Next Prophet: Arthur C. Clarke

The next episode of Prophets of Science Fiction is devoted to Arthur C. Clarke.

Some sci-fi storytellers are content to merely predict, but Sir Arthur C. Clarke creates. The writer is single-handedly responsible for the cornerstone of modern telecommunication: the satellite. Clarke details the design of satellite technology in a 1945 essay. His failure to patent the radical idea results in an aptly-titled later essay: How I Lost a Billion Dollars in My Spare Time.

The show airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on the Science Channel.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

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3 thoughts on “Next Prophet: Arthur C. Clarke

  1. “Single-handedly responsible for the cornerstone of modern telecommunication: the satellite” is stretching it considerably more than a little.

    Clarke assumed there would eventually be satellites, noting in his 1945 article in Wireless Word that this was a logical extension of the German V2 rockets. But he had absolutely nothing to do with their development, and other writers before him had described the concept of satellites in geostationary orbit and their use for communications.

    And, as it turned out, satellites were just a temporary “cornerstone”; following the introduction of intercontinental fiber optic cables in the late 1980s the traffic carried by satellites steadily dwindled, and over 99% of all worldwide communications traffic (phone, internet, TV, data) is now carried by cable.

    It sounds like this episode of Prophets may well be as dire as the previous ones.

  2. Well Mr. Burns, you seem to be more wrong than the author here.

    What Clarke is alleged to have invented is the Geostationary Orbit.
    ( And he envisioned manned stations there )

    A majority of TV distribution is still ( and will stay that way ) by GEO Sats.
    There are various mobile comms systems around that too go via GEO
    or lower orbit Sats.
    New Sattelites get started on a regular basis.

    You are right that point to point traffic (phone, internet) changed back to earthbound transport media.

  3. The program mentioned his failed marriage, but nothing else of his sexuality, probably a good thing, as the scandals in the years before his death are complex and well-documented. Just not here.

    Weird thing in the broadcast when several minutes of people talking about classic cars were interposed before the final few minutes of the program, as broadcast in NYC by Time-Warner Cable.

    Bill Burns, btw, is an international expert on trans-Atlantic cables, and a frequent consultant on programs about same. Uwe is the pseudonym of, uh…

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