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Early Satellite TV History

In its first incarnation as a Silicon Valley startup, Microcomm designed, prototyped, manufactured, and marketed the world's first successful commercial home satellite TV receiver. These excerpts from TVRO industry sources establish our place in history:

bullet     "H. Paul Shuch owned [Microcomm,] a small custom microwave engineering firm in San Jose, California. Shuch was also a teacher at a college in Califorina. He had previously made his mark as a designer and builder of GOES (1.6 GHz) weather satellite hardware. Shuch looked at what was being done [to receive satellite TV] and decided he could offer 'microwave modules' with which talented people could assemble a home TVRO. Shuch had the honor of being the first into the marketplace to offer hardware with which somebody with reasonable talents could put together and see TVRO pictures."

Robert B. Cooper, "Coop on Basics: the TVRO Receiver" Coop's Satellite Digest, October 1982, p. 8

bullet     "Spend 8 hours with H. Paul Shuch. You'll be smarter for the experience."

Coop's Satellite Digest, October 1979, rear cover

bullet     "Back in the mid-1970s we talked of TVRO -- Television Receive-Only. In those days satellite TV reception was the preserve of the international operators, Intelsat and Intersputnik, and the American CATV companies, introduced to satellite by the likes of Showtime and HBO, anxious to deliver their premium programming in real time and high quality to every cable operator across the USA.

"Intelsat Standard A Earth stations used 26-metre or larger dishes; the Soviet Orbita terminals had 12-metre rigs to receive the inclined-orbit Molniya satellites. The US CATV head-ends needed at least a 6-metre antenna to give 3dB margin above threshold on the Satcom and Westar C-Band programme feeds, with the current 120K LNAs. All rather more than the average backyard could accommodate.

"But in true American pioneer tradition, things were stirring down in the garage. Experimenters, enthusiasts, radio hams, were working on microwave front ends and FM demods, and beginning to realise that the satellite TV signals were not out of reach.

"H Paul Shuch had designed microstrip low-noise converters for the radio amateur 2.3, 3.4 and 5.6 GHz bands, and it was a small step to adapt them to cover the 4 GHz satellite downlink band."

from "RWT and the History of TVRO," by Steve Birkill

bullet     "Shuch's contributions were many. At the very least, his informative and highly tuned lectures at the first and second SPTS events inspired dozens who would later become TVRO equipment designers as well. Shuch worked out a VCO package (actually a pair of packages) which made it possible to get from 4 GHz down to a lower IF range at far lower cost than the commercial VCOs, with only a minimum amount of drift. Shuch was the design engineer for the first series of receivers from International Crystal, and in fact the first ICM TVRO receivers were really Shuch [Microcomm] 'modules' packaged into an ICM case."

Robert B. Cooper, op. cit.

bullet     "To round out the [1979] seminar presentations, I had arranged for another California professor, H. Paul Shuch, to be on hand to conduct ten 'private sessions' over three days in a 70 seat classroom. Shuch ... carried around dog-eared tutorials describing exotic microwave circuits, sold out of his garage small modules he built in his spare time for the purpose of receiving ... satellite images, and was already acting as a technical consultant to Oklahoma City based International Crystal Manufacturing Company (ICM) who would, at SPTS, unveil their own home satellite terminal receiver.

"Shuch was a walking textbook of the latest 'inside gab.' ... Shuch was [Stanford professor and satellite TV pioneer] Taylor Howard's 'secret weapon' and whenever Howard got stuck he went 70 miles to H. Paul for help. But that was a 'secret' and all three of us agreed to keep it that way."

from "Television Pirates: Hiding Behind Your Picture Tube," p. 300, by Robert B. Cooper

bullet     "The Intelsat birds covered such large geographic areas that their 'footprints' or signal levels in any one location were very weak... The largest antenna we had at Miami was 4.8 meter and most were 4 meter size. I thought it would be amusing if we pointed one of these antennas connected to appropriate home-style receivers, at one of these satellites. Just to see what might (not) happen. So on the afternoon of February 6 [1980], during an unusual-for-Miami cold snap, I and a handful of people fortified with cups of coffee and a case of local beer proceeded to do just that...

"H. Paul Shuch had run into his indoor show booth and ripped out his one and only display receiver of his own design... By now two antennas had found the elusive signal from an unknown source and with each passing few minutes the image slowly, gradually, became more distinct as skilled hands fine tuned the respective receiver internal adjustments...

"TV Cameras rolled, still cameras snapped the on screen identification, and a rumble of jubilation swept through those gathered. 'To the best of my knowledge,' I explained to the patient TV newsman who had his camera recording the event, 'nobody has ever previously received an Intelsat class of signal on a small, home style dish antenna. This is a first!' "

ibid, pp. 329-330.

bullet     "H. Paul Shuch (amateur N6TX, founder of [Microcomm]), the man who designed and oversaw into production one of the world's very first C-band home dish system mass production receivers - the ICM (International Crystal) 4200."

SatFACTS Vol. 12 No. 142, June 15 2006, p. 8

bullet     "H. Paul Shuch designed first mass produced TVRO."

ibid, p. 31

bullet     "H. Paul Shuch would be the first to create a reproducible 4 GHz receiver (sold to International Crystal/ICM), using the proceeds to purchase his first airplane. The godfather of The SETI League has lived the 'good ham life'."

Robert B. Cooper, in QST, December 2011, p. 151

bullet     "Henry Taylor Howard, W6HD, left Stanford University to head up the C-band home dish industry's trade association (S.P.A.C.E.) after working with Paul Shuch (N6TX) to create the world's first C-band mass-produced receiver designs for consumer use."

In Perspective One (Volume 1 Number 2), www.bobcooper.tv

bullet    See Photos from the early days of Satellite TV

Click to email Dr. Shuch
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