cover image How the World Was One

How the World Was One

Arthur Charles Clarke. Bantam Books, $22.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-553-07440-6

Fully one-half of this personalized history of telecommunications appeared in Clarke's Voices Across the Sea (1958), but few authors bear repeating so well as this renowned writer of science fiction and fact. Clarke's own enthusiasm for the field emerged when he was a youth working in a post office, and continues unabated. Parts I and II cover the campaigns to lay the transatlantic telegraph cables begun in the 1850s; by the era of radio communications, young Clarke is already a participant, inventing voice-activated light signals in the garage. By 1945, he leapfrogged technology in a prophetic paper called ``Extra Terrestrial Relays,'' which first proposed geosynchronous communication satellites. Clarke made his reputation by crafting imagination into vision; he deserves bragging rights on the comsat (communications satellite) system (the chapter ``How I Lost a Billion Dollars'' describes how he lost patent rights). Best is his willingness to bet on ESP in the final chapter's speculation. A vintage offering from the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey. (June)