previous page: 01 What is TVRO?
page up: TeleVision Receive Only Satellite-TV FAQ
next page: 03 How exactly are satellite signals transmitted?

02 How did satellite TV begin?


This article is from the TeleVision Receive Only Satellite-TV FAQ, by TVRO Hobbyists drlev@hotmail.com with numerous contributions by others.

02 How did satellite TV begin?

In 1945, science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke envisioned the
positioning of objects 22,300 miles in orbit above the Earth that
could send and receive information. This would cause these artificial
satellites of the Earth to seemingly "hover" above the ground without
moving. The orbital "belt" around the Earth containing communications
satellites would later be named the Clarke Belt in honor of Arthur
C. Clarke's original vision. By 1957, the former Soviet Union created
the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, which sent out electronic
beeps of Morse Code extolling Soviet technological-superiority
propaganda. Sputnik, however, did not orbit the Earth at the exact
distance of 22,300 miles needed to seem stationary from the ground;
this orbit is known as geosynchronous orbit. In 1962, the first
satellite- relayed television program was broadcast over the Telstar 1
satellite from France to the United States. By 1973, Canada's Anik A1
satellite became the first domestic satellite to be placed into
geosynchronous orbit over North America.

In 1976, Home Box Office (HBO) became the first non-terrestrial
television network to relay its signal via satellite. Soon, Ted
Turner, owner of Atlanta, Georgia UHF station WTBS also decided to
uplink its station via satellite, creating the first
"superstation". Pat Robertson created the Christian Broadcasting
Network (now ABC Family Channel) and uplinked it also. The foundation
for modern cable programming and the modern cable television industry
had begun.

But even as this was all happening, an industrious Stanford University
graduate named Dr. H. Taylor Howard had a vision of his own. He knew
about the potential of being able to receive satellite programming and
decided to build a homemade parabolic satellite receiving antenna and
receiver unit. In 1977, the first home satellite
system was built and the home satellite industry was born. He even
attempted to pay
HBO for its programming but HBO refused, saying that it only accepted
subscription fees from cable companies!

By 1980, several companies were manufacturing home satellite equipment
and anyone simply having a satellite dish, back then usually 12 to 16
feet in diameter, was bound to draw attention from neighbors and
friends. The early satellite industry was somewhat chaotic; standards
and legal clarification were needed to set guidelines for the usage of
satellite receiving equipment and the reception of satellite
signals. This occurred in 1984, when then President Ronald Reagan
signed into law the Cable Communication Policy Act. Among other
things, the new law established the legal status of owning home
satellite equipment. It also permitted program providers to encrypt,
or "scramble", their signals and allow home satellite viewers the
option of paying for subscription programming for a nominal fee.

In 1986, HBO, the first cable-type service available via satellite,
became the first programming service to encrypt its signals. Long gone
were the days of Taylor Howard being denied the ability to pay for his
programming! Many people became a fraid that encryption was the end of
home satellite reception and this view caused many satellite dealers
to get out of the satellite system retail business. By the late
1980's, satellite TV became well established as the best method of
program reception available.


Continue to:

previous page: 01 What is TVRO?
page up: TeleVision Receive Only Satellite-TV FAQ
next page: 03 How exactly are satellite signals transmitted?