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Matt:

I have hundreds of channels on my TV. The only one missing is Channel 1. Has there ever been a Channel 1? If so, what happened to it?

-- Leslie, Rancho Bernardo

Poor old Channel 1. Yeah, it used to exist, and the number could be found on TV set dials up to about 1946. But it was bounced around the frequency spectrum so much for about 10 years, the feds finally dropped it.

TV and FM radio were both infants in the late 1930s, when this all started, and the FCC needed to assign broadcast frequencies to keep the babies separated and in their proper spots. It happened that the high end of the FM frequencies bumped into the low end of the TV frequencies, so any time the chunk of airwaves dedicated to FM changed, TV changed too-- both the transmitters and the TV receivers. Not that there were too many of either one in those days.

Anyway, the first FM radio bands were given 40-44 MHz, and TV Channel 1 was assigned the 44-50 MHz space; Channel 2 had 50-54, and Channels 3 through 7 filled the remaining space up to 108 MHz. Three years later, the feds discontinued TV broadcasting in the 44-50 space, the existing Channel 2 was renamed Channel 1, and they shoehorned a new Channel 2 into some remaining space above 60 MHz.

Things chugged along okay for a few years until the feds decided it was time to consolidate the FM spectrum into what it is today, 88 to 106 MHz. This freed up Channel 1's old slot, 44-50 MHz, so Channel 1 moved again, back to where it started. Apparently the reassignment of frequencies had radio stations so flummoxed that it took a while for the technicians to make the change. By the time they did, the feds decided to assign Channel 1's frequencies to some completely different service, but rather than change the channel names one more time, they just dropped TV Channel 1 designation completely. Much to everyone's relief, I'm sure. BTW, this frequency assignment explains why you can listen to The Simpsons on your car radio.

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