I want my Cable TV Recalibration? (Zenith TV circa 1990)
November 28, 2007 8:53 PM   Subscribe

Our TV is a Zenith Space Command (circa 1990, serial # SG5245S). At present it's hooked up to cable from Shaw (connections are all connected), but we only get about 4 channels (the rest are fuzz). Can the TV be re-calibrated? We have no TV manual (bought it used), and there is no apparent "reset" button, etc. There are buttons that say: Skip, Add, Band, AFC (?). Any guidance is appreciated....
posted by rumbles to Technology (15 answers total)
Response by poster: FWIW, I've tried unplugging it for long periods in an effort to reset it.
posted by rumbles at 8:54 PM on November 28, 2007

Difficult to answer without more specifics about the "connections" Your tuner could be shot. Your cable could be not connected by Shaw and you're simply picking up broadcast signals. If the four channels you get are local, that's very likely the case. Do you have a VCR that you could use as a tuner? You're probably best off phoning Shaw's tech support
posted by Neiltupper at 9:16 PM on November 28, 2007

Response by poster: The channels aren't all local (one being HGTV) and cable is coming through the split connection to the internet. No VCR.
posted by rumbles at 9:33 PM on November 28, 2007

The TV may not be "cable ready." Analog cable operates on different frequencies than broadcast TV. The first few channels will work, but the rest will not. You can look around for a cable/antenna switch. If your TV isn't cable ready, you'll have to have something that can tune in the cable. In the past I've used a VCR for this purpose.

Honestly, I'm kind of amazed that the cable company will even sell you analog cable these days.
posted by zsazsa at 9:35 PM on November 28, 2007

Response by poster: Also, our recollection is that when we got it more channels worked than do today. It seems my fiddling might have botched things.
posted by rumbles at 10:00 PM on November 28, 2007

Is there some kind of emotional attachment to this old Zenith set? Things have progressed so much in TV technology that honestly, your Zenith is obsolete. A neighbor of mine bought a 2005 model TV, working great, for $25 at a yard sale. With the new digital screens flying off the shelf, these older analog sets are a dime a dozen.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 10:13 PM on November 28, 2007

Or barring that, an old VCR to use as a tuner.
posted by ALongDecember at 10:17 PM on November 28, 2007

Without question, the problem is that your TV is not cable ready. The cable company should have provided you a tuner box, and you send the output of that into your TV on channel 3 or 4. Anything else is doomed to failure, trust me on this.
posted by davejay at 12:17 AM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: Also, our recollection is that when we got it more channels worked than do today.

I'm sure that's true. I'm equally sure that your cable system has been killing analog-encoded channels in order to free up cable bandwidth for digital channels and for cable internet.

Cable has a lot of bandwidth, but it isn't infinite. Analog-encoded FM is ridiculously wasteful, and I have no doubt that the reason you can no longer receive channels you once got is that they've switched to digital encoding for those channels, thus using a fifth of the bandwidth they used before.

You need to get a cable decode box. Call your cable company.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:42 AM on November 29, 2007

Is it possible that your tv is in Antenna mode rather than Cable mode?

The band button would allow you to switch these modes. Try pressing it a few times and see if you get an improvement.
posted by davey_darling at 5:02 AM on November 29, 2007

You can buy a no-name 27" CRT at Home Depot (of all places) for $99. Saw it last week. Sometimes, older technology just isn't worth the time it takes to contemplate fixing. If you're paying for Shaw cable, you can afford a TV made in this century. My 2 crappy 27" CRTs (about 5 years old each) still work perfectly when the Shaw-provided cable is simply plugged into the back (ie no cable box, DVD or VCR).
posted by cgg at 8:48 AM on November 29, 2007

I'll second davey_darling's suggestion. My dad had a zenith from around this time, and every now and then it would be in the wrong band and we'd only get 4 or 13 channels (depending on the band that was chosen). I'm not sure what caused the band setting to switch (maybe power loss would reset it), but switching it always worked. It's worth a shot at least, you won't mess anything up worse.
posted by chndrcks at 9:22 AM on November 29, 2007

What are the channel numbers that you get? What kind of controls are you using (old style with VHF UHF knobs, or up/down buttons?)

Try to borrow a VCR from somebody, that way you can at least try another tuner.

If it is a modern unit with synthesized tuning, you don't really need a reset function.. What you should be looking for: 1) a setting that lets you switch from Air Frequencies vs Cable Frequencies, because the meaning of channel numbers changes completely between one and the other; 2) something like channel setup, channel scan, auto scan, which will let the tuner look for channels that are active on your cable. It is important to do 1 before 2.

You need to get a cable decode box. Call your cable company.

Best answer and everything, but I kind of doubt that.

Stick your postal code in this, to see what channels you should be getting. For a random Calgary postal code, nearly all analog channels from 2-50 still exist, and several others all the way up to 106.
posted by Chuckles at 9:50 AM on November 29, 2007

the meaning of channel numbers changes completely between ["Air Frequencies" and "Cable Frequencies"]

Not completely.. 2-13 stay the same, the rest change.
posted by Chuckles at 9:55 AM on November 29, 2007

Yeah. I second Chuckles. There are plenty of analog channels on Shaw Cable. It is your TV that has issues. The button labeled "Band" seems most likely to fix this but that's just a guess.
posted by metaname at 11:07 AM on November 29, 2007

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