In a post–Cold War world, the Iridium satellite network revealed a new age of globalization.
In June 1990, Motorola publicly announced an ambitious business venture called Iridium. The project’s signature feature was a constellation of 77 satellites in low-Earth orbit which served as the equivalent of cellular towers, connecting to mobile customers below using wireless hand-held phones. As one of the founding engineers noted, the constellation "bathed the planet in radiation," enabling a completely global communications system.
Focusing on the Iridium venture, this book explores the story of globalization at a crucial period in US and international history. As the Cold War waned, corporations and nations reoriented toward a new global order in which markets, neoliberal ideology, and the ideal of a borderless world predominated. As a planetary-scale technological system, the project became emblematic of this shift and of the role of the United States as geopolitical superpower. In its ambition, scope, challenges, and organizing ideas, the rise of Iridium provides telling insight into how this new global condition stimulated a re-thinking of corporate practices—on the factory floor, in culture and knowledge, and in international relations.
Combining oral history interviews with research in corporate records, Martin Collins opens up new angles on what global meant in the years just before and after the end of the Cold War. The first book to tell the story of Iridium in this context, A Telephone for the World is a fascinating look at how people, nations, and corporations across the world grappled in different ways with the meaning of a new historical era.
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