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Analogue Cable Memories
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Old 31-07-2018, 10:56   #1
RWCable
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Post Analogue Cable Memories

Hi!

I grew up with the analogue cable service (CableTel, which then became NTL and is now Virgin), I'm still really fascinated by it! (don't judge!)

When we switched to digital in 2002 (NTL had a purple/pink EPG on digital, Pace box, +I loved when they did updates, fascinated me!!), I asked the engineer if we could keep the analogue box because I really felt it would be historically relevant somewhat (I was 8!!!), said 'no' but still have the 'Jerrold' remote somewhere. Wish I could have just said why I wanted it. We had the old box since 1998/99.

The box was a GI CFT-2100/2000, am I right in thinking these got sold to companies in less developed countries in the end? I tried looking it up on YouTube a while ago and these boxes were mainly being used in foreign places (in 2012 at least) so I assume that's where they all went?

Something else interesting, all the manhole covers on the pavement here, all over where I live still say GI/General Instrument/CableTel (may have seen a Jerrold one somewhere). Panels on the outside and inside walls of the house say CableTel. Kind of weird to think all the wiring is the same after ~20 years, still works and is capable of carrying so much different information so well.

Another memory I'm fairly sure I have is seeing a Sky Digital EPG frozen on Cartoon Network once? I'm guessing some channels got routed through a Sky box at a head end? And fairly sure a while before that, OSD text and static from a Sky Analogue box being broadcast on one of the channels. In probably about 2005 (grandmas house) I remember seeing a Windows 95 message box being broadcast on a few of the channels in the 40-50 range.

Quality operation huh! Wondering if anyone could confirm/explain these experiences. I'd also love to have one of those GI boxes back sometime just for the sake of it, despite it being useless..... Memories! If you have one, plug it in and put a video on YouTube! There's nothing detailed or good quality ATM. (And is Ireland still using these things?)

Freeview is somewhat similar to the service now in terms of channels available, and the locality of it. Regional channels etc, just lacks interesting things like PPV/Front Row, old cartoons and sport. We never used Front Row but I think I remember seeing it.... you'd call up a phone number and they'd enable it on your box?? Correct me if I'm wrong!

Before interactive EPGs were a thing, I remember in 1999 coming home after a day out and just staring at this channel which displayed an EPG and music. Can't remember if/when that got phased out.

I liked messing with the menus. But what did the F button do?? Engineer purposes? Frequencies? No idea never pressed it.

Anyone go through nostalgic patches wishing this stuff was still around or just me? Lets face it, it wasn't THAT great, but it was and still is cool to me. Hoping someone that would actually know the internals of this stuff would be able to answer!

Last edited by RWCable; 31-07-2018 at 11:14.
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Old 31-07-2018, 13:32   #2
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Welcome to cableforum

I love analog cable!!!!!!!! (Analogue anything really)

I have several movies on VHS recorded from ANALOGUE CABLE!! (Some are from analog TV (OTA))

Alot of movies have been ruined on VHS especially in the USA,from digital video crap to filters,the movie looks flat and void!! (Its really very sad)

I just got 2 movies I have loved for years that I wanted from analogue cable as the movies were ruined on official VHS media!

1) The Goonies - 1985 ('Digitally processed' on official VHS media and looks like crap (thin,etc))

Watching this over analogue cable (Cinemax) is goregous..... The video has depth and the sound is goregous........

2) The breakfast club (1985) - Also ruined on offical VHS media (Video is flat and disgusting)

Watching it over HBO (26/12/86) is goregous!!!! (Video has depth/sound is goregous)


I LOVE ANALOG!!!!!!!!!!!!!! -- Nothing better


We used to have a SCIENTIFIC ATLANTA (Model 85XX (We had a couple different model #s)) cable box in the later part of the 80s and thru the 90s.......

I also had Regency Boxs and Jerrolds..... I think my favourite is the SA box..

Last edited by Dude111; 31-07-2018 at 13:40.
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Old 31-07-2018, 13:52   #3
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Re: Analogue Cable Memories

Thanks! That's wonderful to hear. And would be great with a good sound system and a CRT.

We still mainly used CRTs when HDTVs became a thing in about 2007-2010 and I always thought even though the resolution was lower, the quality and vibrance was unmatched. And because CRT TVs use bigger pixels you don't get any pixellation/stretching as you do when upscaling to cover an equivalent area with loads more smaller pixels on an HDTV.

Beautiful!

P.S. I only knew of the GI/Jerrold boxes which might basically be the same? The remote I managed to keep is Jerrold but the set-top box was General Instrument
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Old 31-07-2018, 14:16   #4
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I believe they are... The scrambling modes are compatibile.....

I love CRTS .. The BEST tv to ever be made
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Old 31-07-2018, 15:42   #5
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Re: Analogue Cable Memories

RWCable I also have fond memories of analogue cable. I was only a kid when I used to get Children's Channel and Sky Channel - I loved watching the cartoons. But it had to go because the local cable company that had taken over the MATV network in our area had begun to charge for the service and my parents didn't want to pay so they got an aerial.

I missed my cartoons and it created a kind of nostalgia. When I was in my late teens, I ended up experimenting with analogue (and later, digital) satellite to get some of the channels back (by then my parents moved to a non-cabled area) - and I became interested in the tech itself, much more so than the content.

I never had a Jerrold box at the time the service was live - but I did end up getting to work with them on work experience, which was amazing. I got to go to the headend, visit customers out in the field with the techs, help install and remove attenuators, even overheard baby monitors and cordless phones coming back up the return path at the cabinet. (The wavetek-pro spectrum analyzer had a speaker built in). I saw how it all worked, from the NDS sat receivers to the scramblers and modulators, all the way down to the scruffy white cables running unprotected under lawns with T-pieces in the exterior walls of the houses.

To answer your question, the F button means "Function" and it had various uses. It was mainly used to display the serial number in Hex pairs in order to call someone at the headend when setting up or replacing a box and having them send a "hit" through the network to enable it.

I remember once we were in an area that had both an old build system and a new build - the old build was still active at the time and an amplifier had gone dead. when we removed the cover, an ants nest rolled out and plopped onto the pavement, ants scurrying everywhere.

Fun times and the best work experience I could have had! Shame there's nothing on TV any more, the content's not worth the license fee in my opinion.

Last edited by Onramp; 31-07-2018 at 15:49.
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Old 01-08-2018, 02:42   #6
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Re: Analogue Cable Memories

Thank you! That sounds amazing, wish I could've done that for work experience. Analogue was still around in my area (final months) at the time I did work experience. Now I wish I tried working for VM or something.

Digital is what I'm more used to, but the methods used to deliver analogue cable (despite its disadvantages) from source to head end to the TV set, I think are fairly genius in concept.

So cordless phones interfered with the connection from house to cabinet? On the flip side, I had a Sega GameGear with a TV tuner. The signal coming out the RF wire of our cable box to the TV was so strong I could wirelessly tune into the current channel from a few rooms in the house!

Was there a return path for the analogue cable boxes?
Was the F button used for anything else? Any other functions available?
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Old 01-08-2018, 06:56   #7
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Re: Analogue Cable Memories

RWCable,

Analogue cordless phones used to operate around 27 - 35Mhz which was within the band of the return path. Often, houses had unterminated Coax connectors in their living rooms which would pick up stray signals. That was the new build system, however. The older system was simply a nest of wires, ultimately coming from a nearby hill, amplified in small grey pillars around the street. It had no return path and supported up to around 550MHz (hence the name Jerrold 550) - although such converters were in use on both the older and newer network.

The analogue cable boxes did support a return path, but it was only used on the new build star networks built in the 90s. There was a module which clips onto the back of the box over the coax connectors called a talkback unit which could be used for ordering pay per view events, etc. Not everyone had one of those, however.

I think the F button could be used to manually map channels from the allowed bouquet to specific channel numbers. I can't really remember seeing it used for anything other than displaying the serial number of the box, however. I think you have to press F and then key in 0, 2. I could be wrong though, this was a long time ago. It didn't do anything too fancy beyond that as far as I remember, but some boxes supported extra features, such as timers. The program selection was delivered to each box individually via a "hit" which would map channels and decide which ones could have their vertical blanking signal reintroduced in order to "unscramble" the picture.

There was something to do with a P/B indicator which had something to do with a "barker" channel - but I can't remember what that was intended for.

The whole system was General Instrument / Motorola and was operated by a central controller known as the ACC-4000. You can still find the manual for those online. I doubt anyone uses these systems any more and there's nothing really secretive about how it works. The whole setup is really basic.

EDIT: I might have been wrong about the P/B thing http://www.eddiesegoura.com/cablebox.htm

Last edited by Onramp; 01-08-2018 at 07:05.
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Old 01-08-2018, 08:21   #8
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Re: Analogue Cable Memories

I was with Bell Cablemedia originally, think that went to Cable and Wireless, then NTL, now VM. (someone need to looks into VMs monopoly these days....)

The box was a Jerrold and incredibly hot - it provided central heating for the room ! Treated myself to cable in time for the 1996 Cricket World Cup ! Of course didn't tell Mrs K. that was the reason, until it was all too late to cancel ! Didn't take telephone till much later, remember they provided free dial up internet but was very slow to roll out - as soon as it came to my area they decided to charge - still aggrieved about that one.

One of the most memorable cable analogue nights was when the Adult channel became unscrambled for everybody Someone lost their job I guess, but there was a lot of very satisfied/pretending to be outraged customers Took ages for anyone to report it for some reason....
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Old 01-08-2018, 09:42   #9
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Re: Analogue Cable Memories

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Originally Posted by Onramp View Post
I doubt anyone uses these systems any more
There's still lots of analogue cable used elsewhere in Europe
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Old 01-08-2018, 10:15   #10
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Thats good to hear!!

I remember one time taking my SA box to my cousins house in connecticut and hooking it up..... I got some pay channels he didnt usually get as those channels were enabled in my box... (I got lucky on that system... The cable data from the head end was on the same freq as my cable system (106.5))

The box said DC (Data Current) when I checked for data (nd means 'No data'))

If you had the box hooked up and it didnt get any data for 3 days it would disable itself.....


Channel 1 was active in my box as my cable co used 1 (Pointed @ channel 99) that system didnt use channel 1 and it was re-programmed to default within mins of hooking it up to that network. (Channel 4a))

Last edited by Dude111; 01-08-2018 at 10:23.
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Old 01-08-2018, 10:21   #11
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Re: Analogue Cable Memories

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Originally Posted by Dude111 View Post
I believe they are... The scrambling modes are compatibile.....

I love CRTS .. The BEST tv to ever be made

I bet your house/flat is like an antiques shop! haha
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Old 01-08-2018, 10:24   #12
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Ahhh thank you for such kind words my friend

Quote:
Originally Posted by Onramp
The analogue cable boxes did support a return path, but it was only used on the new build star networks built in the 90s. There was a module which clips onto the back of the box over the coax connectors called a talkback unit which could be used for ordering pay per view events, etc. Not everyone had one of those, however.
Ya we had to call and order PPV stuff on the analogue SA boxs.....

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Old 01-08-2018, 11:23   #13
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Re: Analogue Cable Memories

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Originally Posted by SnoopZ View Post
I bet your house/flat is like an antiques shop! haha

lol, Mr Trotter, indeed....
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Old 01-08-2018, 13:57   #14
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Re: Analogue Cable Memories

@Onramp, thank you! These talkback modules, any idea what they looked like? I don't believe we had one. Also, if a return path was generally not present on analogue, would the company have been able to scan for modified or unscrupulous equipment and how? I looked up the ACC-4000, it's a computer that controlled the boxes right? Did you ever use one? What was the OS? I definitely saw a Windows 95 screen being broadcast on channel 40-something in 2004/2005 (was supposed to be displaying a static message from NTL, but a message box was stuck on top).

@Mr K, brilliant stories! Thanks

@spiderplant which countries generally? I'd go there, not for the scenery, not for the culture or anything I should supposedly be interested about, but simply for the fact they have analogue cable and I want to experience it once more lol

Another thing, obviously some digital information was transmitted to the boxes, like channel lineup, numbers, names, subscription etc. No doubt GI/Jerrold could have added a basic EPG and used that for reminders/planning. If that happened and the security was somehow better, we'd probably still be using it/able to purchase an analogue subscription today or at least 5 years ago (not that that's necessarily a good thing).

And, when Virgin Media updated their Liberate boxes from the Sky-lookalike blue (NTL) to the black and yellow interface, it reminded me a lot of the old GI/Jerrold interface, esp. the mini-guide in relation to the MENU on the GI box. Wonder if they took inspiration? On a side note, the current V6 boxes are a little bit reminiscent of the old GI boxes on the exterior. I miss having the 24hour clock on the front LCD panel, it was extremely useful (for knowing if you were gonna be late for boring school b/c you were busy watching cartoons lol) and I was gutted when that wasn't available on the Pace and Samsung digiboxes.

Would be nice if they could make a simple super quick interface, like the GI boxes had, with channels in the single and double digit range, interesting pop-up channels all year round and a nicely done touchscreen remote for navigation and planning. But I'm just daydreaming. Anyone use the landline anymore? Imagine if they revived Front Row and you could once again order movies by phone. I'm absolutely not sure, but crazily enough that might prove more engaging and interesting than on-demand if it was also available. I wouldn't be surprised if they advertised it well & got you to visit the trailers channel and call for a free movie, if that boosted the sales of PPV films.

Last edited by RWCable; 01-08-2018 at 14:38.
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Old 01-08-2018, 14:05   #15
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Re: Analogue Cable Memories

Germany still has a huge amount of Analgoue connections, as do Ireland.
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