Pioneer looks back and ahead to cable future

Pioneer Electronics, a cable set-top box company, celebrated its historic past and previewed its future last week at the Western Show in Anaheim, Calif.

For the future, the company introduced its new Voyager 3510HD high- definition set-top box that enables cable subscribers to decode a variety of the HDTV formats. Working with analog, digital, and HDTV broadcasts. the Voyager 3510HD offers aspect ratio control, graphics over HD video, DVI (HDCP) and a host of other connections, flexible memory configurations up to 32 MB of SDRAM memory and a built-in ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) digital decoder.

The unit has video outputs that can pass native 1080i signals (1,080 lines of resolution) to a video display, or down-convert those signals based on display limitations.

Pioneer also used the cable show to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Qube, the cable industry's first deployed interactive set-top box.

More than a quarter century ago, Warner Communications commissioned Pioneer to design and build the world's first commercial interactive TV service, which opened for business on December 1, 1977 in Columbus, Ohio.

Initially operated out of a remodeled appliance store, Qube offered a then unprecedented 30 channels of television divided equally between 10 broadcast TV channels, 10 premium and pay-per-view channels and 10 channels with original interactive programming.

The idea for Qube came from Steve Ross, president of Warner Communications, who was staying at the Otani Hotel in Tokyo in 1975. He'd been impressed by the hotel's closed circuit interactive TV system, which had been built by Pioneer Electronics in Japan, so he asked Pioneer to develop a similar system for cable in the United States.

Pioneer was responsible for turning Ross' vision of interactive television into a technical reality. It became the company's entry into the cable TV business.

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