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Arthur C. Clarke RIP

Arthur C. Clarke, one of the masters of science fiction has died at the age of 90. Clarke was not only a visionary of science fiction, but also left his indelible mark on our modern world:

As a Royal Air Force officer during World War II, Clarke took part in the early development of radar. In a paper written for the radio journal “Wireless World” in 1945, he suggested that artificial satellites hovering in a fixed spot above Earth could be used to relay telecommunications signals across the globe.

He is widely credited with introducing the idea of the communications satellite, the first of which were launched in the early 1960s. But he never patented the idea, prompting a 1965 essay that he subtitled, “How I Lost a Billion Dollars in My Spare Time.”

Every time we watch a satellite broadcast, we’re sharing in the legacy of Arthur C. Clarke. Not only was he a great writer, but he was one of the most innovative men of our time. RIP.

2 responses to “Arthur C. Clarke RIP”

  1. bobunf says:

    I enjoyed much of Clarke’s fiction, especially “Childhood’s End” and “The City and the Stars.” An important element of his fiction (especially apparent in “2001”), which I didn’t like, was his strain at making equivalence of the actors in the East-West conflict–as though there were little difference or choice between communism and liberal democracies. Clarke, of course, was lucky enough to live in one of those liberal democracies until he migrated to Sri Lanka at the age of 39.

    Beyond that, he didn’t think too much of humans. Unlike in Star Trek, or with Heinlein or Asimov, humans, for Clarke, were barely worthy of survival, at best.

    Not to get too worked up about his firm grasp of science and the future, consider some predictions he made in 2001:

    • 2002 Clean low-power fuel involving a new energy source, possibly based on cold fusion.
    • 2003 The automobile industry is given five years to replace fossil fuels.
    • 2004 First publicly admitted human clone.
    • 2006 Last coal mine closed.
    • 2009 A city in a third world country is devastated by an atomic bomb explosion.
    • 2009 All nuclear weapons are destroyed.

    I don’t think I’d bet the farm on any of these predictions.

    Also, I think Clarke took, and gets, too much credit for the communication satellite idea. Clarke, in 1945, envisioned a system of three manned satellites providing direct-broadcast television; an idea never brought to fruition.

    But, Hermann Noordung, in his 1928 book, “Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums: Der Raketen-motor,” described geostationary satellites and discussed communication between them and the ground using radio; an idea which has certainly been brought to overwhelming fruition. The book was translated into Russian in 1935, but not into English until 1996.

    The book was widely read within the German Verein fur Raumschiffahrt (Society for Spacecraft Travel), which Werner von Braun joined in 1930. Von Braun, of course, developed all of the progenitors of the Delta rocket that sent the first American communication satellite, Echo 1, into orbit in 1960.

    Nonetheless, as with all of us flawed humand–ACC, RIP.

    Bob

  2. Janek says:

    I liked Arthur C. Clarke for writing the novel “The Songs of Distant Earth”, which was pretty bad as a book (at least the German translation I read rather sucked), but which inspired Mike Oldfield to write an album of the same name, which was great.

    J.