1999 April 21
Chris Muriel publishes version 3.0 of a digital TV FAQ containing the following passage regarding BSkyB receivers:
Sky awarded 4 manufacturers with a contract for this receiver to a common specification supplied by Sky. They are Pace, Panasonic, Amstrad and Grundig.
The specification is as follows:
Proprietary built-in (non replaceable/hard wired) CAM with Sky’s own encryption system ; this is from another Murdoch subsidiary (NDC).
Two SCART sockets, fast modem & it is able to receive some non-Sky FTA transmissions – those with Symbol Rates of 22, 000 & 27, 500 only.
The contracts were awarded to Pace, Amstrad, Panasonic & a Grundig consortium (with TV/Com). These are only sold/rented to those within Sky’s subscriber area (just like existing BSkyB analogue) along with a smart card.
The price is subsidised to kick-off interest in BSB Digital.
There’s a description of the Pace Sky receiver in the May 1998 Cable & Satellite Europe magazine. This confirmed that the video encoder includes Macrovision 7.01 for all composite & RGB output signals.
Also included is 16:9 (widescreen) aspect ratio support, RD600 interface a V32 (with V42bis) modem and 2 scart sockets -although Sky’s own specification only calls for one. 1 intended use of the RD600 port is to download games to a PC directly from BSkyB.
An IEEE 1394 (firewire) port could allow connection to DVD players.
There are 2 RF outputs & 4 MBytes each of flash RAM & SDram.
Examples now appearing (January 1999) of the Amstrad, Grundig (GDS200) & Panasonic (TU-DSB20) show identical features & sockets/connectors etc. Only the physical layout and styling of the individual receivers seems to differentiate them. From user reports it seems that the Panasonic & Grundig run cooler than the Pace & Amstrad. The Panasonic has a huge amount of heat sinking which no doubt helps. Its menus also seem to function more quickly than the others. Another annoying missing feature with these receivers is that there was supposed to be an S-Vhs output but it doesn’t work -the hardware exists but not the software to enable it. It’s not very user-friendly when used on satellites other than Astra at 28 degrees east & can only store a limited number of “non-Sky-approved” channels. For its intended purpose of receiving BSkyB Digital channels from Astra 2A at 28 degrees east it represents reasonable value at its subsidised price. Without the BIB subsidy, which means the owner does not agree to have the modem port permanently connected to a phone line, the price of around 350 UKP doesn’t seem particularly competitive in my opinion; however, there isn’t any other way (via satellite) to receive the BBC & Channel 4 programs that Astra 2A transmits with NDC VideoGuard encryption. Suitable viewing cards for the BBC channels are available free but will only work with the 4 variants of official BSkyB receiver.
https://www.your-book.co.uk/digifaq.htm (formatting altered slightly for readability)
1999 May 27
DesignWeek again announces a corporate rebrand at Sky, this time with Wolff Ollins, a somewhat minor tweak compared to the previous redesign. The logo would official be used from the 1st of June.
(Logo from https://logos.fandom.com/wiki/Sky_Limited#1999.E2.80.932001)