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This Week In MIT History

By Katie Jeffreys

Features Editor

On April 24, 1962 the word “M.I.T.” became the first television image transmitted by communication satellite. The transmission was orchestrated by MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory station in Camp Parks, California with sponsorship from the Air Force. The message was received at Milestone hill in Westford, Massachusetts, 2,700 miles away.

The signal was weak compared with the background electrical noise in the atmosphere. The signal was also inconsistent. These two factors compromised the picture quality.

The visual image was a natural progression from the transmission of pre-recorded voice messages. The Echo I balloon satellite which was used to convey the image had been used to send audio messages in the prior year. Launched in 1960, Echo I was the first communications satellite. It orbited the earth at a height of 1,000 miles for several years.