Don't You Wish Satellite Phones Still Came With This Cute Little Dish?

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An homage to the era when only the truly important could chitchat via space.

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Most people don't need a satellite phone. We have cell phones and landlines. But once upon a time, they were a necessity for intrepid reporters (above) and drug-running pilots (below). During those halcyon days, the satellite phone came with a small dish, not unlike the one that delivers DirecTV, and a box-full of gear. It must have really *felt* like you were communicating via satellites orbiting in space. Satellite phones were for elites! People like you! Perfect world travelers who were so important that their suitcases were filled solely with communication apparatuses (and a towel and an extra pair of socks and a knife that could be tucked in one's loafers).

As of today, you can tweet your lunch via satellite phone and -- thanks to the miniaturization of hardware -- all you need is a chunky phone with a chunkier antenna, which a guy named Stephen can sell you any time you want.

The glamor of the new: It fades.

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Images: COMSAT.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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