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The BSB Squarial

Posted by Big Boo on January 23rd, 2009

Anybody who is old enough to remember the beginning of the 1980’s will know that in the UK we were stuck with just three television channels.  In 1982 Countdown was the first thing to air on Channel 4, giving us an amazing total of four channels, assuming of course you were lucky enough to live in an area where the signal for Channel 4 was strong enough and your TV aerial was up to the job.

By the mid 1980’s experiments into cable and satellite television broadcasting began, increasing the channel count dramatically, although obviously not to the extent that we’re bombarded with today.  Only trouble was that cable television was only available in certain small areas of the country, and satellite TV had yet to get fully off the ground (sorry, terrible joke there).

The biggest problem many people had with satellite TV though was the fact that they had to have a thumping great dish screwed to their wall or roof or installed in the back garden.  Many people disliked this idea, and I believe you even had to get planning permission at one stage (although that may have been if you wanted to put up more than one dish).

The answer to our prayers was supposed to be the British Satellite Broadcasting (or BSB) square satellite dish, which soon got dubbed the Squarial.  This was a flat square shaped antenna that was much smaller in size than most of the satellite dishes available.  Once installed on your wall you could pick up a further five channels that were also broadcast in a much higher quality image format than standard terrestrial television was.

Unfortunately though the Squarial never got a real chance to prove itself.  BSB had overspent on the technology and programming and soon ran into money problems, prompting them to merge with their rivals Sky.  For a time the merged company was known as British Sky Broadcasting, but eventually this was shortened back to just Sky as it still is today.

If you keep your eyes peeled whilst travelling around the UK you might still spot the odd Squarial still hanging from the wall of a house, although it is probably now also accompanied by a Sky digital minidish!  Amazingly enough though, it’s possible that some of these Squarials may actually still be in use.  Whilst broadcasting of Sky programmes ceased at the end of 1992, it turns out that the Squarial can still be used to pick up channels broadcast from a variety of other satellites, if you know a little bit about electronics and want to illegally descramble the broadcasts that is.  I think I’ll stick with Sky…