Current Technologies

Study Preview Satellite and fiber-optic technologies in the late 1900s improved the speed and reliability of delivering mass messages. These were backshop developments that were largely invisible to media consumers. Plainly visible, though, was the related advent of the Internet as a new mass medium.

Learning Objectives By the end of this module you will be able to:

  1. 2.5.1 Explain how satellite technology affected media communication
  2. 2.5.2 Characterize the cable industry in the mid-1900s
  3. 2.5.3 Explain how digitization led to changes in mass communication
  4. 2.5.4 Compare the World Wide Web to older forms of communication media
  5. 2.5.5 Describe the ways in which the Digital Revolution changed mass communication
  6. 2.5.6 Summarize current trends in media architecture
  7. 2.5.7 Differentiate types of communication used in media-convergent technologies

2.5.1 Orbiting Satellites 1. Objective: Explain how satellite technology affected media communication

More than 50 years ago, the Russians sent the first human-made satellite, Sputnik,

into orbit. The accomplishment ignited a rush to explore space near earth. In response, technology surged. Weather forecasting became less intuitive, more scientific, and many times more accurate. With geopositioning signals from satellites, maps had new, everyday applications that only Spock could have imagined. Communication was transformed too, with signals being bounced off satellites for a straight-line range that far exceeded anything possible with the existing network of ground-based relay towers located every 10 or so miles apart.

Orbiting Relay Stations. Dozens of satellites orbit earth as communication relay stations. The concept dates to 1945 when Arthur C. Clarke (bottom), known mostly as a science fiction writer but also a serious scientist, conceived of satellites remaining stationary above a point on earth if their speed matched the planet’s rotation. Fifteen years later, in 1960, the first communication satellite Telstar proved Clarke right.

For communication, the key to utilizing satellites was the geosynchronous orbit. It was a concept of sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke, also was a serious scientist. Clarke figured out in 1945 that a satellite 22,300 miles above the equator would be orbiting at the same speed as earth’s rotation, thus always being above the same point below on earth—an ideal platform for continuous service to pick up signals from earth stations and retransmit them to other earth stations. It was like a 22,300-mile-high relay tower. With only one relay, not hundreds, signals would move faster and with more reliability. The Telstar communication satellite, launched in 1960, took the first telephone signals from uplink stations on earth, amplified them, and returned them to downlink stations. Television networks also used Telstar.

Watch “Telstar Satellite Brings World Closer 1962/7/12”

*You’ll be redirected to a third-party site.

Satellite technology, however, did not change the fundamental structures of the

industries that had built up around print, chemical, and electronic technology. Rather, satellites were an efficient alternative for delivering traditional media products. Prime- time network programming still came from the networks. Major newspapers including USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times were sending pages by satellite to remote printing plants around the country, with far-away readers picking up fresh copies as if they had just come from a press within driving distance. In short, satellite technology was important for enabling media companies to improve delivery of their products but was largely invisible to consumers.

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