Mass Media & Technology

Digital TV

Were you an early adopter?

NW
nwtv2003 Granada North West Today
Having been inspired by a conversation on The Simpsons in the UK thread ongoing in the main forum and a couple of Twitter posts, what are people's memories of adapting to Digital TV? More so if you were an early adopter back in 1998, 1999 or 2000 when only a smaller number of households had Digital TV services. As we've had more time to recollect and think back of late, we were promised back in the 1990's that this would change our lives and change the way that we watched TV and how we interacted with our TV's.

To answer that, I would say Yes and No. Yes because the way we watch and consume TV has changed, through means of other channels as an On Demand streaming services. No, because the vast majority of people use their TV's to do one thing, to watch TV. They don't use it so surf the web or speak to friends with.

To throw my hat in the ring, prior to switching to Digital in 2000, we had Analogue Cable pumped into our house, firstly by NYNEX, then Cable & Wireless, before they were sold off to NTL. By the time we upgraded, C&W Digital TV Service had become NTL Digital Plus. C&W had switched on their Digital service back in the summer of 1999, a small number of analogue channels were turned off to get viewers to upgrade. See the start of the below clip from my YT channel:



My friend had C&W Digital at his house and it looked amazing by 1999 standards. Indeed, one of the channels had a round the clock preview which showcased all of the amazing interactive features that were due to come, such as playing along with quiz shows as they are shown on TV.

Due to the increased cost of the monthly packages, my parents were reluctant to upgrade (I was only 12 at the time) and we stuck with Analogue until December 2000 when the price came down a little bit.

When switching to Digital, we were given the below Set Top Box, the Pace 1000...

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These boxes were near enough standard in the roll out of Digital Cable for C&W areas for those served by Telewest. The word being that the hardware and software were deliberately designed like this as C&W and Telewest were looking at merging, however that did not happen. As a result NTL bought out C&W's consumer division meaning that a lot of what had been promised was put on hold, or never materialised.

When we had Digital installed I was very impressed at the number of channels that immediately became available and channels which we were used to that no longer timeshares, e.g Nickelodeon. At first I was also impressed at what Digital offered, namely the Interactive services that gave you access to many new web based Apps. Whilst we did not get Digital Teletext, we got a Digital version of Teletext, we got in-depth ITN news. You could access banking, send emails or order pizza. (Who needs smart phones?) It was all good to see and there was no requirement for a phone line. Screenshots of this remain on MB21, at: http://teletext.mb21.co.uk/gallery/digital/ntl2.shtml

However, my enthusiasm with it was a bit short lived. I guess like most teenagers you wanted more from the TV and NTL simply did not do that. The Interactive software and the STB in general crashed frequently. The number of Apps and service slowly declined over a year or so, leaving it only as a News based interactive service, not even one with access to on demand video. The Interactive future two way computer action fad with your TV was as dead as the dodo.

For those who remember, NTL had two separately based Cable systems, Bromley and Langley. Bromley home to the ex-C&W system, which meant that NTL had two separate looking systems for a good 2 to 3 years before they did anything about it. Ex-C&W customers having the latter of the two.

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Took until 2003 for NTL to get their act sorted and to upgrade their systems which meant that the EPG's on both systems were almost the same and they then got proper interactive, but by this time it didn't mean much other than multi-screen Wimbledon on BBCi.

At this point we were accustom to a rubbish Digital TV service, but it gave us the channels we wanted and my parents were reluctant to get Sky or a dish installed.

For the last few years of my life I have been a Sky customer and I've never had any fault with this. If I had my time again certainly I'd have been more encouraged to get Sky over NTL installed.

I'm interested in what other experiences people may have had with Digital back in its early days. Did you pay £200 to get Sky installed, only to be free 6 months later. Did you get On Digital and found that you had the wrong aerial. Any stories or rants are welcome.
steve
steviegTVreturns
NL
Ne1L C Yorkshire Look North (Yorkshire)
What a great question. We had sky analogue from 1992 to 2000. We had 2 boxes.

The first was an Amstrad SRD 400 followed by the superb pace mss100.

We went digital in 2000 with another pace box. We figured that it wa best to stay as we were instead of changing to Ondigital which as history proves was the right decision.
Last edited by Ne1L C on 19 April 2020 9:18pm
LL
London Lite Founding member London London
I had Sky analogue until 2000 as well, changing to OnDigital as it had some Sky output without having to have a dish, not knowing that there were some rights issues with some programming on Sky One through DTT.

The Nokia MediaMaster was my first DTT box, changing to a Goodmans GDB2 after Freeview launched.
DV
dvboy Central (West) Midlands Today
Got my first DTT box in that no-mans land between ITV Digital collapsing and Freeview officially launching in 2002, which coincided with going to University. The box was a Daewoo Setpal.

The following year moved to a place which wasn't covered by DTT. A couple of years later I had NTL cable installed, and after moving to a place that couldn't have cable installed I've had Sky Digital on and off since about 2006.
Tennis on telly | Hello, good evening, and remain indoors.
DJ
DJ Dave Granada North West Today
We had Nynex as a kid, I'm sure I remember them coming round the day Granada Plus launched as they had to do something with the box to get the Granada Sky Broadcasting channels.

We had the Jerrold box when it was Nynex and when it become C&W and I remember Pay Per View movies were just starting to come on to C&W, then we swapped to Sky Digital as we noticed that Sky seemed far more advanced then C&W/Ntl in our area at the time.

I stuck with Sky and then when we moved house BT Wanted a stupid amount of money for being connected in the new house and NTL said we will do it for free (As I've always had Cable Broadband well before that it was AOL dial up).

We go NTL Phone and BB but kept Sky which was on Sky+ by then, we did go back to NTL around the time TV Drive came and they gave us the big black box above and the guy who installed it told us they were always crashing and to ring up and ask for a new silver one which we did.

Then we got V+ when it became virgin but at some point went back to sky, we still have the basic tv package with Virgin but never really use it, but tbh we have got the newer tivo box as they were saying we could get one for free and self install which I did, I have used it and it is so much better then my nan's (she has the old massive tivo box) but our main tv is now with Sky Q.
LL
Larry the Loafer Granada North West Today
I'm just here to post the compulsory "I played Beehive Bedlam for hours the day we got Sky Digital" story.

I also remember my Dad being on the phone to Sky, explaining how he got no sports channels on the analogue cable service we had, and the pedant in my child self insisting he acknowledged that we had Eurosport and what he said was factually inaccurate. I was an idiot.
BC
Blake Connolly Founding member London London
We didn't get digital until quite late, probably something like 2002. But I remember going round a friend from college's house in either late '98 or early '99 and being awestruck by Sky Digital.

It would've been very early days, there were a few channels like UK Gold Classics that seemed to just be showing barker loops most of the time. It's hard to describe now just how good that EPG seemed to be at the time. I remember being especially amazed by M2 and the other MTV channels, just the idea that there could be entire TV channels devoted to niche tastes and interests felt revolutionary at the time and it didn't seem to be done on the cheap. It's a bit like what BBC Choice was doing back then, it felt like there was this whole mysterious world of interesting telly made with lots of care that hardly anyone was actually able to watch.
TM
ToasterMan Granada North West Today
As I've stated several times in previous threads: my family were Sky customers since the early days of the analogue service, and eventually, Sky Multi Channels, so it didn't take them long to switch to Sky Digital.

I believe we also had an OnDigital box, which got converted into Freeview in late 2002, which was installed in mine and my brother's bedroom, before it moved into our parent's one, (it was originally hooked up to a very blocky TV with a built-in VCR, and finally, our Sharp LC32AD5E 32" Widescreen HDTV from 2007. However, both the TV and the digibox were sent to the local scrapyard in September 2010, and the Sharp TV moved to the dining room to be hooked to our 2007 Sky+ box: my earliest memories were of course CBeebies and Nick. Jr, before I got older, and started watching Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Cartoonito and Nickelodeon on Sky, which is how I discovered my love for SpongeBob, plus BBC Three, Four, the CBBC and CITV Channels on both services.
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One satellite exclusive channel I watched a lot when I was a kid was Tiny Pop, originally launched as Pop Plus by Sony Pictures Television in 2003, back when they had music videos, and it was there I discovered animated series from Canada, like Timothy Goes to School and Marvin the Tap Dancing Horse, it also spun off a CD released by Sony Music called Play Time! The Complete Fun Package!, which I got from Woolworths back in the late summer of 2005.

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We were first generation Sky Digital customers until September 2007, when after much persuading to my parents, they switched to Sky+ and we finally got the opportunity to record programmes and films. However, in February 2009, my Dad bought a Sky+ HD box, which we've had for over eleven years, though in late 2010, the Sky+ box was hooked to the Sharp TV in the dining room, until July 2013, when my Dad bought another Sky+ HD box!

Looking back, the early days of Sky Digital were very exciting ones from what I remember: a wider choice of content with a firing streak of innovation from both British Sky Broadcasting and the Murdochs.
Last edited by ToasterMan on 22 April 2020 12:51pm - 7 times in total
AndrewPSSP and catbooks gave kudos
IT
IndigoTucker
I remember the special interactive contract you had to sign to get Sky Digital box and install at a reasonable price in the early days - meaning that you consented to your box being permanently connected to a telephone line. This meant that we didn't end up with Sky Digital until 2000 I think - as we physically couldn't install a phone line near to the Sky box without wrecking the decoration of the house. Those early boxes from different manufacturers were startlingly different - my Auntie's Panasonic was lightning fast and responded to key presses instantly, and loaded Open in a second, whereas our Pace was slow as treacle.

You also had the confusing listing problem, of the analogue transponder sharing channels like Cartoon Network/TCM, Discovery H&L/ Discovery each getting their own channel number and continuous programming throughout the day.

I got the Grundig breadbox for DTT as soon it launched, just after the crash of ITV Digital - and was amazed to get the extra channels and widescreen (on a 14 inch portable)... And the constant stream of software updates that followed over the air as extra features were added when Freeview launched a few months later.
Last edited by IndigoTucker on 20 April 2020 11:59am - 2 times in total
NL
Ne1L C Yorkshire Look North (Yorkshire)
We didn't get digital until quite late, probably something like 2002. But I remember going round a friend from college's house in either late '98 or early '99 and being awestruck by Sky Digital.

It would've been very early days, there were a few channels like UK Gold Classics that seemed to just be showing barker loops most of the time. It's hard to describe now just how good that EPG seemed to be at the time. I remember being especially amazed by M2 and the other MTV channels, just the idea that there could be entire TV channels devoted to niche tastes and interests felt revolutionary at the time and it didn't seem to be done on the cheap. It's a bit like what BBC Choice was doing back then, it felt like there was this whole mysterious world of interesting telly made with lots of care that hardly anyone was actually able to watch.


The EPG truly was incredible. As sad as this sounds now the fact you could see not just what programmes were on now and next but what the programmes were about was mindblowing.
NW
nwtv2003 Granada North West Today


This is quite an early example of the Sky EPG. NTL did have a 7 day EPG but it was often slow and unreliable. But the fact it was there was remarkable enough. The Sky EPG was always quite reliable by comparison.
steve
steviegTVreturns
ToasterMan, Larry the Loafer and Ne1L C gave kudos
TM
ToasterMan Granada North West Today
I remember the very first Sky Digital sale promotions, equipment and the beta EPG having the 1997 "egg" corporate logo, which didn't last long as late into the year, Sky introduced the first incarnation of the lowercase logo:

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This changed in the Autumn of 1999 to the first version with the current Sky wordmark, the satellite swoosh was removed in late 2000:
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Last edited by ToasterMan on 22 April 2020 12:52pm - 2 times in total
bkman1990 and Anglialad gave kudos

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