The World Cup is getting underway in Qatar.
The official ball of the Cup this year is from Adidas.
It’s called Al Rihla, which means “the journey,” and it’s got a very busy design, lots of shapes, lots of colors.
It’s a big change from the soccer balls I remember as a kid, the ones with the black and white pentagons and hexagons.
And, of course, those soccer balls were a big change from the ones that were used in the early days of the World Cup.
The early World Cup balls look like modern volleyballs.
And in the very first World Cup tournament, there was a dispute over which ball should be the official one!
The host country, Uruguay, wanted to use its ball in the final, but their opponent, Argentina, wanted to use their slightly smaller ball.
The officials decided to split the difference and use one team’s ball for the first half and the other team’s ball for the second.
These volleyball-looking balls were used for the next few decades in World Cup play.
The big change came in 1970, when Adidas made the iconic ball with 32 black and white panels.
It was named Telstar, which was appropriate because the truncated icosahedron design looked a lot like the famous Telstar satellite, which had black-ish solar panels on a white frame.
The ball had another connection with its namesake: the launch of Telstar brought the world into the satellite age, and helped TV go international, and the black and white Telstar ball was much easier to see on TV, especially for viewers who didn’t have a color set.
Not only did soccer fans have a better view of the ball, so did the players: having different color panels helped them better see which direction the ball was spinning.
Of course now color TV is pretty much everywhere, and so soccer balls are a lot more colorful, with one exception: use a soccer emoji today and you’re very likely to see the classic black and white look that was first designed for the world well before it had smartphones.
Or, for that matter, emoji.
It’s World Television Day.
Back in November 1938, some TV viewers in New York were watching… the BBC?!?
This was pre-satellite, so they weren’t using an early version of Britbox.
The atmospheric conditions that day made it possible for the broadcast signal in London to bounce thousands of miles away to New York.
Fortunately someone in the U.S. recorded this weird occurrence.
BBC Television received in New York – November 1938 (Archive.org)