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22 Calendar

Through February 24, 2019

Live Wires: The Cable TV Revolution

From pioneer broadcasts to modern broadband, Northwest innovators led the nation in the cable TV revolution. Live Wires tells the story of the men and women who launched the first cable systems, shaped an industry, and changed American viewing habits forever.

From tinkerers to telecommunications legends, Northwest cable innovators made TV available to everyone—and made history along the way. What started here soon became a national model for how Americans consumed news and entertainment around the clock.

Featuring rare artifacts, oral histories, and hands-on interactives for young visitors, Live Wires tells the story of how Northwest innovators shaped the viewing habits of a nation.

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When TV first came into Northwest living rooms in the 1940s, it dramatically changed how we received information. But hills and distance kept television signals from reaching many homes.

Local innovators, working in garages and small shops, tackled the challenges of Northwest topography by building systems that captured TV signals, then routing them to viewers living beyond the reach of local television stations.

Like many successful innovations, what began as an improvised solution to an immediate problem soon became the basis for an entirely new industry, impacting millions of Americans. Live Wires explores the growth of that industry by taking visitors through several eras of technological change, from the years after World War II, when pioneer cable systems first brought TV into Northwest homes, to the age of satellite and broadband, when America experienced an information explosion.

Visitors to Live Wires will encounter Seattle’s first TV broadcast on Thanksgiving Day 1948, explore the Northwest town that became the “cradle of cable,” discover the Everett testing lab that set national standards, and trace the region’s role in the rise of satellites and broadband systems.

Live Wires features artifacts from the MOHAI collection, the Comcast collection, and the Cable Center in Denver, including examples of the rugged hardware that enabled a high-tech industry to flourish. Oral histories provide personal insights from cable innovators. And hands-on interactives, designed especially for young visitors, highlight the challenges of getting information to everyone in an increasingly interconnected world.