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In 1980 Manny Fthenakis was managing Fairchild Telecommunications in Gaithersburg, Maryland, when Comsat, IBM, and Aetna announced the creation of Satellite Business Systems (SBS). The announcement and subsequent commitment to the new data-oriented satellite involved a lead time of at least four years to design, procure, build, test, launch, and groom the system for full data operation. Not to be outdone, Manny acquired space on satellites already in orbit, owned by AT & T. He then organized something called American Satellite Corporation and launched an aggressive sales campaign throughout the Fortune 500 where long-term contracts would allow the construction of ground segment within six months. The overwhelming majority of Manny’s costs were marginal—nothing was purchased until a customer was in hand. In the mid-1980s, SBS turned up its system amid great fanfare and thundering silence in the market. It promptly went dark and the satellites were sold off to the great embarrassment of Comsat and IBM (Aetna had withdrawn long before). USA TODAY was one of the early users of Manny’s American Satellite system.


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