We remember Sputnik (and Oz spot)

It's Tuesday's IT Blogwatch: in which we set the wayback machine to stun and listen out for Sputnik. Not to mention an Australian TV ad...

Gary Anthes breaks out the candles

Quick, what's the most influential piece of hardware from the early days of computing? The IBM 360 mainframe? The DEC PDP-1 minicomputer? Maybe earlier computers such as Binac, ENIAC or Univac? Or, going way back to the 1800s, is it the Babbage Difference Engine?

More likely, it was a 183-pound aluminum sphere called Sputnik, Russian for "traveling companion." Fifty years ago, on Oct. 4, 1957, radio-transmitted beeps from the first man-made object to orbit the Earth stunned and frightened the U.S., and the country's reaction to the "October surprise" changed computing forever.
The public demanded that something be done. The most immediate "something" was the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) ... [inventing] an astonishing array of IT, from time sharing to computer graphics to microprocessors ... What began as a simple attempt to link the computers used by a handful of U.S. Department of Defense researchers ultimately led to the global Internet of today. [more]

Give us a kiss, Matt Hickey:

One of the greatest achievements of man was the first space satellite, Sputnik. Launched by the Russians 50 years ago, Sputnik was the first man-made object to orbit the Earth. It didn’t do much; it was more proof-of-concept than anything, but it acted as a catalyst for the Space Age, igniting the Space Race that is now stalled. The thing is, Sputnik was a hack.

The man behind the project had to convince the Kremlin to give him a rocket for the project, and had to convince others to leave his “simplest satellite” as-is. The thing is, the Kremlin was barely behind the project, and the brass in Moscow didn’t grasp the significance of it. Only after the launch, when worldwide attention was spilled on the orbiter, did Russia start its posturing. [more]

Tom Regan remembers:

Last week, my 10-year-old daughter pointed out a large, round ball with spikes hanging from the ceiling of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. I looked up and immediately recognized the unusually shaped object as a model of Sputnik, the first man-made satellite.

It was 50 years ago this week that Sputnik's distinctive beeping noise was first heard as it circled the Earth. I was only a year old, so I had no idea of the impact that odd ball with spikes had on America ... While the Soviets said Sputnik was purely scientific, it still sparked plenty of fear among Americans. Schorr also remembers that many average Russians talked with pride about their government, which was rare in those days. [more]

In Soviet Russia, ChePibe congratulates YOU:

Just think about it - these guys put an object in orbit. It's commonplace today, I know, but to think that they were able to get it to work the first time still amazes me. [more]

Can you hear me now, gbobeck? CQ:

Amsat.org has a page which features a little blurb as well as sounds from the first satellites. For Sputnik, there are two signal recordings. [more]

And Paul Leader offers the spoils of Aunty's UK TV tax:

This week's book of the week on [BBC] Radio 4 is "Red Moon Rising", which is all about the building of Sputnik.

Available on Listen Again each day. [more]

But this Anonymous Coward just grumbles:

In the 1950s everyone was sh***ing themselves over the prospect of a global thermonuclear holocaust, and so the whole space race was the transformation of rocket science from a cool but fairly arcane and quiet field of science into some sort of overhyped modern day mythic single combat, with astronauts painted as knights in white armor championing and defending their tribes, doing some sort of weird imaginary battle in the skies. It wasted a lot of tax money that could have been better spent on American schools and hospitals and Russian food and clothing, and did pretty much nothing towards ... making the governments of the US and USSR understand that the other side were in fact humans and not demons or animals. [more]

Buffer overflow:

Around the Net Around Computerworld Previously in IT Blogwatch

And finally... "Chris" buys beans

Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You too can pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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