Friday, April 16, 2004

Channels a la Carte: "About 20 years ago, bar owners, hollow-dwellers and early adopters such as Cooper gravitated toward the big satellite dish. Attached to a motor, the antenna scans the satellites in orbit overhead, pulling down their low-wattage, analog transmissions, hence the need for a big dish to catch them.

"Customers pay programming distributors per channel, but in the big dish's early days, many channels were free. The analog satellite signals are called C-band, and big-dish owners, somewhat analogous to the ham-radio underground, call themselves C-banders.

"For Cooper, who also has a shortwave radio in his car, the big dish has been a unique window on the world. A Francophone, he has watched French-language programs from Canada, used the dish to listen to overseas radio and once accessed a special video feed and saw a Chinese rocket crash on takeoff. (He also saw the Challenger space shuttle explode while watching NASA's video feed.)"

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