(Television History and Trivia)




Victor Edward Swanson,


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- - - T.H.A.T., Edition No. 26 - - -

    Because I have been putting together over the last decade or so a forthcoming book that has a lot of information about about television in the country and other related topics, which is a book entitled The United States Book: For the individual woman and the individual man, I am well versed in what is going on in the television industry, which may not be truly evident to you if you read the previous editions of T.H.A.T., which focus mostly on "regular" television.  The television industry in the U.S. is in what many people call "transition," not that the television industry has not been in transition since the early 1900s, and it seems very likely to me you are unaware of all that the television industry in the U.S. is, especially if you are a new resident to U.S.  Through this edition T.H.A.T., which I hope will be a "blast," I will give you a rough impression of what the television industry in the U.S. is today.

    The first topic is "regular television" or "traditional television."  This form of television is broadcast television in analog form.  People began in earnest to create broadcast television during the first forty years of the 1900s, and, in 1940, commercial broadcast television became a reality (allowed to exist in commercial form because of a decision that had been made by the Federal Communications Commission of the federal government).  During the the first six years or so of the 1940s, a small number of television stations, such as those related to a company informally known as "DuMont," a maker of transmitters and television sets, were broadcasting, and it was a time when World War II was raging, and the television industry was, in essence, in a stagnant phase.  When World War II ended, the television industry began to grow again, and it grew partially because broadcast television networks appeared and the federal government allowed more television stations to be built.  From the early 1950s to the late 1990s, broadcast television in analog form was the only type of television "broadcasting" that viewers had.  (Remember: Analog broadcasting involves sending out analog information on a carrier wave or a "channel.")

    The topic of this paragraph is "cable television."  In the very late 1940s, most people who lived in rural areas could not receive television signals, because the people were too far away from television stations, and some people, though they lived somewhat near television stations, could not receive television signals because of the terrain in which they lived (such as a valley, which was surround by land that blocked television signals from getting to the people).  During the very late 1940s, people in a few communities began to set up receiving antennas and associated wires that could capture broadcast signals and direct the signals to television sets, and this was and is the idea of "Community Antenna TV" (or "CATV"), and for the next two decades or so, many such systems were created around the country.  Roughly, in the 1970s (and I am leaving out some bits of history), companies began to create programming or channels directly for CATV systems, and it was around the time when people were accustomed to using "cable television" to identify community antenna television.  In the 1970s, the central operations (or the "headend") of a cable system might use videotapes to hold or store television programs on and play the videotapes when wished, and then, in the mid-1970s, satellite systems began to be used to send programming from television-programming entities (operators of cable channels) to headends of cable systems, and it was a period when cable television channels began to be created, such as HBO (which still exists today).  From the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, cable television was analog-type television.

    The topic is direct-to-home-by-satellite television or "satellite" television, here.  In the late 1970s and early 1980s, some people, such as people in rural areas, used big satellite-signal receiving dishes (such as those of eight feet in diameter) to capture television signals from satellites (and the signals were analog signals) and show the signals on television sets.  In the 1980s, the operators of channels took up the practice of scrambling television signals, if they did not wish people to see the signals for free, and some companies appeared that offered people satellite-dish receiving systems and programming packages for a fee.  In the early 1990s, a number of companies, such as Prime Star Partners, began to create direct-to-home-by-satellite television services that used Ku-band satellites and involved smaller satellite-signal receiving dishes (such as those of less than two feet in diameter).  Really, "satellite" television began in the present form in the 1990s.

    By the way, I am not going to take up the subject of microwave-type delivery systems.

    The topic now is "digital" television, which is the idea of sending out program information in digital form (not analog form).  In the 1980s, people in the television industry were talking about changing over from "analog" television (no matter how it was delivered, such as by satellite or cable or television stations) to "digital" television.  However, it was not till the mid-1990s that the transition from analog to digital really started.  The switch from analog to digital meant several things, such as television stations would have to start sending out digital information and some day give up sending out analog information, and cable channels would have to begin sending out digital information and give up sending analog information.  In 1997, the federal government said that analog broadcasting would end at the end of 2006, but around 2004, it was evident that the deadline could not be met because, for instance, not enough people had digital-signal-capable television sets, and, in 2005, the federal government made a law (signed by U.S. President George W. Bush) that analog broadcasting would end on February 17, 2009.

    Here, the topic is television and the Internet (not related to wireless telephones and wireless devices).  In 1969, people at several universities created the first parts of Internet--that Internet you hear about so much today.  From 1969 to about 1993, the Internet was made up of telephone systems and computer systems around the country and was mostly a tool that connected up computers at universities, colleges, and research institutions; however, from the very late 1970s to the early 1990s, there were online bulletin-board systems and videotext systems, one of which was The Source.  In the early 1990s, regular people were given the opportunity to use the Internet for commercial purposes, and people started to experiment with using the Internet to deliver audio and video in real-time form, and to accomplish the feat of delivering audio and video in real-time form, a number of computer software programs that could do "streaming" of audio or video, such as "VDOLive," were created, and software programs that could be used to see streaming video or streaming audio were created, such as "RealVideo."  Generally speaking, the late 1990s was the fad time for people making streaming audio and streaming video available on the Internet, and only a few of the entities that offered programming were The Alternative Entertainment Network, AlwaysonTV.com, AtomFilms, CinemaniaNetwork.com, iFilms.com, LikeTelevision.com, Load Media Network, MeTV.com, Television.com, Internet Television Network, Mediadome, and ZeroOneFilms.  In the 1990s, people were developing ways in which to deliver computer information faster to the home, and the idea of delivering information faster related to "broadband" technology.  In the first few years of the twenty-first century, television-related companies, such as ABC-TV (particularly ABC News of ABC-TV), were involved in making video material, such as video clips, available at Web sites in "broadband" form (high-quality form).  The push to make "broadband"-type material available to users of "broadband" systems with computers has led to television-related companies creating what they might be called "true" broadband television networks (which you will probably be better off thinking of as "broadband television channels" so that you do not think the "networks" are "computer networks"); some of the first such broadband television channels were "ABC News Live" (launched in March 2003), "ABC News Now" (launched in July 2004), "Comcast Kids Channel" (launched on Comcast cable systems in October 2004), "MTV Overdrive" (launched April 2005), VSpot (launched by VH1 in July 2005), TurboNick (launched by Nickelodeon in July 2005), "Comedy Central MotherLoad" (launched in November 2005), and "In2TV" (launched in March 2005) by AOL.com, which had become a free-to-use portal for everyone on July 21, 2005), and In2TV started by carrying old television shows, such as Kung Fu (a prime-time series of the 1970s) and Sisters (a prime-time series of the 1990s).  Remember: Broadband television channels are channels that exist at Web sites on the Internet; for example, www.NickJr.com is a Web site, one feature of which is a broadband channel that has programming that can be seen by people who have broadband Internet access and a fast computer.

    The topic is the "computer."   I could give a good history of the computer here, but I will not (I have a lot of information about the topic in the forthcoming book entitled, in short form, The United States Book).  Generally speaking, I will say that computers made within the last few years are fast enough to see streaming video-and-audio material delivered to them by broadband systems (such as broadband cable systems that offer Internet access).  Around 2003, some computers were being put on the market that were considered "Media Center" units, which were like television sets (having television tuners) and computers (maybe using the Windows XP Media Center 2005 operating system).  (I shall not get into a discussion about how tuner cards for computers had been available for many years before 2003.)

    Now the topic is the "wireless" telephone (which should not be confused with the "cordless telephone," which is a telephone made up of a telephone-remote unit and a base-station unit).  In 1984, the "cellular" phone became a reality in commercial form, showing up first in the general Washington, D.C., area of the country; the first such units were not necessarily "portable," being able to fit in a pocket  (such a unit might be a unit that got set up in a car--the receiver in the passenger compartment and a transmitting-and-receiving system in the trunk), and the first such telephones were very expensive.  Through the years, the cellular phone became less expensive and became smaller (becoming truly a pocket-size-type device).  A telephone type similar with cellular telephone became a reality in 1995, and it was the "PCS" phone.  The PCS phone and the cellular phone can look the same on the outside, but the two types of wireless phones use different radio bands of all the radio bands (or frequencies) that are used for wireless communication in the country.  Between 1984 and 2002, cellular phones and PCS telephones could not transmit or receive moving images, and then, in 2002, Sprint opened up a "2.5G"-type wireless telephone network or system that allowed people to use special wireless telephones associated with the "Sprint PCS Vision" service and a digital camera to take still images and pass along still images through the telephone, and other companies would soon offer the same type of service.  In February 2003, Sprint Corporation began to offer a service called "1KTV" (which would become known as GoTV in March 2005) to people who had Sprint PCS Vision Phones, and it allowed people to pass along video clips.  Indetic Inc. was the company whose technology allowed "MobiTV" to become a reality through Sprint PCS Vision Phones related to Sprint in November 2003, and the MobiTV service offered video material from such suppliers has ABC News and the Discovery Channel, and the MobiTV product would later become available through other wireless-telephone service providers.  "Sprint TV" showed up in August 2004, and it had material from such suppliers as AccuWeather, CNN, and NBC-TV, and, in February 2005, Verizon Wireless launched its "V CAST" video service, and then, in July 2005, "SmartVideo" began to show up in commercial form on some wireless devices.  Since early in 2005, people have been making video stories (video programs) expressly for streaming video services related to wireless devices, such as wireless telephones, for instance, V CAST began to let people see a fictional story entitled 24: Conspiracy (which was related to the weekly prime-time television series entitled 24) on February 7, 2005, and in the next few months, people who subscribed to V CAST could also see episodes of such fictional programs as Love & Hate and The Sunset Hotel, and, generally speaking, today, such programs last less than two minutes and are informally referred to as "webisodes"

    I must add a bit of information about hand-held digital players--either audio-only players (such as "MP3"-audio-file-type players) or video-and-audio players--but I will only focus on the "iPod" brand or product, and I talk about the "iPod" in relation to video "clipcasting" (if only clips are involved) or video streaming.   The first "iPod" product, which was a product from Apple Computer, appeared in the marketplace on November 10, 2001, and then other models were introduced over the next four years or so, and then, on October 12, 2005, an iPod model that had "video" capability was put in the marketplace.  Also on October 1, 2005, it became possible for people who had video-capable iPods to subscribe to a service (through iTunes, an entity on the Internet) that allowed them to begin to get and see episodes of television series through their iPods, such as episodes of Desperate Housewives (a weekly prime-time series on  ABC-TV), Lost (a weekly prime-time series on ABC-TV), and Night Stalker (a weekly prime-time series on ABC-TV), and soon after, other shows became available to people with video-capable iPods (and people with other types of video-capable digital players or wireless devices began to see television shows through their devices).

    Here is what you should see as "television" in the U.S. today.  Television is regular television, which, for now, exists in analog form and digital form, and you should see this--after February 17, 2009, you will be able to see broadcast television by having a digital-capable television set or by having an analog television set that is connected to a converter device.  Television is cable television, which offers cable channels and broadcast television stations, and television is satellite television, which offers cable channels or satellite channels and television stations.  (The terms "cable channels" or "satellite channels" are informal names to describe channels and can be misunderstood by a novice; the term "cable channel" can apply to a channel that gets distributed through a cable system or a satellite system, especially if the channel had existed before the modern satellite systems were created, and, generally speaking, a "satellite channel" is a channel that is distributed only through a satellite system.)  Television is "broadband television channels," which are available to people with broadband Internet access, and if you think about broadband television networks, think about "channels" (and not computer networks), and be aware a broadband television network can actually be a collection of channels (for example, a particular network could be made up of a number of channels).  And television is "telephone TV" (as I will call it here), and telephone TV is made up of video clips (such as "webisodes," which usually describes short-form entertainment programs, maybe two-minute-long entertainment programs), and continually streamed programming through broadband television channels.

    In the previous edition of T.H.A.T., I only proposed one trivia question for you to answer.  The question was: "Who played the most-wanted terrorist in the world in the 1984 movie entitle Time Bomb?"  The answer is: Morgan Fairchild.

    And here is a historical note--for the record.  Last year, I reported in T.H.A.T. #18 (published on September 10, 2005) that I saw a television promotional announcement for an upcoming 2005-2006 series on a broadcast television network for the first time on May 31, 2005, and I noted how it seemed to me broadcast television networks air promotional announcements for upcoming fall series earlier in the year than they did in past decades.  This year, I report that the first promotional announcement for an upcoming 2006-2007 prime-time series that I saw was for a series entitled Shark (which will feature James Woods) and that I saw the announcement on May 18, 2006.

Stay well!


copyright c. 2006
Date published: June 10, 2006

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