Telefirst? More Like Teleworst


This is an interesting enough video if you’re wanting to learn a little about the over the air pay TV services that existed in the days before everybody had cable or a dish, but the best part for me is the last few minutes where they start talking about Telefirst.

Telefirst operated in Chicago for around five months in 1984. It likely would have lasted at least a little bit longer had it not been one hell of a terribly executed idea even by 1980s technological standards.

Let’s see. I can either drive to the store and rent a video because that’s a somewhat affordable thing to do now, or I can drop a few hundred bucks on a VCR and then pay this company $25 a month for a service so impossibly inconvenient that I have to stay up until the wee hours of the morning six days a week to make sure all of the shows record properly. But even though I’m already up anyway, I can’t just watch the shows live on television because the decoding process is fully reliant on the VCR. Oh, and the tapes stop working whenever the descrambler codes change, which happens seemingly at random. And you can’t rewind or skip anything efficiently because the descrambler isn’t fast enough to keep up with those functions on the VCR. Hmmmm…what ever shall I do?

It’s pretty obvious what they were trying to achieve here (simultaneous consumer convenience and movie studio comfort), but yeesh, what a way to get there. But you never know if you never try, I suppose.

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