David E. Steiner

Retired USAF, Teacher, Dad, Grandfather, Curmudgeon

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Arthur C. Clarke

 

Fall is upon us. The forest seems to be waiting for winter as the sun continues its swing to the south, casting long shadows from the barren aspens on frosty morning ground.

As we prepare for the rigors of winter, we begin to think about our connections to the outside world and how secure they are. We are closer to the outside world than ever before, with our telephone lines buried and our dependable cars and trucks which require less and less maintenance. Our electricity is more dependable, too, thanks to the work done this summer by Estes Park to eliminate the annoying “blinking” which has plagued our valley for more than three decades. They never did find the exact trouble, but they trimmed trees, replaced transformers and traced outages all summer long. It’s now been more than two months since we experienced even a momentary power outage.

We sometimes forget how most of this transformation came about. Fifty years ago last month Arthur C. Clarke proposed an idea, laughed at when he came up with it, that changed all our lives. Clarke is a mathematician and science-fiction writer who thought it possible to position satellites in stationary orbits above the planet to provide communication linkages to the entire world. He calculated that such satellites would have to be exactly 22,300 miles above the earth.

Today, of course, we don’t think much about those satellites. At the moment there are dozens of them, spaced just a few degrees apart, at that exact distance, in a line across the sky now called the Clarke Belt. They are a part of our everyday lives. Commodities are bought and sold through them. A rancher in California can see and bid on cattle in Nebraska. Most of our long distance telephone calls go through them, which is why such communication is now so inexpensive compared to 50 years ago. All network, syndicated and cable television goes through them. Users of the Internet can talk to computers around the world because of these satellites. Automobile designers in Detroit and Japan work with each other in real time. No place in the world is beyond their reach. Satellites have made possible the almost unlimited use of computers and the new satellites are themselves designed by computers.  Clarke now lives in Sri Lanka and sends his work from his computer to his publishers through the satellites he dreamed up.

In our valley the most common manifestation used to be the big C-Band satellite dishes. Today we see the smaller 18 inch dishes which have been made possible by compressed video technology that permits many more channels on a single, high powered satellite. One of our advertisers sells this equipment.

We like to think of ourselves as independent sorts who can take care of ourselves but in fact we’re hooked up to the rest of the world. When we pick up a copy of USA Today, we’re looking at a newspaper built on satellite technology, its stories transmitted by those same satellites from a single source to various printing plants around the country .

I used to fly into typhoons for a living, but today only a handful of airplanes do that. The Air Force’s Air Weather Service no longer owns a single airplane. It used to take many hours and great risk to bring back a black and white radar picture of a storm. Today I can get a full color picture with just a few commands from my keyboard, just minutes old, of a storm in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Every day we have seen on our television sets the pictures of the hurricanes which have threatened or battered our country this season. We take them for granted, as they save billions of dollars and thousands of lives by warning us of their arrival. Satellites take infra-red pictures that give us information about droughts and floods, ocean currents, volcanic activity and the destruction of rain forests, to name just a few of their uses.

Next time you pick up the phone to call Aunt Bertha in Florida to see how she is after the storm, or watch television on a long winter night, you might think for a moment about Arthur Clarke, who had a big idea and truly changed our world and our mountains.

 

 

Columns

© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner

Allenspark Wind Columns:

Introduction

Why Allenspark?

Going Riding [August, 1985]

Electricity

Used Cars

Peace and Quiet [1986]

Liberals & Conservatives

Going to the Movies

The Screened Porch

The Beginning of The Season

The Weather

The Hilltop Guild Bazaar

The End of The Season

The Gift of Time

The Beavers

Addresses [1987]

Hiking

Watching the Trees Grow

Postal Rates

Changes in Estes Park

Square Dancing at the Pow Wow

Back to the Hilltop Guild Bazaar

The Solstices

Bird Feeders

Elevators

The Estes Park Hardware Store [1988]

Visitors

Limousine Service

A Memorial Service

A Hummingbird

Garbage

A Hiking Trip

The Estes Park Public Library

Wild Life

Riparian Rights [1989]

Weather

Fences

Commuting

Mountain Friendliness

A Motorcycle Trip

Satellite Television

“Weaving Mountain Memories”

Hotel Rates in the Old Days

The Price of Propane [1990]

The Front Range Almanac

June

Modes of Transportation

Miller Moths

My 50th Column

Modern Conveniences

Rock Climbing

On the Death of Otto Walter, Postmaster

Otto’s Memorial Service

A Big Owl Pot-Luck Dinner

A Whine About Telephone Service [1991]

After the Persian Gulf War

Some Changes in the WIND

The Trip to the Mountains

The Mountains in the Summer

Visitors

Of Dogs, Music, and Children

Muhlenburg County

To My Grandson

The Sale of Longs Peak Inn

World War II  [1992]

Murphy’s Law and the Computer

The South St. Vrain Canyon

“Whiteout”

The Hazards of Volunteering

Crime in Our Valley

Infestations

On the Death of Charles Eagle Plume

Can We All Get Along?

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Lost Horizon [1993]

Walking

Rumors About a Visit by the Pope

Progress?

More About Fences

Woodpeckers

The Visit of Pope John Paul II

Forest Fires

The New Sewage System

The Snow Pool

The Good Old Days [1994]

The WIND’s 20th Anniversary

The Bunce School

The Shooting Gallery

The Estes Park Museum

Our Government

U.S. West Takes a Hit

The Year of the Hummingbirds

A New “Yield” Sign

Growth in Allenspark

Private Telephones?

The Salvation Army

Creation Science [1995]

Devolutionizing Big Government

Risks

Airports

Fort D.A. Russell

Domestic Terrorism

Old and New

Barney Graves

Life in the Wilderness

What’s In a Name?

Arthur C. Clarke

 

The Estes Park Trail-Gazette Columns:

July 1983

Carpentry

Estes Cone

Johnny Grant

Observations in Estes Park

The Bath House

Waving

The Sutherland’s Ice House

How Old is Charles Eagle Plume?

Dogs

Christmas Trees

Tree Murder

Mountain Driving

Garbage

Mail Boxes

More About Mail Boxes

“Are you related to ....?”

Spring

An Accident

The Wild Cat

A July Reunion

A Visit to Baldpate Inn

Opening Cabins

Summer

The Times, They Have Changed

Death and Transfiguration

The Population Explosion

The March of Time

Faith-Based Social Services

Looking for Pitch

Recent Writings I

Recent Writings II

Recent Writings III

Recent Writings IV

Recent Writings V

Recent Writings VI

 

 

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