Suppose you have a lots of funding and access to all the technology available in the free world. You also have political connection & persuasion, to get your hands on any of it, whether civilian or military.

Is it possible to build a system of satellite chat phones which would allow you to communicate via text messages everywhere in the world.

Something like Viber / What's App, with only text messages, where people all over the world could buy the phone, buy subscription, and communicate everywhere in the world via texting each other?

The phones don't have to be handheld, suitcase sized phone would do as long as its portable.

The communication must be two sided, like two way pagers example Motorola 900

Any year in the 80's would do before 1989.

Please ignore Challenger disaster as a possible bottleneck for launching the constellation of satellites.

Also ignore all the governmental permits, like ITAR, assume that you will get any license you need, and all the launching slots you require.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I understand that you are not a fan of telecommunications history; that's fine, most people aren't. The Iridium satellite phone system was designed in the 1980s and was set up in the 1990s (from 1993 to 1998). It could have easily been set up ten years earlier, but it would have been even more expensive than it actually was. Inmarsat-C is a packet-data service which became operational in 1991, replacing the older Inmarsat-A which had been available for maritime use since the 1982. $\endgroup$ – AlexP May 28 '18 at 22:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ CB radio amateurs were "chatting" world wide way earlier than the '80s... $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica May 29 '18 at 6:14
  • $\begingroup$ The US military had a suite of satellites in orbit specifically designed to permit communications around the world (MILSTAR) since the early '90s. Texting/SMS could be made part of that network. Telstar 1 was a civilian comm satellite that was launched in 1962. SMS like features could have been made part of that satellite's function. $\endgroup$ – Jim2B May 31 '18 at 18:15

Would satellite bounced SMS be technically possible in the 1980s?

Absolutely. As noted in a comment below your main post, semi-commercial active satellite transmission of voice calls was conducted as early as 1962, and text-messaging should require significantly less bandwidth per user than intelligible vocal audio.

Would satellite based SMS be commercially viable in the 1980s?

Maybe, but probably not. The prior decades' Space Race really had people high on optimistic visions of the future. There were already fictional depictions of two way videophones in 2001 A Space Oddessey (a 1968 film) and people would likely have seen SMS like a step back toward Morse Code rather than a step toward that idealized future.

To make SMS commercially viable, you'd basically have to convince the public that carrying around a telegram-receiving briefcase would be worthwhile. While there might be a few titans of industry that would be glad to have the constant lines of communication, the public at large would most likely see no point in the endeavor. Adaptation would likely mirror mobile-phone adoption, with commonplace per-household or per-capita ownership lagging decades behind the initial commercial releases.

|improve this answer|||||
  • $\begingroup$ I think that to have widespread acceptance of text messaging, you first have to have something like email being fairly widely used. That gets people used to the idea that typed messages are often better than voice calls. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf May 29 '18 at 5:31
  • $\begingroup$ eMail is much older than the internet. Single system messaging is even older. The concept of eMail existed in the 70's, but i fear that only computer users would know about it. $\endgroup$ – Michael Kutz May 30 '18 at 10:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.