At 04:25 PM 7/29/98 -0700, Uncle Roger wrote:
Most interesting was a Cable Demodulator. Yep, not a MOdulator/DEModulator
(MODEM), but just a Demodulator. Apparently, TCI at one time sent out a
free signal on the cable that could be read by anyone with a PC and one of
these boxes. So, anyone know if they still do that, and what software one
One of my favorite "before its time" technologies. I think I bought
mine for about $120 in the late 80s, a version that worked on the
Amiga as well as the PC, and I think they had an Apple II version, too.
I'd bet a doughnut it qualifies for the ten-year-rule. I had TCI
once, and now Marcus, and the signal was present on both. I think
it was present on Rogers in Canada, too.
The company name slips my mind, and I'd have to hunt in the basement
to find the details - maybe General Datacom. They offered a $20/month
service to get 15-minute-delayed stock quotes, which required regular
reactivation pinging of a cartridge that plugged in the back.
Other than that, it was remarkable for its time! 9600 baud continuous,
uncompressed, quite delightful in the days of 2400 baud modems.
They had a packeted proprietary protocol. In the stream, you'd
get various second-rate wire service news stories and syndicated
columns. They could also send files - you'd see a menu of files
that were going to be sent over the next 24 hours, and select
which you wanted, and it would grab them and store to your hard disk.
There were message boards, but the uplink was done by long-distance
call to an incredibly lame BBS system running on some kind of
mainframe. I think they were aiming it at the educational market
as well as stock market players. Come to think of it, I remember
late-night TV commercials for it - maybe it was called Express PC?
I think they missed the boat. I think with better software, they
could've made lots of money selling these boxes to all the people
who were using BBSes at the time. Instead of a sole national
head-end, city or regional co-adminstration would've made it more
It was "push" technology ahead of its time. To me, the big selling
point today would be the high-speed potential of cable, combining with
advertiser-supported content and a web-based back-link. (I know
what DirecPC is, BTW.)
Wouldn't a $100 gizmo that connects your PC to cable, and that
could refill a couple hundred spare megs every day with
interesting content (movies, cached news web sites, top-100
shareware, demos, etc.) seem like a great deal? But no,
the big cable companies would rather charge $20 a month
for that, and require a set-top box that wasted its energies
(and parts cost) trying to be a standalone device.
I seem to remember that it was only in the last two-three years
that the "carrier" light stopped working on mine. I left
it connected to the cable for the longest time. I called
the company and they said they were discontinuing the device
with no upgrade offer for me.