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Dead medium: Interactive Cable Television: Cableshop
From: SeJ@aol.com (Stefan Jones)
Source(s): POPULAR MECHANICS January 1983 "Technology Update" column

Bruce:

I recently found a pile of old issues of *Popular Mechanics* in a dank corner of my parents' basement. Prime breeding ground for mold, mildew, and Dead Media. My comments in (((triple parentheses))) == Stefan Jones

page 155

"While major cable TV interests are entering what experts believe is a shakeout period, small-scale experiments in 'interactive' cable are demonstrating what the future may bring.

"In Peabody, Mass., a collaboration between the local cable distributor and J. Walter Thompson, the large advertising agency, has produced something called Cableshop. From a 'menu channel,' subscribers select from a number of short subjects of special interest. Almost all of them are supplied or underwritten by companies with related products. For instance, food companies might support recipe shows or Kodak might sponsor a picture- taking clinic.

"The subscriber dials an access number, identifies himself to the Cableshop computer with his individual code, and dials the number of the presentation he wants to see. Then, a message guide channel indicates the time his message is scheduled and the channel on which it can be seen. If a program is already scheduled to do another request, that information is relayed as well.

"According to Peabody lore, a man waiting for his wife to finish dressing for dinner dialed up a Ford Escort film recently and was so impressed that he went out and bought one." ((( I pity this man's wife come the advent of the Home Shopping Channel.)))

"Meanwhile, in the high-income community of Ridgewood, N.J., an interactive test will supply 500 families with free computer keyboards."

((( No further description of this undoubtedly more ambitious service is provided.)))

((( Illustration shows a pre-remote TV displaying a faked text screen.)))

Verbatim:

THE CABLESHOP

TIME 10:15 CALL 532-4372

CODE MESSAGE TIME CH

003 KRAFT MICROCOOKING NOW 44

014 GUIDE TO FORD CARS NOW 46

025 TOOL CABINETS NOW 53

020 COOKING FOR KIDS 10:18 44

006 EASTER RECIPES 10:20 53

018 IRS, IRA AND YOU 10:21 46

Caption: "Guide channel shows a schedule of requested films."

((( Cableshop appears to have been a video-on-demand system, implemented using the existing infrastructure circa 1983. Note that the total number of requests that the system could fulfill would depend on the number of free channels; more than a few dozen simultaneous requests for different films would overload the system. Perhaps the fact that the films appear to be little more than infomercials kept traffic down to a manageable level.

I'd love to hear from anyone who tried this out, or who participated in other local experiments.

Stefan Jones (SeJ@aol.com )