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Satellite TV and cable TV: A quick comparison

Ever wondered how your favorite shows get from the broadcaster to your living room TV? Satisfy your curiosity with a brief history of TV companies and an introduction to how television works.

All about satellite television

The history of satellite TV

Satellite TV as we know it began in 1991 with the first satellite television provider, Primestar. At that time, satellite TV was expensive and was not the television choice of many residents. The satellite TV market began expanding in 1994.

A satellite dish is necessary to receive satellite TV signals at your home.

How satellite TV works

Satellite TV is easily accessible. Since the satellite is very high in the sky above the Earth, there is a much larger line of sight than what is available with a shorter antenna on the ground. Satellite signals can reach almost anywhere in the country.

A cable box transfers programs from the cables to your television.

Satellite television signals are transmitted from the channels that supply programming to your provider’s broadcasting center. From the broadcasting center, signals are sent to the orbiting satellites. The satellites then send the signals to homes all over the country. The dish on your house picks up this signal and displays the programming on your TV.

What is cable TV?

The long history of cable television and how it works

Cable TV was the original television connection. It added a whole new level to home entertainment, in a time when the only option had been the radio. Cable first became available for home viewing in the United States in 1948.

In the 1950s, TV signals were sent from the transmitting antenna in a straight line of sight to the TV. In rural areas, people learned they could get a better TV reception if they ran cables to their homes from the antenna.

This same system is used on a larger scale now. Signals are transmitted to antennas then delivered to homes via cables.

In the 1970s, more frequencies were opened up by the FCC for cable television use. Today, more and more channels are available on cable as technology improves. Fiber optics are now commonly used and can carry the cable connection over much longer distances that earlier cable systems.

Today, all signals are digital. You’ll see a much better picture with a digital cable signal than with the earlier analog signals. Digital cable and digital satellite TV both offer a similar picture now. The comparison between cable and satellite ends there, since both services are transmitted to your home in very different ways.

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