This update marks the start of the unification of the Langley and Bromley platforms, as the colour scheme as been changed to match the one used by Bromley CR3. Internally many amendments were made in how the DVB-SI was handled in order for it to behave like the Bromely imersion.vplentation
The channels banner keeps its layout but adopts the new color scheme
Information banner that displays details on the program being broadcast
Setting a reminder for a future event, auto tune can be enabled for when you are settings a recording for a VCR, the box will then automatically change over to the channel
Main guide screen, different genres can be accessed here
This guide still has the classic layout, whilst the Bromley guide uses the grid like layout that is well known today
Pressing text on a channel that does not have an interactive link
Using the subject search feature to find a program
The settings area, which remained unchanged since the previous version
The channel banner that shows now and next information. Also supports transparency, a feature of the C-Cube GPU that was in the early Pace boxes
Future events can be found by navigating through the banner
Reminds can be set for future events, this predates the Sky personal planner which wouldn’t debut until 200. Don’t know why the symbol is upside down?
Viewing information about the show itself
The main home screen that appears when you press TV Guide, looks very similar to the Telewest version
The early EPG that was used on these cable guides was known as at-a-glance, and used a grid style layout to show channel listings
Sorting channels by genre
Pressing the i button gives detailed information about the upcoming show
Reminder notification, not sure if the STB will switch over automatically to the show being broadcast
TV on Demand
This is basically a near VOD service similar to Sky Box Office of the time, as true VOD would not launch until the ntl era, 2005
Main on demand screen with a list off currently showing events
Sample error/information box, on this one a warning is shown when the user is watching a copy protected movie
If the event is already showing a warning messages informing you will appear
Selecting the preferred start time
Updating VOD listings
Settings area where favorite channels and preferences can be amended
Display aspect ratio can be changed, along with the scart output (Composite and RGB Scart)
Pin control to restrict TV events and channels
A few captures of interactive sites that were available at the time, interactive launched in mid 2000 and was built on the Liberate navigator platform. Initial reception to the service was problematic, with issues bring the service being slow to load and some pages refusing to load likely due to the demands being placed on the server and lack of capacity. Supposedly this was due to the DOCSIS upstream being used to upload data as it was meant to, but the downstream being sent over the broadcast/DVB-C as opposed to DOCSIS, likely a carousel based system like Sky and ONdigital did.
Cable & Wireless planned to have up to 100 websites, with a lot being based on a cut down version to be displayed on a standard definition TV. Many sites can be loaded and accessed using a special URL which loads the homepage that the cable services uses.
Enhanced interactive services were due to be made avaliable later, these used technology developed by TwoWayTV and would have used the full capabilities of the digital services to deliver interactive games and multimedia.
The first generation software was designed and built by Pace, with the operator customizing the end interface of the guide. All follow a very similar design language, which would be replaced by a Liberate HTML based EPG in later revisions for both ntl and Telewest
Cable&Wireless home division was acquired by ntl who started merging the network operations with their own digital service. Cable&Wireless customers saw their EPG being rebranded using the ntl design scheme, and would be replaced entirely with ntl CR2. Initially both platforms were ran separately as they differed in return path and SI technology, which made integration difficult. After some time the two platforms would be unified with the Langley CR3 software. After ntl and Telewest merged, the Virgin media guide would be pushed to customers in 2007
Telewest redesigned their digital TV service in 2002, which saw the TV Guide software undergo a complete rewrite and redesign of the user interface, similar to what ntl undertook with their Bromley TV service.
Like ntl the TV guide was written entirely in Liberate TV middleware, and the entire interface is rendered using the Liberate browser. In contrast, the previous Telewest software used an EPG system developed by Pace, with the Liberate browser being added as a separate component what had to be loaded.
This meant the customer had to wait for the Liberate browser to load before they could access the interactive service, and on screen interactive prompt were not possible since the interactive stack was not running whilst the customer was watching TV.
Viewing TV on Demand listings
The Liberate middleware was upgraded to 1.2, which featured several programme and feature upgrades to the HTML browser used, one of which was the ability to use a mosaic style screen with different video feeds .As mentioned earlier, the Liberate intake now runs constantly, allowing for ‘press Red’ functionality to be used on TV channels, this was essential since Sky and ITVDigital had implemented similar interactive prompt features. These would also be instrumental for the upcoming Big Brother and Wimbledon 2002 interactive services, where customers could choose from different angles and feeds through the use of interactive, of which was not possible with Liberate 1.1 (The mosaic feature mentioned earlier)
A reminder alert for an upcoming program
Also new addition was the mini TV guide feature, where a small screen of the channel the customer was currently watching is displayed whilst the customer browses the TV guide or interactive. The exception to this is when they are browsing the On demand TV section, where the box changed to a Front Row preview channel, the reason being this was to allow the box to get up to date PPV listings rather than rely on cached data, and to do so it was necessary for the box to tune into a specific frequency that carried this data, preventing the use of mini TV.
A weird design decision since Telewest already had a functioning return path due to the internal DOCSIS modem inside the Pace box, why not use that to retrieve the PPV listings?
Adding Favourite channels
Viewing Favourite channels
Pressing reveals information on the selected program, and any program broadcast within the next 24 hours
View of the search and scan banner, known here as the Mini Guide like Sky you can view what’s on other channels
In 2003, a slight update was made to the interface layout, the Telewest Broadband branding is now in effect, and the layout is more square compared to the previous design.
ntl launched it’s digital TV service in 2000, shortly before acquiring the Cable & Wireless consumer division. Since the two networks had select differences between the implementation, it took some time before the networks were fully merged. The original network is referred to as ‘Langely’ as that was the location of the main headend and playout centre.
Now & Next
Now and next banner that appear when you change channels
You can bring up the information banner, which shows what’s on now and next, and allows you to browse through the channels on ntl digital
TV Guide Listings
Pressing Guide bring up this menu, this gives two options. The regular channel guide and the On Demand (NVOD) guide
The guide layout is quite different here compared to the grid view that other systems like Sky Digital use. Here you select a channel from a list which will then show a page full of listings.
Pressing info brings up a description of the program or episode
TV On Demand
Front row was the services used to provide PPV events for cable customers, similar to Sky Box Office
A list of movies and events to order
Purchasing a movie,
Appears when the set top box is in the process of starting up
A revised update now adds a reminder diary feature, that allows reminders to be set for future program’s – similar to the Sky personal planner
Telewest launched it’s Active Digital TV service in 1999 and was built on the same foundation that Cable & Wireless used for their digital TV service.
These screenshots were originally hosted on Digitalspy and were captured by a forum member, but the links to them were broken in an update, and were no longer directly accessible. From the looks of it they were captured using the RF output, so they are not indicative of the quality available at the time.
Now & Next bar, very similar in practice to Sky Digital
The main home screen
The main TV Guide, called ‘At-A-Glance’, this shows TV listings for the next three days
Pressing i calls up a description of the program
This isn’t true video on demand, at this point only NVOD was supported. the customer selects a convenient time slot showing to view the movie or event
This I imagine is similar to the A-Z listings on Sky, where you can view programmes by their genre. Useful for discovering new or similar programs.
Main settings area
You can set the reminder notification warning before the program starts. Its worth noting that cable had implemented this before Sky Digital,
Here you can change from RGB to Composite, and set the box to output widescreen or standard. Letterbox options are also available.
The early implementation of interactive was done in a separate Liberate browser, that had to be loaded separately. this meant that red button functionality was not yet possible in this build, since the Liberate environment was not yet running full time.
The main interactive menu, very similar to the ntl interactive portal
List of all entertainment interactive services, which are customised websites that are designed for use on an embedded set-top-box.
Interactive is delivered using the internal broadband cable modem built into the set top box, a phoneline is not required and the service is always on
Nearly all of the content and service are built using HTML3, which makes it easy to develop and host service, although there are some differences and restrictions comparted to a desktop class website.
A navigation bar can be used to browse around the service, and to exit back to the tv channel you were watching
An email service was built into the service, and was tied into the blueyonder email service.
The DiTV 1000 was one of the first digital cable boxes released in the UK, and one of the first DVB-C box’s with a built in DOCSIS cable modem.
The DITV1000 was also used by Telewest, where it was branded as the Di1000T, however the internals should be the same, although there may be differences in the memory configuration
Two card slots are present, with the smartcard slot visible behind the front cover flap. Front panel buttons can be used to change channel, move and navigate the on screen cursor and access various different menus.
Power – Mains input
RF Output: Outputs a modulated RF signal to a TV
RF Input: In from antenna
Audio Output: Outputs audio to a HiFi system, useful for radio
Scart Ports: Supports compostie and RGB, and VCR passthrough
IR Remote In/Out: To connect external IR blaster devices, Not officially used but is power enabled
Ethernet Port: Originally used to provide broadband services to a computer using the internal DOCSIS modem, redundant as cable modems are now preferred.
Serial Port: Labelled as RS232, Not Officially used
Pararell Port: Labelled is IEEE1284, Not Officially used
Internals of the DITV 1000, note the various amount of processors in this box, no wonder it runs hot.
It kind of reminds me of the Sega Saturn, which itself had 8 processors for various different tasks. Remember this box has to function as a high end STB and a cable mode, and still has to remain the size of a typical VCR.
Note the lack of a fan, since these box’s run hot they would have benefitted greatly from an additional fan to extract the heat generated by the components. Whilst this would have increased the cost of the stb slightly, the increase in reliability would have paid for itself in time, remember ntl had to pay installers to come out and replace the box once it had failed, and then had to be sent back to Pace in order to be diagnosed and repaired. Also customers are generally poor at maintaining AV equipment, with many putting the boxes in Tv cabinets and stands with closed doors, often on top of a VCR or DVD player that already generates heat. It’s no secret that heat is the main reason electronic components die early, and this was before the days of thermal throttling.
View of the memory and flash chips, with the memory module. Interesting to note the two flash banks, one labelled C&W Flash and the other as Download, wonder if these store two separate images? One for main use and the other for backup?
View of the bottom right side, showing part of the PSU
The main set of processors, from top left working down
Hitachi SuperH/SH3 Processor – Central Processing Unit
Another view of the main processors
So looking into the update process for the Ditv1000 I came to a plausible theory, When pace had written the initial loader for the stb, they neglected to include a function to check for a firmware update on boot up, which the later boxes did support and do. Typically when you boot up a cable box, it checks the default frequency for a valid netID and if there are any updates available for that stb, and the loader application for the ditv1000 may not have done that.
Since the loader is present on some sort of ROM medium and its likely Pace had already manufactured the software on the ROM chips themselves, they did not want to write off these chips since it would be a considerable expense, instead they included a workaround in the software loaded in flash, where once the operator had released a new update, a signal flag would be sent out within the transport stream, of which the software would then corrupt itself in an extent that the loader would fail to boot (possibly by failing a checksum) and would then trigger the download process.
To force an update on the Ditv1000, Hold the power button upon powering on the box from the mains power, release the power button when OHAY appears on the screen. then press
Update Process, this is displayed after you enter the key sequence
To access, hold the Up/Down front panel buttons together after powering the box from the mains, release once DIAG appears on the front panel.
Default Frequency settings
Hardware version information and the loaded software information
Software versions for various components
Date & Time Information
That’s a lot of credit
The bootloader status
Memory information for both RAM and Flash memory
Status and a list of logs and events
Signal information for the DVB tuner
Downstream signal information for the cable modem
Information for the DVB Signal Information that is currently being received
Cable modem upstream
Front LCD Display
There are three light’s to the right o the LCD display which indicate the following:
The top light indicates power is being received by the stb
The middle light indicated the return path status of the modem, this light should be steady which indicates it is connected, flashing means the modem is attempting to connect – also means interactive services are unavailable until the stb connects.
The bottom light is for the remote control, and light up when a command has been received
Appears when the stb is powered on
Liberate middleware is initialising, normal part of boot up
Wait, The stb is preparing to update
Appears when you hold the power button down upon boot, stb waiting for a front panel command
Flashing memory, part of the update process
Checksum passed, last part of the update process
Error code, where X means the error number
DigDebug can be used to test various aspects of the hardware and can be triggered by connecting an RS232 extender cable to the box, and booting whilst DigDebug is active. Whilst connected, PL:03 is displayed on the front LED display.
Additional tests can be completed for the various pools of DRAM used for the CPU/Decoder/Demodulator and a test pattern can be displayed.
The Di4001NC was a cost reduced cut down version of the Di4001 series of ntl set top boxes. One of the noticeable differences is the removal of the second card slot, in favour of just a single smartcard slot for the smartcard. The second card slot was originally designed for Mondex cashcards, which never launched.
Another removal was the ethernet port, despite the box still having a built in cable modem, the IEEE1284 port has also been removed, along with the audio output
From left to right:
RF Out – outputs the RF modulator, does not pass through the cable signal
TV & VCR Scart
IR Input & IR Output – No official function
RS232 – No official function
The RF output no longer includes an internal combiner, which means you will no longer be able to tune in cable channel’s via the RF tuner. Instead only the modulated output of the set top box will remain. This was due to the intention of removing the analogue channels, and to prevent the DVB-C channels from being tuned in on modern digital TV sets.
Well it looks very similar to the Di4001, but on closer inspection you can see the components removed, also in this model there aren’t any stickers covering the various chips.
The removal of the ethernet and IEEE1284 controllers, the ethernet port seems to remain but is not wired internally.
A closer look at the Broadcom DAVIC processor and the mysterious Pace chip, of which the sticker covered some of it on the previous model. At the very top you can see the main processor, which is unchanged since the previous model (Hitachi SH3)
Hitachi SH-3 HD6417709
Pace 909 6162800, ORBIT 61628
Broadcom QAMLink BCM3120KTB
To access, hold the Up/Down buttons upon bootup, and release when DIAG appears on the front panel display.
Default frequency settings, this would carry any software updates the STB would download upon boot up
Some version numbers, as well as the Network ID. This box appears to be running CR3.2
Further information in relation to the software versions on the STB
Since this revision lacks the internal combiner, you cannot control the outputted cable feed
Service status of the box, indicated that the signal is OK and the regional information
Signal information for the current frequency, this is the same frequency as the default frequency
Information relating to the DVB-SI, and the amount of services received
CAT – Encryption systems
PAT – Channel numbers
TDT – Updates the time & date
EIT – Event info, current program
Information for the inserted smartcard, the credit amount and the pairing status
A log of events generated by the STB
Signal strength status, but this time for the DAVIC tuner (also known as DVB_RC)
Same as above but for the upstream
Browser settings, for the Liberate navigator client
Current date and time, this cannot be set, but is retrieved from the network stream, the STB has a built in CMOS battery
Bootloader version and flash information
Memory information, according to these values the box has 16Mb, with 4Mb Flash
Information relegating to the MPEG decoders. You can also set the remote control configuration here and enabled the rear in or outputs, this has little effect since the software does not support this
No PPV events…
Flash memory information, the capacity, bad flash sectors and where the image came from.
A few screenshots of the original Cable&Wireless guide have surfaced online. They look to have been taken from a magazine, and may have been an early preview of the software. Similar to the pre launch Sky software that was a redesigned prior to its launch.
There isn’t much to say since it looks remarkably similar to the Telewest guide that was used for its launched, and was possibly based on the same code base. the initial EPG used by both Telewest and ntl was built using by Pace, and was designed to be a basic EPG with the Liberate browser running in background.
The software below is known as CR1, this lacks interactivity as the liberate client was yet to be deployed to the STB’s of the time, and the service was still in the process of launching. ntl later rebranded the CR1 software to their own colour scheme, but the design remained the same until ntl started rolling out CR3, which saw the EPG being completely redesigned to use the Liberate TV Navigator. In some areas of London, the ntl CR1 EPG was still in use, due to the poor condition of the Videotron network that was originally deployed.
The main menu, shows TV on demand (Pay per view), at a glance (EPG guide listings), programes by subject (subgenres) and preferences.
The options and layout of the guide look similar to the Telewest build of the software, and the later ntl rebrand
PayPerView on demand listings, I believe Cable & Wireless used Sky Box Office at the time, rather than Front Row
List of the PPV event along with the show times, again very similar to the Telewest layout
When Cable & Wireless launched their digital cable service, Interactive TV was the main attraction and focus for the platform.
Cable & Wireless teamed up with Liberate to deploy it’s eNavigator middleware client for their set top boxes. Liberate had already made deals with many US digital platforms for both Motorola and Scientific Atlanta networks, and had partnered with Acer & Thomson/RCA for their own set top box / internet tv devices. These allowed for the internet to be browsed on a TV itself, similar to a webTV or the Bush Internet TV. With that in mind it made sense to go with Liberate for its interactive platform, with many of the interactive being HTML based, essentially being microsites being designed to be useable on a PAL TV screen, as well as being usable on the set top box hardware itself. By using a HTML based system, it would be easy for existing web developers to adapt their websites for cable interactive TV.
The main interactive developer portal, viewed within the Cable & Wireless interactive browser. This also showcases the browser interface, note the lack of address or URL bar, since this service was designed to be a walled garden. Instead a url bar is provided on the developer portal, likely to allow developers to test their websites.
An interesting oversight is if you sent an email with a hyperlink embedded into it to a website such as Lycos or Google, you could use that link to open the browser to that page, and if its a search engine you could use that to load other websites that are not part of the service
Not much to say here, the developer portal provide links to documentation details the requirements and limitations of the TV internet platform. This goes into details the specifics of the Liberate eNavigatior platform.
Viewed in Internet Explorer 5
A look at the services…
Unfortunately the screenshots are of a low quality and resolution since they have been extracted from the PDF documents above but give a general idea of the scope of the service provided. Some screens have the browser banner at the top of the screen, I’m assuming these are portals to the microsites.
Another view of the interactive home screen, this may be from a later redesign
TV Internet Home
Similar to the Open… home screen, provides links to various services available
Sports Main Menu
Provides links to other sports themed websites,
Email Main Menu
Menu options are Check Email, Write Message, not sure of the third items, Drafts? Templates? Deleted?
The STB had a built in email client, designed for the C&W email service
Two Way TV
Looks like a games service, hard to tell because of the resolution
A resource for traffic information and a route planner
Looks like some sort of holiday broker
Provide links to holidays, not sure if this goes directly to the sites themselves?
News headlines, and weather from various sources.
When the consumer division of Cable & Wireless was acquired by ntl in 2000, the interactive platform continued it’s development. In 2002 ntl deployed the Liberate 1.2 middleware which bought improvements to the browser rendering engine, and the TV guide was rewritten to take advantage. ntl would later spend time developing services for the Langely platform, which was originally planned to use the PowerTV platform, but chose Liberate instead. This was done to ensure parity between the two platforms.