Distance is Relative…..

Scene from Soviet film-Aelieta Queen of Mars-1924

By: Mike

In recent news we were treated to pictures transmitted from Mars of the vehicle on the surface which will search the planet for all sorts of things. Those pictures came from 200 million kilometres distance in next to no time.

The truth is that not many people will be surprised at such a remarkable feat but it seems like only yesterday that I saw my first television. It was about 1952 at a show in Dublin. It was a tiny set and was merely relaying pictures from one room to another a mere twenty feet apart. As a twelve year old child I marveled at the idea.

Up until then we had nothing more than a radio at home and most evenings we would sit around it listening to anything that was being transmitted.

I think it was about 1956 when my father bought our first TV which required an extremely high aerial that stood about sixty feet above our rooftop. We were then treated to a nightly couple of hour’s transmissions from the BBC – Ireland had no station of her own in those days.

Things gradually improved slightly as did the quantity, but not necessarily the quality, of programmes being transmitted. When the first Sputnik satellite arrived on the scene there were rumours that soon we would be able to have transmissions from America across the Atlantic. That was too much to even imagine for the signals from the Irish Television Centre that had been transmitting since December 1961, let alone those from the BBC in Wales were still behaving like snow-storms on the screen.

However, one evening I watched a programme on the BBC entitled ‘Tomorrow’s World’ that was trying to receive a signal from America via a satellite called ‘Telstar’. The picture eventually flickered, and then disappeared. Flickered again and once again disappeared. This continued for some time until eventually they abandoned the attempt with promises that it was guaranteed to work ‘in a day or two’. Sure enough, eventually it was a wonderful success and very quickly we were watching live boxing via the satellite with no need to get out of bed at four in the morning to listen to fights from an earlier era.

And what have we now? Hand-held TV’s and numerous other methods of receiving signals; cable, satellite, internet, mobile phones etc. As a matter of fact, on the ‘Red Button’ at the moment in the UK one can watch about twenty different Olympic sports.

Absolutely marvelous! What a change in sixty years…from 20 feet to almost 125 million miles…