Home >> July 2009 Edition >> RADFORD RULES: Chronicles Of SATCOM
Tribal History

As any veteran of the industry is fully aware, SATCOM culture emanates from a number of specific “gene-pools” scattered throughout the country. Granted, SATCOM is a global industry, but few would argue that the heritage of satellite communications has roots that can be traced to one of these epicenters in the U.S. Newcomers to the cult may be interested in learning just how these centers came to be and how they ended up in these particular, and in some cases “curious” geographic locations.

RF tagging didn’t exist in the beginning, so architects of the Chronicles had to manually track the crusades of our nomadic pioneers, the veterans who laid the foundation of the industry we know today. To keep things simple — and to protect the identities of those few deserving of such, details are presented in the context of “tribal behavior.”

Let us consult the Chronicles and journey back in time to see how all these tribes originated. Though these writings may be slightly inaccurate due to a few over-statements, embellishments, and exaggerations of truth, they are anchored in a frightening reality. Also, some pages were removed from the Chronicles and used for unmentionable things when other forms of paper were in short supply leaving some gaps in the contiguous time line.

Now — on with the story. One of the earliest and most decorated tribes, known as the Sandpeople, originated on the beaches of Melbourne, Florida – Satellite Beach to be exact. Members of this tribe passed some of the earliest and most significant milestones in SATCOM history, like sending the first transcontinental video transmission. I think it was something major, like a Boy George concert or Olympic mud-wrestling event, but don’t quote me on that. All I know is that it triggered the end of cultural purity around the globe and launched an exciting new industry.

At around the same time, some Georgia Tech nerds started gathering in a local garage on the weekends where, despite neighbors’ fears that a Devo-like rock band was beginning to form, they invented some ancient widgets that were badly needed by the fledgling new SATCOM industry.

By recruiting droves of engineers leaking from the Tech campus and unable to escape the gastronomical pull of the Varsity, the Cabelteevees entered the scene. They grew in ranks and ultimately formed what became a Fortune-500 SATCOM gene-pool in northeast Atlanta. Then, following the paving of Interstate — 75, the Cabelteevees and Sandpeople began to interbreed, forming a new tribe called the LowPBTees. After a long reign of low-margin success, the LowPBTees disbanded and formed numerous local sub-tribes, creating a perpetual climate of cross-pollination and tribal wars that continue to this day.

Far across the land, a couple of clever guys bought a little wooden house across the street from the MGM Studios. Soon, the Ideebees exploded on to the scene. They became a truly magnificent tribe, but after a brief skirmish, one of the elders decided to break away and head east in search of greener pastures, had a flat tire in Dallas, and soon, the Integrates were formed.

As the Integrates’ tentacles spread like a patch of rabid kudzu in a field of sun-bleached cow manure, a new gene-pool was created and eventually the Europeans came with an infusion of fresh DNA, which was badly needed. Times seemed good. Though, disillusioned by SATCOM’s refusal to bear the fruits of wealth and prosperity, some Integrates tried to escape the tribe and run to Mexico. But they ran out of gas in Kilgore.

Too tired to continue, they set roots and formed the Parabolites. At one point in time, the Parabolites were devoured by the Sandpeople, but they didn’t digest well and were eventually returned to tribal self-rule, later to be consumed by warriors wearing three-horned helmets the TriPoints (though it’s not really clear who actually consumed who). The result was the formation of a new super-tribe called the Geedeeites who amassed major armies and embarked on a quest for global domination.

Other Integrates decided to journey back to the homeland, only to hit hard times in Phoenix. Three tribes, the Reeds, Solomons and Viterbis were formed where turf battles ensued for years. They tried to be unique, but governed by the laws of “open standards”; their markings were all the same.

After years of surviving the tribulations of desert life, one of them became cannibalistic and consumed the other two. War-torn and defeated in their battle for independence, those who were able to escape assimilation joined insurgent forces from Happy Valley and seized the opportunity to live and fight another day.

All the while, small tribes began to take shape in DC, Maryland, Virginia, and New Jersey. But there was so much in-breeding that the roots of their ancestry were diluted beyond recognition. Despite the lack of cohesive identity, they found fertile ground in the Federal Government where their combined roots became thickly intertwined.

Like Jack’s magic beans irrigated with nuclear waste-water, they grew into some of the SATCOM giants we know today. They rarely socialize with other tribes, but operate under a veil of secrecy and feed on a seemingly endless supply of tax dollars.

When you think about it, the tribe analogy really is appropriate. When SATCOM veterans congregate, they will inevitably gather into huddles of common ancestry. But as the industry weathers cycles of good times and bad, one tribe may experience famine while another may be enjoying a period of prosperity. This drove some tribesmen to change allegiance to another tribe that might be basking in the spoils of a major kill.

In an attempt to dissuade their subjects from seeking better hunting grounds, some of their tribal leaders attempted to force bondage in the form of non-compete treaties laden with short-term gratification or by amassing legal militia and waging frivolous battles armed with small caliber NDAs.

But with the relentless passion, dedication and stone-hard perseverance of a sled dog crossing the finish line of the Iditarod (or simply the lack of any other marketable skill) and despite attempts to thwart their escape, some tribesmen armed only with their experience, skill and ambition climbed the fences, swam the moats, crossed the desert and ultimately perpetuated the industry we know today as satellite communications.