length, narrated by Walter Cronkite. I think you will find it interesting if you are so inclined and have the time to listen to him as he talks about this moment in time and how they were all ”creating an event to serve technology” when many of us were young girls and boys, and many of us were not even born yet.
You might also enjoy hearing The Tornadoes and their hit song, Telstar.