Until the 1960s, voice communications between North America
and the other continents was possible - but expensive. Then AT&T Labs launched
Echo, a giant, experimental balloon off of which messages could be
bounced. Two years later Telstar was sent into orbit, the world's first active
For the next two decades, communications satellites played a major role in expanding both international and domestic long distance calling and television transmission. Today most long distance calls are carried by fiber optics and submarine cable, but communications satellites play an increasing role in television transmission, including direct broadcasts to home satellite dishes with digital television.