This editorial has its origins in a keynote presentation entitled ‘The Evolution of the Development of Remote Sensing Technologies – the Last 40 years’ which I gave at the 9th International Conference and Exhibition on Geospatial and Remote Sensing (9 IGRSM 2018) in Kuala Lumpur 24–25 April 2018 ‘Geospatial Enablement’. The editorial is not intended to be a definitive history of remote sensing from the beginning up to the day of its submission for publication. Rather it represents a personal account to try to enable present-day practitioners of remote sensing to gain a slight appreciation of what went before the time when they were introduced to the subject. The fun in our group in the 1980s was being able to explore many possible new applications of remote sensing, some of which turned out to be successful and some of which turned out to be failures – for various reasons. At a first glance it may seem that the list of references is woefully inadequate. However this is not an encyclopaedic review of remote sensing as it now is, but an attempt to recall some of the history of how we got here. The references are only meant to document some of the things that are said. For other information we assume that readers will consult whatever search engine, Google, etc., that they commonly use.