The incredible story of Iridium - the most complex satellite system ever built, the cell phone of the future, and one of the largest corporate bankruptcies in American history - and one man's desperate race to save it.
In the early 1990s, Motorola, the legendary American technology company, developed a revolutionary satellite system called Iridium that promised to be its crowning achievement. Light-years ahead of anything previously put into space, and built on technology developed for Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars", Iridium's constellation of 66 satellites in polar orbit meant that no matter where you were on Earth, at least one satellite was always overhead, and you could call Tibet from Fiji without a delay and without your call ever touching a wire.
Iridium the satellite system was a mind-boggling technical accomplishment, surely the future of communication. The only problem was that Iridium the company was a commercial disaster. Only months after launching service, it was $11 billion in debt, burning through $100 million a month, and crippled by baroque rate plans and agreements that forced calls through Moscow; Beijing; Fucino, Italy; and elsewhere. Bankruptcy was inevitable - the largest to that point in American history. And when no real buyers seemed to materialize, it looked like Iridium would go down as just a "science experiment".
That is, until Dan Colussy got a wild idea. Colussy, a former head of Pan Am now retired and working on his golf game in Palm Beach, heard about Motorola's plans to "de-orbit" the system and decided he would buy Iridium and somehow turn around one of the biggest blunders in the history of business.
In Eccentric Orbits, John Bloom masterfully traces the conception, development, and launching of Iridium and Colussy's tireless efforts to stop it from being destroyed, from meetings with his motley investor group to the Clinton White House, the Pentagon, and the hunt for customers in special ops, shipping, aviation, mining, search and rescue - anyone who would need a durable phone at the end of the Earth. Impeccably researched and wonderfully told, Eccentric Orbits is a rollicking, unforgettable tale of technological achievement, business failure, the military-industrial complex, and one of the greatest deals of all time.
©2016 John Bloom (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
There are a lot of audio editing mistakes in this audio book. The book itself is solid.
The book itself is great and the narrator is great but as others have mentioned, there are hundreds of "overlaps" where they screwed up in editing. A sentence will be read and then it will be read with an entirely new inflection -- clearly two performances poorly glued together.
The book occasionally stutters and repeats itself. The repeated sections are said with different tones and inflections, so it's not an app issue. It's annoying but did not make it unlistenable.
The recording has several instances where there is repeated audio. Where 10-30s will be repeated again after you e already listened to it. Other than that it's fine.
A great tech tale, well researched and well written, the reading could be great if it was not for the countless "double and triple takes" that were not edited out (I started to notice in ch. 6, when it was really bad, and then noticed it throughout).
The audio production needs quality control badly, there are a lot of sentences that are repeated with no reason except that they were not edited out after the voice recording. Shoddy workmanship.
I love tech, history, and space, and I'm generally interested in business. This story combines all of these areas to tell the 20+ year story of Iridium. I loved the overall story, but was by turns bored and irritated by the hours taken to discuss the intricate details of insurance and government contract procurement. A subtitle might be "how the sausage is made: a detailed list of ingredients and processes."
If you enjoy name-dropping, there are hundreds of individuals named, from Al Gore to Michael Jordan to dozens of Pentagon personnel. Personally, I found the endless names detracted from the core narrative of 10-20 individuals.
Still, Iridium is a big deal, and this telling does it justice. It does a good job of explaining the relevant technology, and detailing the relationship between capital markets (i.e. investors and lenders) and socially important "megaprojects". I feel like this book could have been 20-30% shorter, but greatly enjoyed the other 70%.
I really enjoyed the story. Perhaps the most interesting was all the back story on the system, up to the eventual bankruptcy.
But then during the bankruptcy and the attempted purchase, the story became very meandering. I completely understand that it reflects the reality, but if I almost quit every time I heard "de-orbit" after the 80th time haha.
Excellent narrator, any audiobook listener will tell you a good narrator can make or break the story :-).
I knocked one star on performance because there were dozens, if not more, editing mistakes. A sentence would stop mid-stream and get picked up again with a different inflection. Whomever edited really ought to have spent more time cleaning that up. Put a small damper on the otherwise excellent narration.
In a phase where people do not commit completely or don't go below the surface of anything, this history is a prove that commitment + persistence will always create value.
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