Happy birthday, Sputnik!

An ode to a pioneer.

Published October 4, 2007 5:46PM (EDT)

Yeah, we know you said you didn't want to make too much of it. But comrade, how could we not? 50! What an anniversary! Congratulations!

Surprised? Yeah, we planned it when you were off on your rounds. It was mostly Explorer 1's idea -- you know, he's always looked up to you. Here, have a piece of cake.

What? No, don't be silly. Come on, you look fabulous. That tiny thing? So you had a run-in or two with a meteor -- who hasn't? What re-entry burn? Didn't even notice.

You're looking at it all wrong, man. OK, so you can't do phone calls. We should all be so lucky! Do you have any idea how annoying it is to be fired up at dawn because some chump in San Jose needs to talk to his "supply-chain consultant" in Taipei? Ever listen to such conversations? I'd rather fly into the sun!

No, trust me, that job is even worse, brother. Every second they're asking you for directions. "Where am I now?" "OK, where am I now?" "And how about now?" "And now?" "Now?" Ever hear of a map?! Just one time I'd like to really tell them where to get off, and I don't mean "Turn right in 50 yards."

DirectTV? Sure, it sounds like paradise, until you see what they're really watching. Three words: "Punky Brewster" marathon. Same thing with the Internet. You think it's going to be enlightening or something but you do not want to know what really goes on over there.

Seriously man, we all envy you. We were talking about it before you got here. Even Key Hole was saying how everyone thinks what she does is dangerous, but she could never match you. The first! Imagine that. So brave. Without you, none of us would be up here.

No, I am not just saying that. Why else would we have planned this? The phone calls, the maps, the photographs, TV, everything we do -- would any of it have happened if you hadn't shown us how it's done? You changed the world, man.

Are you feeling better? Here, have a Black Russian. Hey man, would you do one thing for us? You know what I'm talking about, right?

Oh that's so great! I love that rhythm. "Beep beep beep beep beep ..." Oh, I could listen to it all day.

What? Of course Key Hole really said that. Yeah, you definitely should -- I've heard she's into older guys. She's always been a little eccentric. Better go catch her before she runs off to take more pictures of Pyongyang.

By Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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