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First Data Transmission via Telstar Satellite

Host, Robert Garner

On December 19, 2022, Brenda Make e-mailed Robert Garner
Hi Robert,

This is probably common trivia, but apparently the 1401 sent a message using on the Telstar 1, as verified by IBM, using a IBM 1009 Data Transmission Unit, which are probably rarer than "hens teeth" : )
(see lowest text)

Also, here's a 1401 used a Roper stoves.
Take Care,

The 1962 Telstar transmission between Endicott and LeGaude was reportedly the very first digital communication via satellite.

link to source
and the IBM press release

Here’s a description of the photo that we also have on display on the 1401 Demo Lab’s exit wall:

Maurice Papo, co-designer of the WWAM and head of the IBM LeGaude R&D Laboratory at the time (1964), recalled that 1401 “computer drawings (ALDs?)” were transmitted. Here’s a 2009 email from Maurice about it:
From: Maurice Papo
Subject: Re: Telestar Endicott to LaGaude transmission - 1962 or '64 ?
Date: December 4, 2009 at 2:14:27 AM PST
To: Robert Garner


My recollection is 1964.
I was lab Director at the time
The transmission had little to do with the 1401 or the WWAM project (except the computer drawings were used to furnish the data to be transmitter). At that time the La Gaude lab had a corporate mission on data transmission and the Telstar experiment was part of the project to prove that data transmission over satellite was indeed possible with a reasonable error rate which was far from obvious at the time!.
You may be interested in reading on that subject, the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing (Volume 31, number 2, April-June 2009)

Best regards


Looking up the IEEE Annals 2009 article Maurice referenced, “IBM France La Gaude Laboratory Contributions to Telecommunications: Part 1”...
… about the Telstar transmission it states:
“In the same year, a Telstar satellite link was tested for data transmission; a tape reader in the La Gaude Laboratory transmitted at 50 bps to a computer located in Endicott, New York. The satellite link proved to be reliable; most of the errors came from the terrestrial local loop between La Gaude and Nice. With these tests, indeed, the La Gaude Laboratory became a data transmission pioneer for both France and Europe.’

The IEEE article indirectly pegs the Telstar transmission year as 1963 as the previous paragraph in the paper says: "In 1961, IBM tests were extended to other major European countries” followed by "Two years after the extended European tests, an IBM contribution to Commission Special A presented all the results obtained in Europe; the report included the error rates achieved and the type of errors. In the same year, a Telstar satellite link was tested for data transmission…"

And here's a personal anecdote about the Telstar transmission event on our 1401 stories page.