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  #1  
Old 24 May 2010, 06:12 PM
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WildaBeast WildaBeast is online now
 
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TV Satellite dish pointing due south = watching Playboy Channel

This is a legend I heard back when I was was in high school or maybe middle school, in the mid to early 1990s. This was before the digital satellite services started to pop up, and and a satellite dish was a giant thing in someone's back yard. The legend was that if you saw a satellite dish that was pointing due south that meant the owner of the dish was watching the Playboy Channel. According to this legend, that's where the "Playboy Channel satellite" was.

Is there anything about this myth that's even remotely plausable? My understanding is that with the newer dishes there's just one satellite that all the channels come from. Was it that way with the big old dishes, or were there multiple satellites you could point the dish at to get different channels? Even if that were the case I doubt there would be one satellite per channel.

The other thing I see wrong with this is that a satellite in a geostationary orbit is only going to be due south from someone who happens to be exactly due north of the satellite. In other words the orientation of the dish would be slightly different depending on where you are. Not to mention that any geostationary satellite is going to be generally south of someone in the northern hemisphere, so most dishes would be pointing somewhere that would look pretty close to due south to the casual observer.

One last general question about the old satellite dishes. It's not really related to the myth and probably more appropriate to the stupid questions thread, but since I'm already talking about satellite dishes... with the big old dishes, was there any service that you had to subscribe to, or did you just buy the dish, point it at some generic communications satellite, and get TV signals for free (sort of like getting over the air TV with an antenna, except the signals are coming from space)?
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Old 24 May 2010, 06:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WildaBeast View Post
Is there anything about this myth that's even remotely plausible? My understanding is that with the newer dishes there's just one satellite that all the channels come from. Was it that way with the big old dishes, or were there multiple satellites you could point the dish at to get different channels? Even if that were the case I doubt there would be one satellite per channel.
AFAIK, satellite companies employ lots of satellites, not just one - always have
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The other thing I see wrong with this is that a satellite in a geostationary orbit is only going to be due south from someone who happens to be exactly due north of the satellite. In other words the orientation of the dish would be slightly different depending on where you are. Not to mention that any geostationary satellite is going to be generally south of someone in the northern hemisphere, so most dishes would be pointing somewhere that would look pretty close to due south to the casual observer.
That's how I see it as well.

Quote:
One last general question about the old satellite dishes. It's not really related to the myth and probably more appropriate to the stupid questions thread, but since I'm already talking about satellite dishes... with the big old dishes, was there any service that you had to subscribe to, or did you just buy the dish, point it at some generic communications satellite, and get TV signals for free (sort of like getting over the air TV with an antenna, except the signals are coming from space)?
AFAIK, it always required a service of some kind since the guy footing the bill to get the satellite into space probably didn't want just anybody to be able to link up accidentally.
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Old 24 May 2010, 06:30 PM
FullMetal FullMetal is offline
 
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i'm not sure about the due south with regards to playboy, but the oldd satellite dishes had to seek between the different satellite dishes. My uncle (and a few friends had them as well) had a farm with an old satellite dish, and I remember you'd get 2-3 channels on one dish, some on another, and even more on yet another. now, from what I remember, the naughty channels shared the satellite with other channels as well.

also from what I remember, the satellite signals were initially free, at least until they started scrambling the signals, and even then there were still many channels unscrambled. There's still some un-scrambled channels being broadcast through the digital satellites, and you can still get what's called "free-to-air" satellite, and you can change satellites with them.
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Old 24 May 2010, 06:31 PM
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We never had a giant satellite, but friends did. As I recall, there were some basic positions the dish could be in, and it could receive a range of channels while in that position. What Playboy's position was then, I have no idea.
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Old 24 May 2010, 06:31 PM
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You were supposed to purchase a service. There were chips one could buy which would essentially make it possible to get the signal for free.
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  #6  
Old 24 May 2010, 06:39 PM
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Originally Posted by diddy View Post
AFAIK, it always required a service of some kind since the guy footing the bill to get the satellite into space probably didn't want just anybody to be able to link up accidentally.
I thought I remembered that for a little while, signals were unscrambled, and you could pick up whatever was being broadcast - the catch being that the cost of first generation satallite dishes meant that cable was still cheaper.

Once the price of dishes started to come down a bit, they began scrambling the signals.

Or so I remember from my 1970's - early 80's childhood.
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  #7  
Old 24 May 2010, 06:48 PM
Alchemy Alchemy is offline
 
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http://www.thehistoryof.net/history-...ellite-tv.html

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Originally Posted by WildaBeast View Post
My understanding is that with the newer dishes there's just one satellite that all the channels come from. Was it that way with the big old dishes, or were there multiple satellites you could point the dish at to get different channels?
Back in the 1980s and early 90s there were no home satellite services, but with the right equipment you could capture the satellite feeds broadcast to cable stations throughout the world, initially all in the clear. You were *supposed* to pay for this but there was no mechanism to ensure compliance. Different satellites carried different programming and you'd need to move the dish to receive from different satellites.

Most satellites covering only the continental USA are going to be in geostationary (equatorial) orbit. The dish will have an azimuth and elevation corresponding to the satellite it's focused on. Otherwise it will be focused on a high elliptical, which again, is going to correspond to a particular satellite or a small number of them.

Quote:
One last general question about the old satellite dishes. It's not really related to the myth and probably more appropriate to the stupid questions thread, but since I'm already talking about satellite dishes... with the big old dishes, was there any service that you had to subscribe to, or did you just buy the dish, point it at some generic communications satellite, and get TV signals for free (sort of like getting over the air TV with an antenna, except the signals are coming from space)?
At first, you just buy the dish. A law in 1984 required people to actually pay a licensing fee to receive channels, and allowed encryption to help force compliance. But the signal encryption was easy to break, and most people just bought an illegal descrambler rather than pay subscription fees.*

One of DirecTV's major successes was really appreciating the need for good signal encryption to save the business model, and using good engineering to make illegal descrambling more costly than just paying for the service.

*Pre-digital signal obfuscation is really "scrambling" rather than "encrypting" which is part of what makes it extremely difficult to securely conceal - the data is not discrete, so you can't run it through the mathematical algorithms necessary to encode it. Analog cable scrambling is fairly trivial signal manipulation.
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Old 24 May 2010, 08:32 PM
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We had one of those big satellites when I was a kid (late 80s and early 90s). There were multiple satellites, each had up to 24 channels, though not all channels on a particular satellite would necessarily be in use.

I don't recall the location of PlayBoy, but there were most likely other channels on the same satellite.

What I hated about the satellite was that if the show you wanted to watch next was on another satellite, you had to wait for the satellite to move. If the satellites happened to be far apart, sometimes you would miss the very beginning of a show. What I liked was that we could pick up both East Coast and West Coast network feeds. Also, I liked all the random feeds, like feeds used to deliver syndicated shows and live news uplinks, etc. If there was nothing on, you could just go hunting for something interesting.
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Old 24 May 2010, 08:46 PM
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Originally Posted by crescent View Post
I thought I remembered that for a little while, signals were unscrambled, and you could pick up whatever was being broadcast - the catch being that the cost of first generation satallite dishes meant that cable was still cheaper.

Once the price of dishes started to come down a bit, they began scrambling the signals.

Or so I remember from my 1970's - early 80's childhood.
In my defense, my memories might be flawed since I was born in 1980 and not generally very remembering of how things were back then in the early days.
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Old 24 May 2010, 09:41 PM
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In my defense, my memories might be flawed since I was born in 1980 and not generally very remembering of how things were back then in the early days.
Hey, at least you have a defense. I just have a subjective memory.

Some dishes did not find the satallites automatically - my friend's grandfather would sit on his couch with a controller and and a little card with the direction of the different satallites. It was a slow process to switch.

Some of the feeds did not match what was broadcast, especially with live broadcasts For instance, the satallite might show a news anchor sitting and waiting for the show to start for a minute or two. It felt like voyourism, but boring.
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Old 24 May 2010, 10:14 PM
Singing in the Drizzle Singing in the Drizzle is offline
 
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Originally Posted by Alchemy View Post
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Most satellites covering only the continental USA are going to be in geostationary (equatorial) orbit. The dish will have an azimuth and elevation corresponding to the satellite it's focused on. Otherwise it will be focused on a high elliptical, which again, is going to correspond to a particular satellite or a small number of them.
This would mean that most if not all satellite dishes will point somewhat southward if one live in the continental US and Alaska. The farther north you go the more southern facing they will be.
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Old 24 May 2010, 10:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Singing in the Drizzle View Post
This would mean that most if not all satellite dishes will point somewhat southward if one live in the continental US and Alaska. The farther north you go the more southern facing they will be.
A house on my street has a dish pointing due east, almost level to the horizon, or even aiming a bit low (the horizon is high, due to a big black bluff). I've been wondering about that one....
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Old 25 May 2010, 12:50 AM
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Let me see if I can remember this.

In the halcyon days of BUDs (Big Ugly Dishes), most programming was on two satellites - Satcom F3R and Galaxy G1. The Playboy Channel, however, (along with a few other channels, one being WPIX out of New York) was on a different satellite, at the other end of the horizon. I can't remember which satellite it was, off the top of my head; it might've been Satcom F4.

So, yeah, if the dish was pointed far away from F3R and G1, it's entirely possible that they were watching Playboy, as there wasn't all that much programming at that end of the line of satellites.
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Old 25 May 2010, 04:02 AM
Alchemy Alchemy is offline
 
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Originally Posted by Singing in the Drizzle View Post
This would mean that most if not all satellite dishes will point somewhat southward if one live in the continental US and Alaska. The farther north you go the more southern facing they will be.
Generally. Highly elliptical orbit satellite constellations - which can ensure a broadcasting satellite that is constantly at a high-latitude position - aren't as common for the continental USA. I don't know of any US television broadcast satellite that isn't/wasn't in geosynchronous orbit. The only major media provider using HEO I can think of is Sirius radio - three satellites arranged so that one is constantly at a region about 45,000 km above Nunavut, Canada. And that's all MF/HF radio (2-4 MHz) so there's no point using parabolic reflectors as you'd use for satellite TV (K-band/microwave) frequencies.

"More southern facing" is better described as "lower elevation" or "closer to the horizon."

Once you're above a certain latitude (north or south) it's less practical to cover with a geostationary orbit and more practical to use a HEO constellation.
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Old 25 May 2010, 08:05 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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Originally Posted by Alchemy View Post
Most satellites covering only the continental USA are going to be in geostationary (equatorial) orbit. The dish will have an azimuth and elevation corresponding to the satellite it's focused on. Otherwise it will be focused on a high elliptical, which again, is going to correspond to a particular satellite or a small number of them.
Correct. You want the satellites to be in a geostationary orbit, so that the dish will not have to track a moving target. This is only possible in a narrow band over the equator (actually, true geostationary is only possible directly over the equator, but a slight wobble is OK for these purposes). The satellites are usually "parked" as close as possible to their target areas, which means that the dishes will usually point roughly south (or, in the southern hemisphere, north).

Quite useful if you are lost and needs to find your bearings, assuming you at least know which hemisphere you are on.
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Old 25 May 2010, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by crescent View Post
A house on my street has a dish pointing due east, almost level to the horizon, or even aiming a bit low (the horizon is high, due to a big black bluff). I've been wondering about that one....
Could that be attempting to pick up a satellite that's designed to be picked up by East Europe or the Middle East? One that's in a position so it's easy to get from that area would be very close to the horizon from Utah, if my WAG orbital calculations are correct. People who know more about this will correct me, I'm sure.
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  #17  
Old 25 May 2010, 05:11 PM
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WildaBeast WildaBeast is online now
 
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Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
The satellites are usually "parked" as close as possible to their target areas, which means that the dishes will usually point roughly south (or, in the southern hemisphere, north).
So would a satellite dish in say, Equador, point more or less straight up?
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  #18  
Old 25 May 2010, 05:34 PM
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Originally Posted by WildaBeast View Post
So would a satellite dish in say, Equador, point more or less straight up?
Only if the satellite was directly overhead. Otherwise, it would point due east or west.
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  #19  
Old 25 May 2010, 07:35 PM
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When I was a kid we did have one. I do recall where it was.

G5

Channel One: The Disney Channel
Channel Two: Playboy
Channel Three: a Christian network of some type.
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Old 25 May 2010, 07:42 PM
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What a interesting place to have the Playboy channel.
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