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Click on the speaker icon to hear this melody
The shows you watch on PrimeStar and DirecTV as well
May seem to fall from heaven, but they rose up out of hell.
The tale of how they got here is a story worth the telling,
As long as you don't take off points for scansion, rhyme or spelling.
Who was it who developed home satellite TV?
Libertarians and hackers thinking programs should be free.
"If photons from your satellite are falling on my head,
You can't stop me from intercepting them," is what they said.
And it's point your dish up to the Clarke Belt and see
How a crew of crypto pirates brought you satellite TV.
The early program vendors, HBO and MTV,
Sold signals at a flat rate to the cable industry.
The cable downlink stations cost a hundred thousand bucks,
But hams could do it cheaper with some cunning and some luck.
Though amateurs, these microwavers, military-bred,
Had come to see that off-the-air and cable were both dead.
If networks could use satellites to beam their shows around,
Then why not intercept the parts that chance to run aground?
A ham named Robert Cooper is who gathered us together.
Before he skipped the country seeking tax breaks and warm weather,
He ran a cable TV rag in Oklahoma city.
Then Coop discovered satellites, and now he's sitting pretty.
We met in Oklahoma, vendors, hackers, and the suits,
Attempting to legitimize our technical pursuits.
We formed a trade association, acronym of SPACE, *
And even hired a lawyer in attempting to save face.
The first to pull in video and synch it on the screen
Was a double-E from Stanford. We were envious and green.
Though others were attempting it, Tay Howard won the race,
And that's how Tay became elected President of SPACE.
Three times a year at seminars he called SPTS,
Coop brought together those who wanted video for less.
Our trade association was a small, cohesive group,
With Coop our inspiration - and then he flew flew the coop.
Soon ten and twelve foot dishes came to dot the countryside.
When they saw their profits tumble, the cable vendors cried.
Their only recourse seemed to be a brave and costly gamble:
To save themselves from piracy, they had to learn to scramble.
Our best response was standard military ECM.
If they scramble to defeat us, we can just unscramble them.
So what if it's illegal? You think we give a damn?
It's much easier and safer than the shit we pulled in 'Nam.
Just open up the classifieds. A hundred ads you'll see,
All selling tricks to help you pull in programming for free.
The backyard dish phenomenon had spread across the land,
A challenge just as blatant as a line drawn in the sand.
The amateurs and hackers appeared to win the day,
Until the final battle, won by Hughes and RCA.
Our analog decryption skills were better from the start,
So DSS went digital, and shot us through the heart.
* Society of Private And Commercial Earthstations
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Copyright © H. Paul Shuch, Ph.D.; Maintained by Microcomm
this page last updated 14 June 2007