Fifty Years Ago, Lyndon Johnson Answered the First Satellite Phone Call

Jul 10, 2012

An American flag waving in Andover, Maine. This was the first video ever transmitted by commercial satellite.

“Good evening Mr. Vice President, this is Fred Kappel calling from the Earth Station at Andover, Maine. The call is being relayed through our Telstar satellite as I’m sure you know. How do you hear me?”

“You’re coming through nicely Mr. Kappel,” said Vice President Lyndon Johnson.

So began the first phone call ever routed through a commercial satellite, designed and flown by AT&T, Bell Labs, NASA, and the English and French governments. (Despite the fact that the satellite was owned in part by AT&T, neither party remembered to complain about the call quality.) Following on that call’s heels came the first satellite-transmitted video, of a flag waving in Andover, the first fax, and a video Montand Yves singing La Chansonnette, says the CBC. read more