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The squarial – see what happens when non-technical marketing folk bet the company on someone else's new technology

 

In August 1988, two months after Sky and Astra announced that they would be using the old PAL TV system, not Europe's new MAC, BSB invited the press to a demonstration which promised to show how much better MAC pictures could be than PAL.

But when the event got under way the technical niceties of MAC picture quality were shoved aside. Instead BSB’s executives unveiled a new kind of aerial which they called a “squarial”  - a small flat square plate, which was claimed to do the same job as the larger dish aerials then needed for satellite reception.

The squarial was a surprise to everyone, including the four companies which had signed to manufacture the BSB receivers that would have to work with the new aerial. The squarial deal, with British company Fortel, had been struck only hours earlier.  Press and tv crews were in such hurry to report the news that they forgot to ask if it actually worked; which it didn’t.

All that then existed was a wood and plastics dummy.  But believing that someone would easily be able to make the 25cm squarial work as well as a much larger dish, BSB built a whole advertising campaign on the squarial.

There was actually nothing new in the idea of a flat plate aerial, made from a honeycomb of tiny cell aerials, all connected together by wire tracks. The military already used them. The BBC had researched the idea for consumer use but decided they would be too expensive for consumer use. Matsushita/Panasonic sold flat plate aerials in Japan but they cost a lot more than dishes.

To be able to a launch its service with at least a few squarials, BSB ordered a batch from Japan. They were bigger and more expensive than BSB had promised. BSB also offered ordinary dishes of squarish shape.

STC in Paignton was first to make a truly British squarial. These were still bigger than promised, 38 cm across, and more expensive than a dish. But at least they worked as promised.

 Unfortunately supplies of STC's squarial reached the shops only shortly before BSB's spectacular collapse into merger with its deadly rival Sky. STC tried making bigger squarials for use with Sky's weaker signals, but most people are quite happy with a cheaper dish. They really don’t care about subtleties or shape for something stuck high up outside on a wall.

Nortel later bought STC and modified the squarial yet again, for use with telephone systems that use microwave radio lines instead of wires. But that proved to be another sad story.

Anthony Simmonds Gooding showing off his squarial David Eglise showing off his squarial Ref  T032a
Andy Coleman with squarial
BSB Executives Anthony Simmons-Gooding, David Eglise and  Andy Coleman showing off squarials

 

Comparing a squarial with a big dish

Inside the squarial Inside the squarial
Inside the squarial there were many small aerial cells  
Dish and squarial Squarial on house
BSB Squarish dish
BSB never missed an opportunity to compare a small squarial with a large dish - but BSB had to offer squarish dishes when squarials were unavailable

 

Squarial with receiver

A squarish dish was offered when the squarial was not available (above) before STC made squarials in the UK (right and below)

STC squarial
STC squarial STC squarial
Squarial alongside dish
Another opportunity to compare a small squarial with a large dish - before Sky came up with smaller dishes
   
   
   
 
 
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