Cable TV Question: Why 36 Channels?

Why do the first 36 channels and channel 98 come through my cable system with no problem, but I sometimes have trouble getting the other ones?

We have “expanded basic” cable through Comcast in New Jersey. The living room TV, which is fairly new, gets all the channels with no problem. You can flip through all the channels using either the CH+ button on the TV or the one on the remote. We had a small older TV in the basement that only got up to channel 36. My husband had called the cable company to see why we didn’t get above channel 36. He was told that the TV was so old (1987 I think) that it needed a “cable box” for $4 a month in order to get the higher channels, so we stuck it out. He eventually got sick of watching Masterpiece Theater while he worked out, but we figured that it would just be cheaper to buy a newer little TV than to pay for the cable box for years. We went to Best Buy and got a floor model for 39 bucks. We plugged it in last night, and it gets all the channels, whether you use the remote or the buttons on the TV.

Meanwhile, we had received a hand-me-down TV, built in 2000 according to the sticker in the back. We plugged it into a a cable outlet in the bedroom and found that it only got up to channel 36. It was missing its remote, so we bought a new “universal” remote, programmed it according to the directions, and found that we could get channels above 36, but only if we entered the channel numbers in on the keypad of the remote. If we used the CH+ button on the remote, it would only go up to 36, then to 98, then back to 2. I eventually found a way to manually “add” in the channels that I watch, so I can flip through using the buttons on the TV, but I thought it odd that this new TV seemed to have the same aversion to channels above 36 that the old one did.

So, this morning, I attached the old TV to the cable outlet in the bedroom to see if I could get it to get the higher channels, but again, I only got up to 36 (and 98). Remembering that the other, newer, TV only got the higher channels if they were punched into the keypad on a remote, I programmed a spare universal remote to work that TV. But for this TV, even with the remote, I can only get up to 36. If I try to punch in a higher number, it just goes back to the channel it was on.

So what gives? What’s so special about the first 36–and if it is something special about the lower numbers, why do I get 98?

Here are the various channels and their allocations:

Notice that 98 is in the lower frequency band, not where you would expect it.

The different bands (super, hyper, ultra, etc) were added at different times, which is why some TVs can get them and some can’t. 36 is the highest channel in the super band. 37 starts the hyper band.