A cable box, also known as a cable set-top box (STB), is an electronic device that allows cable television subscribers to access channels and services. Digital cable boxes decode incoming signals and can send outgoing signals that are used to take advantage of special features, such as video on demand (VOD) and electronic program guides (EPGs). At one time, cable boxes ran proprietary software and had to be leased by subscribers from cable companies, but today, subscribers are allowed to purchase third-party STBs to avoid paying leasing fees. While several companies manufacture these devices, one of the most popular brands is the Motorola cable box.
What Is a Cable Box?
Many cable channels can be decoded directly by television sets with built-in tuners, but cable providers lock premium channels and offer extra services that can only be accessed by directing the signals through a properly programmed decoder before they go out to a TV. In the days of analog cable, STBs were not always required, but after digital cable was made the standard, cable boxes became necessary to convert the digital signals for analog TVs.
Early cable boxes only had one input port and one output port, both of which were designed to be used with coaxial cables. Today, coaxial cables can still be used for incoming signals, but high-definition (HD) video and advanced audio requires specialized connectors, such as HDMI cables.
Motorola is one of the largest companies in the world that specializes in electronics for the telecommunications industry. This U.S. company is headquartered in Schaumburg, Illinois, but since 2011, it has existed as two wholly independent corporations: Motorola Mobility and Motorola Solutions. Motorola Mobility focuses on wireless communications while Motorola Solutions manufactures and develops all other types of telecommunications equipment, including several models of Motorola cable boxes.
The mission of Motorola Solutions is to connect its customers through innovative technologies at home and in the workplace. The company not only serves the consumer market, but it also develops equipment for the government and for businesses. The company’s most popular products include cable and satellite decoders, broadband modems and enterprise networking modules.
Many cable providers have signed contracts over the years to lease Motorola cable boxes to their customers, but it was the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that gave consumers the right to purchase STBs from electronics stores. To allow for this, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sponsored the development of the removable Cablecard. Each cable provider can program a Cablecard with proprietary decoding software so that it can be inserted into and used by a third-party STB, such as a Motorola cable box. These cards are electronic devices that fit into standard PCMCIA computer card slots. Cable companies are required to provide a card to any customer who asks for one. However, some types of cards cannot be used to access special features, such as on-demand programming and onscreen program guides. To get around this drawback, many manufacturers of cable boxes include software that performs these functions independently of the services offered by cable companies.
Motorola Cable Box Models
Several models of Motorola cable boxes can be purchased by cable subscribers through electronics and home-theater stores. These STBs can accept Cablecards so that all of the standard and premium channels are viewable on any connected television. Some of these models include additional features, such as digital video recorders and cable modems. Following are a few of the most popular cable boxes from Motorola.
This Motorola cable box is an all-digital system that accepts multiple-stream Cablecards (M-cards). It supports standard-definition (SD) resolution and HD resolutions of 720p and 1080i. The DCH3200 sports 32 MB of Flash memory and 128 MB of DRAM. A DOCSIS 2.0 cable modem is included, and problems can be diagnosed with a simple onscreen utility. For quality audio, this STB decodes Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.
This hybrid STB can decode both SD and HD signals in MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 formats. In addition, it has IP connectivity, which allows the box to connect to and communicate with other household devices. It can also use the IP connectivity to access VOD programs. The QIP7100 can connect to older TVs via S-video, composite video or coaxial ports while it can connect to HDTVs through component video cables or HDMI cables. Supported audio formats include Dolby 5.1 and Dolby 7.1.
Motorola DCX3200 P2
The Motorola DCX3200 P2 benefits from a sleek design that significantly reduces its profile when compared to other STBs. This fully digital HD box includes a 1 GHz digital tuner that can decode video in MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and VC-1 formats, and the audio decoder supports Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, MP3 and WMA. The 64 MB Flash memory and 256 MB DRAM is more than enough for accelerated 3D graphics and video scaling while the embedded DOCSIS 2.0 cable modem provides users with an Internet connection.