Subscription TV (Sep, 1953)

Yay for early DRM. How long do you think it would have been before some Norwegian kid built themselves a Descrambling Card Simulation System (DeCSS) and gave the plans to all of their friends so they could view scrambled broadcasts on their non compatible European TVs?

Subscription TV
WOULD you like to see the opera, ballet, latest sports events, movies and Broadway plays on TV, sans commercials? If the FCC okays Skiatron, by merely inserting special program cards in a decoder unit attached to your set, you’ll view special programs at nominal fees.

  1. Casandro says: January 5, 20093:37 am

    Couldn’t you just lay a cable from your box to your neighbour and share the costs?

  2. Toronto says: January 5, 200911:46 am

    It’s over-air, not cable. Even in central California, cable was about 15 years in the future.

    But is that a Holerith card used to hold the ‘key’?

  3. Charlie says: January 5, 200912:36 pm

    Toronto: There is a cable from the decoder box to the tv.

  4. fluffy says: January 5, 20091:57 pm

    ATSC (the OTA DTV standard) does allow pay-to-view content now. I don’t know of a single device which actually supports it though (which is why I’m always so surprised when I come across a pay-to-view channel with my computer’s DTV tuner).

  5. hwertz says: January 5, 200911:48 pm

    They did this (a little bit) on the umm… what was it LMDS or something? Some like 1.5ghz or so band, back in the 1980s… that’s somewhere around 1.5ghz or so.

    If this had caught on, I wonder how long it REALLY would have stayed ad-free? Keep in mind, cable pays Viacom etc. per-person-per-channel as well, look how ad-free that is? *smirk*

  6. Toronto says: January 6, 200912:51 am

    Charlie – there’s a wire or set of wires, but it might just be used to pass a switched LC network back to a circuit in the TV or something – not necessarily a video signal. I can’t imagine cramming a tuner and an RF modulator into the box June Cleaver is holding, using 1953 gear and considering the other circuitry the ‘decoding’ would require.

  7. George says: January 8, 20096:50 pm

    I think that was the Zenith Phonevision system. It initially used a phone line to trigger the decoder, but when it was tested in the 60’s on channel 18 in Hartford, CT, it didn’t.

    If I recall, they put the descrambler code setting in the TV listings and if you put the code into the box by 3 or 4 dials on the front, it would make the show viewable, and print the code on a paper tape inside the box. Originally they came to the house and collected the tape monthly for billing, but eventually instructed subscribers on how to remove it themselves and mail it in with the check.

    We used to watch the Celtics by turning up the AGC so the negative picture turned positive (it was still slatted and hard to watch), and listen to the game on the radio for the sound. The system didn’t make it, if for no other reason that it didn’t do color.

  8. Tom W. says: January 8, 200911:54 pm

    I’m old enough to remember when every movie theater in town had the words “Stop Pay TV” on the marquee. Not particularly apropos of this article. Just wanted to mention it.

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