There is plenty here to keep cable executives busy this
week, but it's worth your while to carve out some time to visit The Cable
Located adjacent to the University
of Denver, The Cable Center is not
only a repository of the past, it is also part of the cutting edge of what the
industry is today and what it can be in the future.
Although The Cable Center dropped the word "museum" from its
name several years ago, the facility does boast an extensive collection of
historic memorabilia about the industry and its development over the past 60
years. At the same time, the center and its myriad programs use and promote
state-of-the-art technology to advance its mission and tell cable's story.
The Cable Center
is offering tours twice daily this week. Executives are urging people to call
and sign up for a tour, but walk-ins are welcome as well.
The tour is split between information about the center and
the history of the cable television industry.
Just about every room and exhibit has a name attached to it:
Daniels Great Hall (for Bill Daniels); George J. Barco and Yolanda G. Barco
Library; Rogers Amphitheater (Ted Rogers); Hauser Oral and Video History
Collection (Gustave Hauser), among many others. The extensive offerings owe
their existence to the institution's ongoing fund-raising efforts. The Cable
Center's various endowments totaled
$26,730,046 at the end of 2008.
Upon entering the main lobby, known as the Daniels Great
Hall, visitors are greeted by a 24-by-15-foot wall of 44 TV monitors showcasing
various programs offered today.
The Barco Library contains a number of special collections.
The center is digitizing its extensive photo library and is preparing to put
many of those photos on its Web site, CEO Larry Satkowiak said. Online visitors
will soon be able to view low-resolution photos and buy high-res photos for
One of the most asked-about objects in the library is a
bronze sculpture of a man reading a book, relaxed, with one foot propped up on
a table. The statue, called Life Through a Window, was donated by Bev Harms of
Communications Equity Associates and is dedicated to people in the cable
industry who have passed away before their prime; it was created in memory of
her son, Mike, who was killed in a car accident.
Mike sold cable subscriptions door-to-door when he was in
high school, and in college he had an internship with HBO.
The light above the statue is on at night, allowing students
to see the subject "studying" as they pass by the back of the building. It gets
a lot of second looks, Satkowiak said.
The Hendricks Cable Telecommunications Heritage History
exhibit (John Hendricks), also located in the Barco Library, provides visitors
with an interactive digital experience featuring highlights from cable's
storied past. The exhibit includes video vignettes on a broad range of topics,
including cable's history, industry icons, programming and regulation.
The Media Center,
located off the main hall, features three stations showcasing aspects of the
industry's program offerings: news and technology, commerce, and entertainment.
Some 40 TV monitors play two- to three-minute information reels on each topic.
When the Media Center
was created eight years ago, the DVD players
for each TV monitor cost $600 and frequently broke down, Satkowiak said. But
technological advancements have allowed the Cable
Center to replace these units for
about $40 apiece, reviving the Media Center's
Although the Media
Center is in a transitional phase,
it will be open during Cable Connections week. Satkowiak declined to spill the
beans on the ongoing plans to rejuvenate the Media
The second floor of the Center features several displays,
including an exhibit showcasing Cable Pioneers, The Loyal Order of the 704
Technology Exhibit and the Cable Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame exhibit was
unveiled in 2008 and includes photos and synopses of past winners'
contributions to the cable industry.
The Loyal Order of the 704 is a group of cable engineers who
meet regularly to mingle and discuss cable issues. The group, which has donated
generously to the Cable Center
in the past, is named after the Jerrold 704 Field System Monitor, a bulky piece
of equipment that operators had to lug up a telephone pole to monitor signal
strength in the early days of the business. One of the original models is
prominently displayed within the exhibit.
Last year, the Center also built the Hub Lounge, a place
where visitors can unwind, watch TV or surf the Web. The atmosphere is hip but
relaxing. It is sponsored by the myriad state cable associations around the
The second floor is also home to the Distance Learning
studio and headend. The studio is used by University
of Denver students participating in
the Distant Learning program sponsored by C-SPAN
and cable legend Amos Hostetter.
The lower level highlights the technological evolution of
the industry. Amplifiers, converters, cameras and all other sorts of equipment
are cataloged in the large room.
Satkowiak's favorite piece of equipment is a wall of weather
dials, an old weather vane and a camera that operators used to create a
"weather channel" before The Weather Channel was even a glimmer in the eyes of
John Coleman and Frank Batten.
"Operators would take this panel of dials, weather vane and
camera and put it on top of their building. The dials would indicate weather
patterns determined by the weather vane, and the camera would pan from one dial
to the other," Satkowiak explained.
Other technological marvels include the coffee-can
amplifier. In the early days of the industry, operators often found it was
easier or necessary to build their own equipment to deliver signals to
consumers. The coffee-can amplifier was one such device. Operators would slice
open a coffee can, insert the electronics inside, close it back up and put it
on the pole.
The coffee-can amp at The Cable Center was finally
retired in the early 1990s, Satkowiak said.