A set-top box (STB) or set-top unit (STU) is a device that connects to a television and an external source of signal, turning the signal into content which is then displayed on the television screen or other display device.
Before the mid-1950s all British television sets tuned only VHF Band I channels. Since all 5 Band I channels were occupied by BBC transmissions, ITV would have to use Band III. This meant all the TV sets in the country would require Band III converters which converted the Band III signal to a Band I signal. By 1955, when the first ITV stations started transmitting, virtually all new British Televisions had 13-channel tuners, quickly making Band III converters obsolete.
Before the All-Channel Receiver Act of 1962 required US television receivers to be able to tune the entire VHF and UHF range (which in North America was NTSC-M channels 2 through 83 on 54 to 890 MHz), a set-top box known as a UHF converter would be installed at the receiver to shift a portion of the UHF-TV spectrum onto low-VHF channels for viewing. As some 1960s-era twelve-channel TV sets remained in use for many years, and Canada and Mexico were slower than the US to require UHF tuners to be factory-installed in new TV's, a market for these converters continued to exist for much of the 1970s.
Cable television represented a possible alternative to deployment of UHF converters as broadcasts could be frequency-shifted to VHF channels at the cable head-end instead of the final viewing location. Unfortunately, cable brought a new problem; most cable systems could not accommodate the full 54-890 MHz VHF/UHF frequency range and the twelve channels of VHF space were quickly exhausted on most systems. Adding any additional channels therefore needed to be done by inserting the extra signals into cable systems on non-standard frequencies, typically either below VHF channel 7 (midband) or directly above VHF channel 13 (superband).
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