Cable History Project

Cable Center Featured Articles

Cable Transitions to a High Technology Business

By Larry Satkowiak, April 24, 2014

When we write about the founding of the cable industry, we usually tell the story of Ed Parsons, Jimmy Davidson, and John Walson. We mark the start of the Second Generation of Cable by telling the story of TelePrompTer and Scientific-Atlanta demonstrating the power of satellite transmission at the 1973 NCTA Show...   more »

Television Franchise Fees in the United Kingdom

By Larry Satkowiak, April 1, 2014

On my way from central London to Heathrow last week, I asked our driver about a recent newspaper report concerning the potential increase in the television license fee that each household must pay. (This is how the BBC is funded.) Our driver pointed out that nonpayment of the fee is a criminal offense and that there were hefty fines for noncompliance...   more »

Glenn Jones and the Mind Extension Business

By Larry Satkowiak, February 27, 2014

One of the most interesting oral histories in The Cable Center’s collection belongs to Glenn R. Jones. Recently, our librarian received a box of historical items from Greg Liptak’s family and we discovered a video that ended with Jones’ vision of the future from almost 15 years ago, which took me back to his amazing story. Glenn Jones’ entry to the cable business is legendary...   more »

Time Warner Cable’s Family Tree

By Larry Satkowiak, January 30, 2014

Time Warner Cable (TWC) was built on a strategy of mergers and acquisitions. Its early history dates back to pioneers like Bill Daniels, Monty Rifkin, Tryg Myhren, Steve Ross and Gus Hauser. The origins of TWC are a bit complex, but the company has a wonderfully rich history that many people would not remember today. In many ways, the TWC story is a great example of how the cable industry was built...   more »

Archer Taylor – Remembering a Cable Pioneer

By Larry Satkowiak, January 2, 2014

If you ever had a question about the early days of cable engineering, Archer Taylor was the guy to know. I have always thought of him as the prototypical cable engineer who made a very generous gesture to The Cable Center by writing two books for us about the early days of the CATV industry...   more »

John Hendricks and the Power of Discovery

By Larry Satkowiak, December 2, 2013

The power of the television documentary first hit me in 1980 with Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on PBS. I was hooked on the many PBS science programs shown at the time and still have the accompanying books on my shelf. In the early 1980s, John Hendricks had seen these same programs and thought that cable could become the platform for similar programming based on science, nature, and history – he called it the Discovery Channel...   more »

Cable in the Age of Innovation

By Larry Satkowiak, October 30, 2013

The cable industry is one of the best examples of the American free enterprise system that can be found anywhere. At The Cable Center, we have characterized the current generation of cable as the “Age of Innovation,” a concept that was recently reinforced for me at the annual SCTE Expo in Atlanta. The backbone of the free enterprise system is entrepreneurship, innovation, and competition…and I saw strong evidence of all three...  more »

The Early History of WICT

By Larry Satkowiak, September 30, 2013

The Cable Industry will turn out in force for our annual Diversity Week celebration starting October 7 in New York City. Last year, I wrote about Walter Kaitz and the founding of the Kaitz dinner, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. WICT, Women in Cable Telecommunications, is another robust organization that provides outstanding programs for the cable industry during Diversity Week that also deserves our support...   more »

The First Broadcast Policies in the UK Compared to the US

By Larry Satkowiak, July 1, 2013

While in London for the Fourth of July holiday this year, I have been thinking about how television developed so differently in the UK compared to the US. Fundamental decisions about the role of government in broadcast and cable go back to the days of radio in both countries. It is a story of how two nations struggled with the same questions and developed two different solutions...     more »

Brian Lamb and the Founding of C-SPAN

By Larry Satkowiak, June 3, 2013

Brian Lamb will receive the Bresnan Ethics in Business Award at the Cable Hall of Fame in Washington D.C. on June 10, and it reminded me about C-SPAN’s beginnings and his outstanding contribution to the United States. It’s the story of a quiet man from the Midwest who has had a profound impact on our society, who brought our government closer to its people, and who insisted on always doing the right thing even when it was not popular... more »

The Historical Connections Between - NBC, GE, and Comcast

By Larry Satkowiak, May 6, 2013

When Brian Roberts announced that Comcast completed its purchase of NBC Universal from General Electric, I did not hear much about the historical connections. Last week, as I walked past 30 Rock and Radio City Music Hall, I thought that most people today probably would not know the General Electric links to television and the cable industry. This is one of the richest stories in American business history and it shaped our modern media and communications world... more »

History Books and The Cable Industry

By Larry Satkowiak, April 2, 2013

As I research the history of American television, I can only conclude that the cable industry must not have made much of a difference. Outside of brief references to the founding of the industry in 1948, the First Generation of cable pioneers are hardly mentioned and not given any credit for the phenomenal growth of television. more »

Three Generations of Cable

By Larry Satkowiak, March 6, 2013

Daniel J. Boorstin, the prominent historian, once commented that historians like to "...bundle years in ways that make sense, provide continuity and link past to present." When I began to study the cable industry from an historical perspective, I did not find a workable historical model that was useful in separating what the cable industry "was" compared to what it "is." more »

The First Broadcast Policies in the UK Compared to the US

By Larry Satkowiak, July 1, 2013

While in London for the Fourth of July holiday this year, I have been thinking about how television developed so differently in the UK compared to the US. Fundamental decisions about the role of government in broadcast and cable go back to the days of radio in both countries. It is a story of how two nations struggled with the same questions and developed two different solutions... more »

How AT&T Became a Monopoly

By Larry Satkowiak, January 30, 2013

The Theodore Roosevelt administration is known for its campaign against big business, but it also had to decide how it would deal with a technology deemed to be the essential service of its time: the telephone. It didn’t help that J. P. Morgan, the famed financier, had gained control of AT&T by 1907 and had publicly announced that major consolidation was on the horizon. During this time, there were a large number of telephone companies across the United States and substantial competition... more »

A High-Tech History—Cable Reinvents Itself

By Larry Satkowiak, August 9, 2012

One of the more remarkable features of the cable industry has been its ability to reinvent itself. And technological innovation, much of it developed by the industry itself, has been the prime mover of that evolution. Indeed, it is within the context of technological innovation that I find myself explaining to people how the cable industry has evolved. I divide the history of cable into three distinct periods: the era of the pioneering entrepreneur, the era of satellite and the era of innovation. more »

Teleprompter and Cable—An Early History

By Larry Satkowiak, July 3, 2012

Since teleprompters are used routinely today, you probably never wondered who developed the device. However, there are a few amusing stories about the development of the teleprompter in The Cable Center archives you might find interesting. Its origins reveal a story of entrepreneurship and opportunity among some of the most interesting personalities from the early days of cable. more »

An Information Revolution

By Larry Satkowiak, May 30, 2012

One of cable's most significant contributions to our society is the way it has transformed the news we receive about our government. Many people today do not remember when the nation relied mainly on the broadcast networks and newspapers to receive information from Washington D.C. and the world. In 1979, the emergence of two new cable networks fundamentally changed news reporting and redefined the meaning of a free press. Thanks to cable, our citizens know about the issues facing our nation with unprecedented detail and depth. more »

A Game-Changing Cable Show—Anaheim, 1973

By Larry Satkowiak, April 30, 2012

The NCTA Cable Show has always provided a platform for demonstrating innovative technologies and the show in Anaheim, CA in 1973 stands out as a game-changer. At that meeting, the introduction of satellite technology would have a profound impact on the cable industry. But more than that, the story is a prime example of cable's entrepreneurial spirit. TelePrompTer, Scientific-Atlanta, and HBO combined forces and took a risk around an idea that would change the world. more »

Pole Attachments—A Cable History

By Larry Satkowiak,April 2, 2012

One of the most difficult challenges facing the early cable entrepreneurs concerned the attachment of cable on existing poles to reach the consumer. It seems that the topic is as popular as ever. I followed the recent Gulf Power vs. the FCC court case with interest, but what continues to catch my eye is the Google entry into Kansas City. more »

Writing the History of Cable

By Larry Satkowiak, March 12, 2012

Who will write the history of the cable industry? Maybe the better question is who will write the history someone will actually read? A 2011 MBA graduate told me that modern history really began in the year 2000, when content began appearing on the internet. She had completed her degree without ever stepping into a library, though she said that the university gave her all the resources she needed online. Everything she learned about the cable industry came from her Internet research. more »