Digital Cable

Community Antenna Television services - a brief history

Cable TV or CATV stands for Community Antenna Television. Cable TV is the distribution of television, FM radio or today's digital radio broadcasting transmitted directly to customer's televisions via a network of fiber optical or coax cable. The broadcasts are gathered in a central head end and distributed to subscribers with a hardwired network through the community. Cable TV rose to prominence in areas that had difficulty with over-the-air broadcasts. In the United States it emerged as a patchwork of communities that paid for a head end through which to distribute the television signals to homes. There was no single entity serving the continent as there was with the comparatively recent origin of satellite TV.

Advertiser Links for Digital Cable

The first CATV system was started in 1948 by John Walson. His town of Mahanoy City, Pa., had difficulty with television reception; being located in a valley, the broadcast signals had difficulty reaching potential viewers. Watson put an antenna on the top of a mountain and ran a wire to his shop where he sold TVs. Cable TV was born as John Walson included one of his television reception wires to the customer's living room as part of the deal when they purchased a TV from him.

Benefits of Cable TV over Satellite
  • Hardwired connection means no rain fade or programming interruptions.
  • Two way communications means interactivity directly with the cable company.
  • Cable service providers can help troubleshoot broken digital equipment in the home by communicating with your equipment directly from their offices.
  • On Demand TV is a great step up from conventional subscriber programming.
  • Competition with satellite means your old cable company isn't the arrogant monopoly that drove you away in the first place.
  • Coming back to cable from satellite might garner you some freebies and other nice incentives.

Today, cable TV is commercially available across North America and looks much the same in United States and Canada. Nearly all Canadian cities were wired in a national effort by one company, MacLean-Hunter, so the inheritor of that original system, Rogers, is Canada's number one cable TV company. Rogers has had the benefit of a truly top-down system where most cable systems look the same and use identical technologies.

In the United States it's Comcast that provides cable TV to the most customers. But the systems Comcast inherited are made up of a several different community antenna systems. There is very little unifying technology across the various cable systems. That is until now that digital cable TV is fast becoming the standard. Television broadcasts are 100 percent digital now, and this includes those customers who use antennas; they switched to digital TV antennas in 2009.

Digital cable started with the network of fiber optics that gives conventional cable a larger bandwidth with which to distribute a greater number of digital stations than ever before. Today's bandwidth needs include digital high-definition video and multi-channel audio, and many customers of digital cable systems can also subscribe to internet data services.

The potential for interactivity due to the two-way nature of the cable connection (as opposed to the one-way data stream of satellite TV) is endless. Since users can communicate directly to the cable company from their remote control they can take advantage of new features like On Demand TV. On Demand turns your cable TV service into a digital video recorder, allowing you to select from the cable system's library of programming.