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Did You Know That Nickelodeon Started In Columbus?

Growing up in the 1990s, there were three things that dominated my childhood: Pogs, the Spice Girls, and Nickelodeon.

From “All That” to “Salute Your Shorts” and everything in between, Nickelodeon was, in my opinion, the best that children’s programming had to offer. These days, it’s hard not to let those memories be tainted of recent news of rampant abuse at Nickelodeon, especially in the early 2000s. But long before controversial creator Dan Schneider rose to prominence, the channel was just getting started.

Nickelodeon started here in Columbus in December 1977 as QUBE, an experimental two-way, multi-programmed cable television system. The system was revolutionary.


QUBE was the first interactive tv station in the United States.

The QUBE controller looks huge by modern comparison. But at the time, it was unique. The remote could be handheld or passed around the room, at a time when most televisions were controlled by a dial or nob.

QUBE offered ten broadcast TV channels, ten pay-per-view channels (billed monthly), and ten channels that included interactive services.

The 5 buttons down the right-hand side were all about interaction. Users would answer questions that had 5 different answers, and then within seconds, the computer would display results for television suggestions on the screen. Think of it as an interactive version of your Netflix queue with way fewer options.

So what does this all have to do with Nickelodeon?

Although the pay-per-view channels required a special key, people, of course, found ways around that. Some methods included paper clips while others involved magnets. But one of the ten “community” channels didn’t require an impersonation of MacGyver was C-3. The channel carried Pinwheel exclusively every day from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Pinwheel featured live-action skits mixed with animated shorts. Puppets and humans interacted to teach kids all sorts of things, including developmental skills like counting, reading, and colors, as well as social skills like being kind to others and being a good person. Eventually, Pinwheel became the model for Nick Jr.

When QUBE began to go under, Warner Cable viewed Pinwheel as a marketable tool. If Warner Cable could provide a channel of commercial-free programming dedicated specifically to children, then they could compete with others in the market, including HBO.

And so, in April 1979, Pinwheel was reborn as Nickelodeon.

Throughout the years, Nickelodeon went through many transitions. From adding Nick Jr. to pulling older, outdated television off the air to make way for youth-driven content.

How the channel will navigate the current storm of allegations, only time will tell.