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
Hosts and shared my idea in mid 1994 but they virtually ignored me (actually the
didnt ignore me at all, lets 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 Whats 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 didnt HAVE to do it. I had told confidants that if I
didnt 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
Hosts was that they already had the data, being a publisher of cable guides
throughout the US. And, dont 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 its 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.