The Future Chronicles

Page Five


Computerized, data-based like, TV schedule or Program guide for consumers

by H. L. Siddons, Jr.


In 1987 I had a brainstorm of sorts...

After becoming repeatedly frustrated with using both the TV Guide and the local Sunday paper listings, both of which did not show the actual channels I had on my cable system, and neither had a categorized listing, with no way to "search" for my favorite shows or type of shows, I developed a prototype in Clipper (a DOS based DBMS development system) that would store, organize and report a TV schedule system and data. My design included the tables necessary to create a translation system from cable companies to actual local cable channels, reports based upon favorite shows and/or show types...etc. I even came up with how the data could be distributed via floppy...but, alas had no idea how or where to obtain actual data for the system to be viable...

I knew it existed, because there were publications from the monolithic TV GUIDE to local paper and cable guides. Contact with content providers proved fruitless...And I risked giving away my idea by making contact. I did contact one company on American Online (AOL), called

TV Hosts and shared my idea in mid 1994 but they virtually ignored me (actually the didn’t ignore me at all, let’s just say they respond back). I eventually converted the application to Microsoft Access, with the hopes of finding a way to obtain test data and perhaps present a reasonable prototype to the local cable companies...My full time job at a major communications company however, was just that and I was not able to pursue this project with the true commitment I would have given it...I am glad I did not, because in the fall of 1995 after already discovering the somewhat reasonable and impressive but now defunct What’s On TONIGHT! on the World Wide Web, I came across TV Host (ah, remember them??), a perfectly exact representation of my original idea! Of course it is always possible that they came up with the idea on their own, right?

I was concurrently thrilled and upset. Although disappointed that my idea had in fact been cloned and I would most probably not receive any credit where credit was due, I was also relieved of the burden to finish my implementation. I didn’t HAVE to do it. I had told confidants that if I didn’t make this TV Schedule system, someone else certainly would. Well, I was off the hook. AND I was right again...The big difference between my prototype and TV Host’s was that they already had the data, being a publisher of cable guides throughout the US. And, don’t forget this: I contacted them over a year ago explaining my idea...A mistake? Perhaps, but today I have the system I always wanted and so does the rest of the world so I suppose it’s not a total loss...Now if I can just convince them to give me the local weekly data for free...

It should also be noted that today you can also use your TV to see program lineups using special equipment like VideoGuide or if you have DirectTV, their own online guide.


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