My memories of analogue cable tv are actually from the aforementioned Irvine Cable TV (ICTV). I will probably go into a bit of a ramble with this post. The service was quite small and served only a few thousand houses mainly those built by the Irvine Development Corporation. I think the main idea behind it was to save the houses having 'unsightly' aerials attached to them.
My memories of the cable system start in the 80s when I was a kid. There was a basic relay service which provided BBC 1 & 2 Scotland, STV, Channel 4, Ulster TV, BBC 1 NI & Sky One on the UHF band. There was a small fee for this service which was paid for through local authority rents and if tenants had bought their house they could pay an annual fee to keep the service. Ulster TV would sometimes get removed for a few days to showcase a premium channel to try and tempt people to subscribe. The relay service changed a few times over the years with the removal of BBC 1 NI and the addition of a Channel Guide. The channel guide showed now and next listings over pictures of the local area along with music. It had a teletext service providing full listings for each channel for a week. The Chanel guide was closed after a while and replaced by NBC Super Channel. By the time the service ceased in 2006 UTV had been replaced by ITV2, NBC by Channel 5 and an additional channel with CBeebies/BBC3 sharing had been added.
Back to the 80s and my parents had a TV with multi-band tuner which picked up the VHF band. The premium channels were broadcast on this band and we were able to tune in all of the cable channels for free just by plugging into the wall socket. Channels available at the time included Lifestyle, Super Channel, Bravo, Discovery, The Children's Channel, Prem1ere, Screensport, and others. There was a kids channel called Kindernet which I can remember watching Supergran on which was dubbed into Dutch.
There was also Home Video Channel (HVC) which we were told was played out from the cable headend on tapes which were sent to the cable company by the channel. I believe Bravo may also have originally been broadcast this way.
After a few years they eventually started scrambling the channels so they couldn't be viewed without a decoder. My parents subscribed to the service for a while and the decoder box we had back then didn't have a remote - you had to change the channels with a dial on the box. A few of my friends had the service too and some of the boxes had the ICTV logo on them. I've searched online to try and find a photo of the decoder but have never been able to find one like it. There was an option to have a meter attached to the decoder which you topped up with £1 coins to continue viewing. I vaguely remember there being a listings magazine available for the service although I'm not sure if this was a specific guide for ICTV or just a generic cable guide. With my parents being a subscriber I was able to join the 'Junior Cable Club' which let me attend fun days etc that the company hosted. I still have my membership card for it
My parents stopped subscribing after a few years and we returned to the basic relay service. At some point in the early 90s the service was taken over by BT Cable TV services. We started subscribing again around 1996 by which time the boxes had been upgraded and now came with a remote
The channels available included the various Sky multichannels at the time as well as cable exclusives like L!VE TV. We stopped subscribing after a couple of years and went back to the relay service. We had got a new TV in the late 90s which again had a VHF tuner. We were able to tune in Sky News, QVC, L!VE TV & Cartoon Network/TNT for free but the other channels were scrambled.
By 2000 we had got Sky Digital and rarely used the relay service anymore. In the early 2000s BT sold the service to a company called Metro Cable TV Ltd. Around this time a new company called OMNE started to lay cables for a new digital cable service in the area. That service would later become Wight Cable North then Smallworld Cable before eventually being taken over by Virgin a couple of years ago. With the advent of digital services like Sky Digital, On Digital & the new digital cable service the analogue service finally ceased on 30th September 2006.
The satellite dishes used for the analogue service were located at the BT Telephone Exchange at the end of my street. There was also a mast which was used to pick up the terrestrial services. The dishes have been removed for a few years now but the mast is still there although it no longer has any aerials attached to it. When I was a kid I was always interested in how the cable service worked . I just wished I had been able to have a visit into the ICTV building back then to see it all in action.
Some Pics (I don't have access to my scanner at the moment so have had to take some pics with my phone) :
Irvine Cable TV Logo
Junior Cable Club
BT Cable - How to connect decoder
BT Cable Irvine Channel Guide May 96
May 96 Channel Guide 2
BT Cable Irvine Channel Guide Oct 96
Old Cable building at front and old mast visible behind main BT exchange building
Another view of the mast