The History of Cable TV

By Bryan Blow

Owner of Ajo Satellite Sales and Service

The first local origination done by a cable system was my local origination and it was for a very good cause. In the early 1950s people in Phoenix wanted to make Tempe Normal College into a University. The Arizona Board of Regents, for a very good reason, would not grant permission so the people in Phoenix got it put on the ballot for an election in 1954.

I went to Red and asked him if there was any way we could put a sign on cable to vote NO on Prop 200? He said maybe and set to work using an industrial camera and put it in a long box and then we had to reverse the images so they would come out right side up. I scrawled “Vote NO on Prop 200” and on it went. Newt Trembath, the high school shop teacher was the advocate for ASU in Ajo and the next morning after the ad ran he came to my house at 7:30 am and wanted equal time, I told him, “Sorry Newt, we are all sold our!”.

I was a big proponent of local origination and I had a building built at the base of Camelback Mountain. My engineer and I went to a convention in Boston and we bought an up-to-date camera with a zoom lens and a big tape player and associated equipment and we started local broadcasting. We had the first March of Dimes Telethon and we raised more money in Ajo than had ever been accomplished. We got a letter from the March of Dimes Association thanking us for our effort and said that this was their first time doing it on cable TV.

I had bought a van and we sent it to record the local high school football and basketball games. We put the camera on the roof of the van and got the telephone company to give us a one-way line into our studio and had the game on live over the cable system so the townspeople could listen.

While we were at the convention in Boston, we had bought the first Rotatina Wheel that had a camera in the center and a rotating wheel you could put business cards on and show them while the game was on. This wheel is in the National Museum of Cable History in Denver. We brought the tape of the game back and showed it after they came back to town. This is now on display in the Ajo Museum in Ajo. Those of you who would take time out from zooming to Rocky Point would find it very interesting – Ajo has a lot of history.

This local station also has served in preventing the State of Arizona from putting a sales tax on Cable TV revenues. You know how government is always trying to find something to tax. They seem to never get enough so they had a bill in the Arizona Legislature to put a sales tax on cable TV and it already has passed the Arizona House and was in the Arizona Senate. Well, the Senate member from our district lived in Casa Grande, but he had been elected by the vote in Ajo which always put him over the top in close elections. The same thing for Bud Walker, who was a county supervisor in Pima County and always found himself behind the night of the election in Tucson, but the next morning when the Ajo vote came in he was always elected.

Well, I used to go up on the mountain at night with a six-pack of beer and type on the crawl I used on Channel Six for KAJO, that I no longer could support this senator from Casa Grande who was the leader in the Senate. Everybody in Ajo used to watch this channel since we do not have a radio station, so I put town events, told jokes and everything. Well, in the bar next to the downtown restaurant, they had a large screen TV and this Arizona senator was in the restaurant when I came in and I invited him into the bar for a drink and when we went in, and they happened to be playing my channel, and he saw what was on the crawl he was aghast and he went back to Phoenix and pulled that Bill right out of the Senate and killed it. Like small time groceries, local businesses are so important to small towns and I was performing a needed service in our community.

I only had one year of typing and when I was up on the mountain typing I would make errors and I would back space and correct them. One time my engineer came to me and said he could fix it so my errors would not show. We had to stop because it seemed that the people liked to see me type, back up, correct and so on. I had so many people tell me that they turned to my station before they turned on anything else first thing when they got up the morning.