when tv’s were first released, a channel 1 WAS on the dial,but in my humble experience as a licensed television tech,i believe the story of “where it went” differs from cecil’s reply. when VHF was the only television broadcast band, there was a channel 1 on the dial. but television broadcasters soon realized that 13 channels wasn’t going to be enough, so the UHF band was created. UHF channels operate on a much higher frequency than do VHF channels,and at the time ,creating one tuner module to handle both UHF and VHF was not feasible,therefore a second tuner assembly was to be used for UHF.the UHF tuner assembly’s output frequency was set to channel 1’s frequency,and fed to the rest of the set through the channel 1 position on the VHF dial,using channel 1 as an intermediate frequency. (remember turning the vhf dial to “U” in order to tune the Uhf channels?)so the “U” position IS or rather WAS, channel 1 ! examination of the schematic of an old rotary dial tv will confirm this. why did channel 1 sacrifice it’s post instead of one of the other 12? Simply because they didnt want a break in the number sequence from 13 to the first UHF channel 14. more difficult questions of apparent non-exsistence,such as B-size batteries, type III cassettes,vitamins f thru j,and blue foods, i’ll leave to the experts…
If they didn’t want to break the sequence , why not make the first UHF channel 13 instead of 14? That way, it would go from 1-82 instead of 2-83.
Cecil’s column on this topic – with an accompanying official Slug illustration – is on page 372 of The Straight Dope, and is also posted online, sans illustration, at Why isn’t there a Channel One on TV?
The original column doesn’t review all the chaos the FCC was going through at this time over TV allocations, however there was actually a freeze on all new TV grants from 1948 to 1952 until they could work things out. The main problem was that the FCC originally thought they only needed 13 VHF channels of closely allocated TV stations, and they could also intermix other services on the same frequencies. This immediately led to a huge amount of interference, and the freeze resulted until they could sort things out.
After the freeze ended, the FCC decided to add more TV channels, which were the UHF channels from 14 on. In addition, it was decided to delete one of the original TV VHF channels and give its frequencies exclusively to the services that they originally had thought could share the TV frequencies.
Most sources I’ve seen say channel 1 was selected as the one to be deleted because: 1) it used the lowest frequencies, so it was most susceptible to interference, and 2) in 1952, there weren’t any channel 1 stations on the air. (Channel 1 had been assigned frequencies originally assigned to the old FM band – there’s another long story there – and the old FM band had to be vacated before any channel 1 stations could begin operating.)
There is some good additional information on this topic at: What Became of TV Channel 1?.
Did the modulation from whatever UHF channel you were watching to channel 1 affect the quality of the picture?
Do new TVs that (I assume) Don’t use the Channel 1 method get a better UHF picture?
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