In the 1950s, there were three television networks in the United States. Because of the frequencies allotted to television, the signals could only be received in a "line of sight" from the transmitting antenna. People living in remote areas, especially remote mountainous areas, couldn't see the programs that were already becoming an important part of U.S. culture.

In 1948, people living in remote valleys in Pennsylvania solved their reception problems by putting antennas on hills and running cables to their houses. These days, the same technology once used by remote hamlets and select cities allows viewers all over the country to access a wide variety of programs and channels that meet their individual needs and desires. By the early 1990s, cable television had reached nearly half the homes in the United States.

Today, U.S. cable systems deliver hundreds of channels to some 60 million homes, while also providing a growing number of people with high-speed Internet access. Some cable systems even let you make telephone calls and receive new programming technologies! In this edition of HowStuffWorks, we'll show you how cable television brings you so much information and such a wide range of programs, from educational to inspirational to just plain odd.