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How did old school Cable Boxes work?

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Deleted User 10525

How did old school Cable Boxes work?

Post by Deleted User 10525 » Mon Feb 12, 2018 1:53 am

In Bedford Twp where I grew up, Bedford Cable issued either a Jerrold 400 or 450 box, later a Scientific Atlanta one.

http://www.garysargent.co.uk/tivo/image ... guentl.jpg

https://img0.etsystatic.com/102/0/74661 ... 2_5h0w.jpg

The Pay Cable Channels that were offered were:
14 Pay per view
15 TMC
16 Disney
17 Cinemax
18 Playboy
19 Showtime
21 HBO
22 Pass Sports

Early on I think everyone was issued a Box regardless if you got premium stations or not, later when TV's became more advanced one wasn't needed if you didn't subscribe to a pay Channel. Anyway, I was always told that they had to put some kind of a chip or something in the box to descramble the pay channel(s) of your choice. How did that work? I know some Cable systems used like Filters or something like that.

Today, I know many use blockers if you just subscribe to a bare bones package. Like Just Local channels.



In The Bleachers
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Re: How did old school Cable Boxes work?

Post by In The Bleachers » Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:00 am

I'm trying to remember, I think the first cable company I had was called United Cable.
I was under the impression that they would hang different in-line filters near the pole, or in the box on the outside of the house.
And the cut-off frequency of the filter would determine how many channels I got.


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SolarMax
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Re: How did old school Cable Boxes work?

Post by SolarMax » Tue Feb 13, 2018 2:44 pm

In The Bleachers wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:00 am
I'm trying to remember, I think the first cable company I had was called United Cable.
I was under the impression that they would hang different in-line filters near the pole, or in the box on the outside of the house.
And the cut-off frequency of the filter would determine how many channels I got.
I remember going to a friend's place to see a big deal PPV boxing match. He had pre-ordered the PPV weeks in advance (what you had to do), but the technicians didn't arrive at his pole drop to remove or jumper the channel filter until sometime well into the event. Needless to say, complaints ensued and adjustments were made.



BuckNaked
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Re: How did old school Cable Boxes work?

Post by BuckNaked » Tue Feb 13, 2018 2:54 pm

I was on a cable system in Norfolk, Va back in the ‘80s on a cable box with a rotary type dial. If you turned it just right and used a matchbook cover it would give you the pay channels.



organman95
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Re: How did old school Cable Boxes work?

Post by organman95 » Wed Feb 14, 2018 12:20 pm

I remember the small box, most likely Motorola through TCI back in early 90s. I think around '96 is when TCI started using those massive Motorola boxes with the EPG, although I only remember seeing those big boxes at my cousin's house in Grayling, which surprisingly had more channels than I did in Cheboygan. That said, the channels were scattered a bit, basically only going up to 36, with Odyssey and a Fitness channel on 44 & 45. Then 98 & 99 were Playboy and some other ppv porn. Those were on the old TVs with the IRC/HRC cable switches. Those old sets maxed at Channel 36, then jumped to 98 & 99 for some reason.

After TCI went bankrupt, the channel list expanded slightly, basically just filling in all the open frequencies in the 2-36 range. Wasn't until Charter finally upgraded the entire system in 2002-03 and moved the connection to the Traverse City headend that Cheboygan finally got the full channel line-up.



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mtburb
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Re: How did old school Cable Boxes work?

Post by mtburb » Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:24 pm

Through the first company that we had, called Wayne Cablevision, all I can remember was that there was this really long coax connected to a box (which later became a Scientific Atlanta 9640 when it became Maclean Hunter) that had up to 40 channels at maximum.

Here's the premium channels Wayne Cablevision had, numbers from my memory:
16-Cinemax program guide
17-Cinemax
18-Showtime program guide
19-Showtime
20-HBO program guide
21-HBO
22-(likely The Movie Channel program guide when that came around)
23-(likely The Movie Channel when that came around)
25 or 26-Playboy
29-The Disney Channel


For three days in January 2017 (15th, 16th, 19th) and one night in September 2017 (22nd), I managed to receive KDKA Pittsburgh from 202 miles away indoors!

My tropo station reception reports: https://www.rabbitears.info/dxlocation.php?id=403

Deleted User 10525

Re: How did old school Cable Boxes work?

Post by Deleted User 10525 » Sun Feb 18, 2018 2:32 am

I remember for a time Bedford Cable's channels went up to like 47 and then later like 53, then skipped to 98-99. We never had the dial on the box but when we would go on Vacation to South Carolina, the same place we always stayed, for the longest time had that type of box. This was till like 95, then I remember they finally got a New TV and The TV had Like a Scientific Atlanta box on it. The TV had The Movie Channel I remember, that weird eyes logo they used to use comes to mind, then later the dog with the round balls that Said TMC on them.

Every month we used to get this Magazine that had listing for what was on the pay movie channels. For: TMC,MAX,HBO,and SHO.



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mtburb
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Re: How did old school Cable Boxes work?

Post by mtburb » Sun Feb 18, 2018 11:05 pm

1027BrianFM wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 2:32 am
Every month we used to get this Magazine that had listing for what was on the pay movie channels. For: TMC,MAX,HBO,and SHO.
I remember Wayne Cablevision/Maclean Hunter during the 1980's had separate channels displaying listings for what was to be shown on the premium channels. I remember they had those for Cinemax, Showtime, HBO and likely The Movie Channel when they added that. To me, it was always a bit redundant, especially since there was already EPG/Prevue Guide.


For three days in January 2017 (15th, 16th, 19th) and one night in September 2017 (22nd), I managed to receive KDKA Pittsburgh from 202 miles away indoors!

My tropo station reception reports: https://www.rabbitears.info/dxlocation.php?id=403

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Some Guy from Toledo
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Re: How did old school Cable Boxes work?

Post by Some Guy from Toledo » Mon Mar 12, 2018 1:55 am

1027BrianFM wrote:
Mon Feb 12, 2018 1:53 am
In Bedford Twp where I grew up, Bedford Cable issued either a Jerrold 400 or 450 box, later a Scientific Atlanta one.

http://www.garysargent.co.uk/tivo/image ... guentl.jpg

https://img0.etsystatic.com/102/0/74661 ... 2_5h0w.jpg
These links aren't working.



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MWmetalhead
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Re: How did old school Cable Boxes work?

Post by MWmetalhead » Thu Apr 26, 2018 8:47 pm

TCI never went bankrupt. Quite the opposite, actually.

It was sold to AT&T in the late 90's for $59.5 billion, consisting of $43.5 billion in AT&T stock and $16 billion in assumed debt.

I'm glad TCI went away, only because their GM for the Grand Rapids area system made some awful channel lineup decisions.


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organman95
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Re: How did old school Cable Boxes work?

Post by organman95 » Sun May 06, 2018 11:15 am

Basically did, MW. The debt was so high, that if it hadn't sold, there would have been a bankruptcy.



km1125
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Re: How did old school Cable Boxes work?

Post by km1125 » Thu Jun 28, 2018 10:39 am

There were a few ways that cable systems delivered "premium" services over the years.

When TVs just had VHF-Low, VHF-high and UHF tuners, the cable company would put the premium channels in the mid band frequencies, then lease you a cable converter than changed those frequencies to either the VHF high band, the UHF band or would convert a channel to Channel 3 (or 4).

Cable companies would also use 'traps' or filters to block out a particular premium channel if you didn't pay for it. If there was low subscription, this was expensive because every other house would need a filter. For those low subscription channels, they would prefer to use a "positive trap". This device would actually block out an interfering carrier that was put into the channel at the main office. Then you'd only need to put those "positive traps" on at the houses that did subscribe. Picture quality was less-than-perfect though, as the "positive trap" also took out a lot of the resolution and sometimes the color along with the interfering carrier.

Then systems started using scrambling to mess with the sync signals in the tv picture. The converter box would restore the sync signals so the TV could recognize the picture correctly. This was an analog process and usually used for only one or two channels. While the boxes could be activated from the central office, they were not addressable so all the boxes were either enabled for descrambling or not, depending on the signal sent from the main office.

Still later systems, like the Jerrold 400 and 450, used a digital method, but also were addressable. The Scientific Atlanta boxes (4500/5500) were similar. These boxes could have several different channels that could be unscrambled, but the boxes could receive a signal from the main office to activate or deactivate the scrambler for a number of different channels. They also could be programmed which channels were available. Some of the early ones actually had to have a chip "burned" for the box. Later ones could have a signal send through the cable system to program them.



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Calvert DeForest
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Re: How did old school Cable Boxes work?

Post by Calvert DeForest » Fri Jun 29, 2018 9:56 am

When we moved to St. Johns I called Charter to hook up broadband service and basic cable (what they used to call the "Lifeline" tier - $10/month for 30 or so channels). I had a Dish Network setup, but local channels weren't yet available. I got the cheap cable package mainly for locals.

Charter initially told me the tech would arrive between 8am and noon, which became noon and 4pm, which became sometime after 5pm. It just happened to be Halloween. We were busy prepping to hand out candy and take our daughter around the neighborhood for Trick or Treat. When the tech finally arrived at 7pm, I was less than happy. He profusely apologized and explained that Charter has a tendency to overbook tech calls and installs. I could see that he had probably been busting his butt all day just to keep up and probably wanted to get home himself. I was more upset with Charter for tying me up all day. I think we could both sense the other's frustration.

Long story short, the tech got my broadband service and TV service hooked up. He scanned through the channels to make sure everything was intact, and to my surprise I had both the Lifeline AND Expanded tiers. I mentioned that I only signed up for the basic tier. He said he didn't have any traps on the truck to filter out the upper channels. He said he could put the trap in later if he wasn't too busy (wink). Suffice to say the trap was never put on the line and Charter only ever billed me for the Lifeline tier.


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