Satellite & Cable Television

1948 - Cable TV began as Community Access Television (CATV) in Pennsylvania by John Walson to provide television signals to people in the mountains who bought sets from his appliance store in Mahanoy City, charging $100 per hookup and $2 per month.

NBC logo history from nbc17
NBC 1957 Peacock animation
1950 - Panther Valley TV Co. in Lansford PA was started by Robert Tarleton to distribute programs.

1954 - Jan.1 NBC inaugurated its national color TV broadcasting system, of the Rose Parade from Pasadena CA, following the new RCA electronic color TV standard approved by the NTSC Dec. 17, 1953, using AT&T lines to 21 specially-equipped TV stations across the country as the first color network. The colorcast could only be seen on a special production run of 200 RCA Model 5 color receivers, later mass-produced as the CT-100 set made in Bloomington IN and priced at $1000 each. Admiral had started the sale of its $1100 color receiver Dec. 30, 1953. Sales of color sets would not exceed black-and-white until 1972. The first NBC color TV logo shown on Jan. 1, 1954, was the NBC Chimes logo; the Color Peacock image was used in Sept. 1956, and the Living Color Peacock animation was first used Sept. 7, 1957, on the show Your Hit Parade, and used by NBC until replaced by the Laramie Color Peacock in 1962.

1957 - Oct. 4, Russia launched Sputnik 1, the world's first man-made satellite with radio signals.

1957 - Dec. 6 on live TV, a Vanguard rocket with America's 1st satellite exploded 2 seconds after ignition.

1958 - Jan. 31, a Jupiter rocket successfully launched Explorer 1, the first of 31 satellites launched during the last 3 years of Eisenhower's presidency.

Corona photo of Pentagon,
1967, from NRO
1958 - July 16, Lyndon Johnson led Congress to pass the Space Act that created by Oct. 1 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as the nation's civilian space agency

1959 - July 24, Kitchen Debate in Moscow

1960 - Apr. 1, Tiros I launched, the first weather satellite - Universal Newsreel Apr. 4 reported its miniature cameras and tape recorders.

1960 - May 22, Midas 2 launched, the 1st infrared spy satellite.

1960 - Aug. 10, Discoverer 13 launched, the first successful test, after 12 failures, of the CORONA system approved by Eisenhower Feb. 7, 1958, to use rocket-launched satellites with cameras designed by Edwin Land that returned film to earth in a cannister.

1960 - Aug. 18, CORONA satellite launched; this 1st photo spy satellite "orbited the Earth for a day, and returned its canister to earth, where it was snatched out the air by a specially equipped aircraft on August 19. The camera carried on that flight would be retroactively designated the KH-1 (KH for KEYHOLE) and was cable of producing images with resolution in the area of 25-40 feet - a far cry from what would be standard in only a few years. It did yield, however, more images of the Soviet Union in its single day of operation than did the entire U-2 program" (quote from "U.S. Satellite Imagery, 1960-1999" by Jeffrey T. Richelson at the National Security Archive)

1960 - In August, Skynet, in a joint experiment with the National Aeronautics and
Telstar 1 from Loral SkyNet
Space Administration (NASA), launched Echo. Echo was an aluminum coated balloon used to reflect microwave radio signals between Holmdel, NJ and Goldstone, CA. These experiments provided the basis for all future engineering calculations involving satellite transmissions.

1962 - July 9 AT&T launched Telstar into orbit, the first communications satellite. Vice-President Lyndon Johnson took the first telephone call from space. This would be followed by Satcom from RCA, Westar from Western Union, Spacenet from Southern Pacific Communications, Comstar from Comsat. The Telstar satellites now part of Loral Skynet

1963 - May 15 Gordon Cooper in Faith 7 transmits TV pictures from space.

1963 - On July 26, Hughes launched Syncom, the world's first geosynchronous communications satellite. Syncom 2 later in 1963 carried the first live two-way call between heads of state by satellite relay when President John F. Kennedy in
Syncom 3 from Hughes
Washington, D.C., telephoned Nigerian Prime Minister Abubaker Balewa in Africa. Syncom 3 transmitted live television coverage of the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo Oct. 10.

1965 - Mar. 24 transmission of TV pictures from the moon as Ranger 9 hurled to impact on the surface

1965 - Early Bird, the world's first commercial communications satellite, was built for the Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT) by Hughes. The satellite was launched into synchronous orbit on April 6, 1965, and placed in commercial service on June 28. Early Bird's design stemmed from the Syncom satellites Hughes had built for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to demonstrate the feasibility of communications from synchronous orbit. On station in orbit 22,300 miles above the equator, Early Bird provided line of sight communications between Europe and North America.
Early Bird from Hughes
As a communications repeater, Early Bird handled communications that were representative of all types of common carrier network traffic, including telephone, television, telegraph, and facsimile transmissions. As the forerunner of a synchronous satellite system that would furnish communications to all the populated areas of the world, Early Bird, with capability of 240 circuits or one TV channel, successfully demonstrated the concept of synchronous satellites for commercial communications. While designed for an operational lifetime of only 18 months, the satellite was in continuous, full-time service for nearly 4 years.

1968 - FCC imposed regulations on cable companies, slowing growth.

1968 - Oct. 14 transmission of TV pictures to the American public from inside the Apollo 7 capsule.

1969 - July 20 Apollo 11 transmitted live TV pictures from the surface of the moon.

1971 - 200 Motels by Frank Zappa and The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler were the first feature films shot entirely on color videotape and transferred to film by Technicolor's Vidtronics unit under Joseph Bluth.

1972 - HBO was launched on a cable system in Wilkes-Barre PA using microwave transmission.

Aldrin descends from Apollo 11 from CNN
1975 - RCA launched the first satellite designed exclusively for use by the three national television networks.

1975 - Home Box Office (HBO) leased for $1 million per year a transponder on RCA's Satcom I, the nation's second commercial satellite that followed the first by Western Union in 1974, and began transmission of television programs via satellite to cable systems who paid $10,000 to install 3-meter dishes to receive in the C-band. One of the first programs was the "Thrilla' from Manila" heavyweight boxing match. By 1980, 5000 C-band Direct-to-Home (DTH) systems were in operation. By 1985, the price of DTH systems fell to $3000 and 735,000 systems were in use. By 1998, 11,000 cable systems would provide subscription programming to 66% of U.S. homes.

1976 - Ted Turner uplinked broadcasting from his UHF station in Atlanta and created WTBS, "America's Station."

1977 - Pat Robertson began satellite delivery of the CBN cable network, forerunner of the Family Channel.

Cable Vision 10 in 1972
1978 - HBO was the most popular cable channel, received by 1.5 million subscribers; Viacom began similar Showtime channel.

1979 - Warner Cable started the Star movie channel and the Pinwheel children's channel on 2 transponders leased on Satcom I; American Express (AMEX) bought Warner Cable and created the progrmming division Warner AMEX Satellite Entertainment Company (WASEC) that took over the Satcom transponder lease and renamed the movie channel as The Movie Channel (TCM) and the children's channel as Nickelodeon; ESPN sports channel started in Sept. by Bill Rasmussen.

1980 - Ted Turner started the Cable News Network (CNN) channel; John Lack took the Popclips music video show produced by Michael Nesmith (formerly of the Monkees who made the Rio clip in 1976 that was similar to popular music clips in Europe and Australia) to the Nickelodeon channel in March.
Nimoy in VCR ad 10/12/81

1981 - Aug 1 Warner began MTV channel produced by Jack Schneider and John Lack and Bob McGroaty, all from CBS, and by 25-year old Bob Pittman, radio programmer who made Album Tracks for NBC in 1978 that followed Saturday Night Live.

1984 - Olympic Games were broadcast in stereo, recently authorized by FCC.

1986 - Jan. 15, HBO began to scramble its signal, requiring DTH customers to purchase a decoder box or subscription. By the end of the year, the number of big dish systems fell from 735,000 to 225,000. On Dec. 2, the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association (SBCA) was created as a trade organization to promote the VideoCipher II encoding method to protect satellite broadcasters from piracy. DTH systems rebounded and would average over 10,000 new systems purchased each month.

1987 - Time Warner and John Malone's TCI bought part of Turner Broadcasting to save it from bankruptcy.

1990 - USA Network made 2 movies per month, including the highly regarded "cable noir" film The China Lake Murders in January.

1991 - The Bush administration restricted access to the Persian Gulf War, but American TV stations were able to get news from 3 sources: the affiliated network, CNN, or the satellite cooperative Conus with 103 member stations in the U.S.

1992 - The Congress passed a cable deregulation bill that opened the doors for new channels, but required a 10% rate reduction by cable operators.

1994 - 75 new cable channels were planned to join the existing 78 cable channels and double the offerings to cable operators such as TCI with 10 million subscribers and Time Warner with 7 million, both of whom controlled one-third of all cable subscribers in the U.S. with revenue exceeding the combined total of the Big 3 networks.

1994 - RCA Digital Satellite System (DSS) became North America's first high-power direct broadcast satellite (DBS) consumer television system, with DIRECTV, started by Hughes Electronics Corporation in 1990 in the Ku-band of the radio spectrum, and three Hughes HS 601 satellites relaying 200 channels to any 18-inch dish in North America.

Uplink center from Echostar
1994 - In November EchoStar began construction of the satellite uplink center at the Cheyenne Business Parkway in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The facility began live demonstrations in August 1995 and was completed later that year. The first DISH Network broadcast from the Uplink Center to customers' homes was in March 1996. As of Nov. 1, 1999, the Center broadcast to over 3 million customers from 5 Echostar satellites.

1998 - On Jan. 7, DIRECTV and Thomson Consumer Electronics demonstrated at the annual International Consumer Electronics Show the first satellite transmission of HDTV program material. In August, RCA introduced the DCT100 digital receiver for $649 that allowed digital and analog signals to be viewed on any set. Terrestial digital television broadcasting began in November using the 8-VSB standard recommended by ATSC and approved by the FCC in 1996. Tests in Philadelphia by Sinclair Broadcasting indicated this standard was inferior to the more expensive but more reliable COFDM standard used in Europe.

1999 - March 6, HBO began HDTV satellite broadcast of motion picture films, starting with U.S. Marshalls at 8 pm. By November, 70 of America's 1600 TV stations were broadcasting HDTV and 88,000 sets had been sold. DIRECTV added a second HDTV satellite channel Nov. 1.

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1999-2005 by Steven E. Schoenherr. All rights reserved.

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