Celebrating 20 years of UK satellite TV

For a while it looks like Flextech (now part of Virgin Media) and Turner would offer a rival package but they fold into the Sky Digital offering after all.

Sky Digital launches in October (beating terrestrial ONdigital) with 160 channels, £199 Digiboxes hugely subsidised by British Interactive Broadcasting, and subscriptions starting at £7/month.

Just before Sky Digital starts, The Children's Channel closes after broadcasting by satellite for 14 years.

Sky shows digital TV can do with the introduction of Sky News Active - Sky Sports broadcast the world's first interactive football coverage in 1999. The interactive service of text and video alongside the main channel service is startlingly innovative and popular. Before the year is out, interactive ventures include shopping at Harrods and multiple camera angles at a Corrs concert.

Astra 2B and 2D satellites are launched to 28.2°E to provide more capacity for what has become the world's quickest growing digital satellite market - the UK.

The Astra 2D satellite arrives on station at 28.2°E with UK-only coverage so the BBC and (after much wrangling) ITV can broadcast by satellite free-to-air. Astra 2C and Eutelsat's Eurobird 1 are launched to complete the orbital line-up for UK digital satellite.

Huge digital sales from Sky's free Digibox offer mean it can finally turn off the analogue transmissions from 19.2°E. Channels are joining Sky Digital so fast, nobody can watch them all, but fortunately, after dabbling with the TiVo PVR, Sky produces Sky+ to pause live TV and record without tape – to early and lasting acclaim.

Astra 1A is taken off active service at 19.2°E

Over 7 million customers now have a subscription to Sky.

The traditional New Year's Day concert from Vienna is broadcast across Europe by satellite in HD. Belgium company, Euro1080 decides it's time for Europe to catch up with the US, and launches its own free HD channel (encrypted from May) with receivers at £400 a time.

Everyone agrees that HDTV is great but arguments about HD screen standards continue until the year after.

Meanwhile, the BBC announces plans for a satellite version of Freeview – Freesat – so Sky quickly launches its own version.

In December, the now aged Astra 1A satellite is dispatched to a 'graveyard' orbit.

HD is here. After months of broken promises (box delays, again!), the Sky HD service starts up with a £399 box and HD versions of Sky One, Artsworld, National Geographic, Discovery, Sky Movies and Sky Sports, but BBC's HD 'test' channel is the star of the show, because it shows the World Cup and because it's free.

An alternative TV future is revealed with the launch of Sky by Broadband.

Spring sees satellite TV truly brought to the masses with the launch of Freesat – hundreds of channels, no subscription, and cheap boxes – 100,000 systems sell in five months.

There are now over 230 TV satellites orbiting the Earth and over 5,000 channels broadcasting just to Europe. By the end of the summer, around 9 million Brits subscribe to Sky, 3.7 million have Sky+ and 500,000 watch in HD.

Sadly, Sir Arthur C Clarke, the visionary who first thought up the whole idea of broadcasting from satellites, dies aged 90.