Telstar and the Dawn of Globalisation

Satellite orbiting in space, Telstar, AT&T, c. 1962

The icon for this website, the white golf ball-like object floating in a blue void, is an image I edited in Photoshop. The photograph the image derives from depicts a very famous and very significant piece of Cold War-era technology – Telstar 1.

Launched by NASA in 1962, the first Telstar satellite was responsible for transmitting the first live intercontinental television broadcast, heralding the age of globalisation.

Clouded by the seemingly inevitable prospect of nuclear annihilation, the satellite represented hope and spaceward-looking optimism for the peoples of the world in the early 1960s. Unlike an ICBM, the Telstar was designed to bring people together, not blow them apart. It was one step closer to a truly connected world (the birth of the internet perhaps marking the final transition into globalisation).

‘Telstar’ is also the name of a 1962 instrumental, recorded by the now somewhat forgotten band, The Tornados. Some might recognise it from the ending sequence of an episode of AMC’s Mad Men back in 2008. It was the first British song to reach the number one spot on the US charts, laying the foundations for the cultural British Invasion. Just like the satellite it was named after, the song signalled a change in the social landscape of both America and Europe.

The composition of the song was also revolutionary. Its digital, compressed aesthetic employed by Joe Meek was ahead of its time and a precursor to the synthesiser-rich songs of the late 70s and 80s.

The song is also one of my favourites.

It’s full of space-age optimism from a generation who were, quite literally, shooting for the moon. Pop culture of the time was choked with this optimism. In the vein of Stanley Kubrick’s cult classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, people genuinely believed the colonisation of our solar system was near, and with this the assurance that mankind would survive the mushroom cloud-shaped menace on the horizon.

It’s unfortunate that colonisation of space has yet come to pass, but at least we haven’t blown each other up (fingers crossed it stays that way).

But nonetheless, the song and the golf ball satellite it pays homage to inspire me. I often listen to The Tornadoes and their short catalogue of songs while writing.

That’s part of the reason why I chose the Telstar to represent my website. It represents my ambition and desire to change the world with my writing.

That and it looks pretty cool too.

-James-

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