Early to mid 80’s Cable boxes

Submitted by StoryTroy November 30th, 2010
Certifikitsch Winner

Up until now, all I’ve really submitted here in the way of vintage tv electronics is remotes. But these beauties deserve to be recognized because of their failure to submit to wireless control thirty years after the technology was already old hat.

First up, the Taiwanese-made but starkly Soviet-looking black no-name 35-channel box I remember from my childhood (pictured rear). No remote control for this one… you’ve got to walk to the set and flip the dial. Less scrupulous subscribers bent a piece of cardboard, inserted it into the gap between the faceplate and case just above the dial and jimmied it around until they could somehow override the scrambled HBO signal. I know, because even as a young goody two shoes I was horrified by the idea of stealing content.

The one in front is an early Jerrold remote-control number… sort of. This box is connected by a long brown cord to the actual descrambling unit, and was meant to be dragged from the set to the coffee table while in use, then returned to the top of the set, leaving the possibility of tripping your elderly Uncle Daniel in the name of laziness up to you.

On the Jerrold unit, the switch at left selects channels from top, middle, and lower rows depending on which of the three positions you set in in. The small dial to the right fine-tuned the image.

In case you’re wondering what you could be watching with the Jerrold unit, here’s the channel lineup from Tulsa. If my research is correct (based on channels that have since folded or changed names/ownership), I think this guide sticker on the bottom of the unit places it circa 1984-5.

Please note the fledgling shared channels, which alternated broadcasting during the day and evening. Eventually BET, VH1, Bravo and Finanacial News Network were able to metaphorically move to their own places and decorate them however thay wanted.

2 Responses to “Early to mid 80’s Cable boxes”

  1. Allee Willis

    I love that your television collection extends to cable boxes!

    These are the kind of things that usually line thrift shop shelves, never to be rescued by anyone adventurous enough to spend the bulk of their next foreseeable future trying to figure out how to get them to work. I love that you work in TV and that you collect all these things that enable TV.

    For the whole kit ‘n kaboodle Troy TV go here: https://www.alleewillis.com/awmok/kitschenette/author/storytroy/

  2. Nessa

    Oh wow, neat! I think my dad probably has a few old cable boxes laying around, if I ever see them I’ll photo them too… I’ve never heard of anyone collecting cable boxes, that’s great!