UVSG Satellite Data

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This was the format used by United Video Satellite Group to send data out at over a satellite feed, launched some time between 1981 and 1985. The baud rate was initially 2400, although the speed may have been increased to 9600 baud towards the end. Many different types of information were sent out through this feed, including time/date information, system settings, channel listings, and system updates. The format was broadcast until at least 2002 (to support Sneak Prevue and remaining installations of EPG Jr.), but may even have lasted until 2005.

Tin and AriX have successfully reverse engineered parts of this format, and it is possible to send our own messages to emulated or real EPG/Prevue machines over serial. Additionally, some test files received from an ex-UV employee have helped to further the reverse engineering effort.

DATA Format

Every box on message always starts with the header "55 AA", followed by a select code, a 00, and a checksum. A command is started with a "55 AA", then a byte indicating which mode of command is being sent out, then the data of the command, which is usually followed by checksum.

For example, here are two commands that will tell an EPG machine to listen, then change its title to "PREVUE GUIDE":

55 AA 41 2A 00 94 55 AA 54 50 52 45 56 55 45 20 47 55 49 44 45 00 D0

In this example, the select code being addressed is 2A, or the ASCII code for an asterisk (*). This means every machine that is connected to the satellite feed will act on this command. Then, a 00 to terminate the string, and a checksum (94). After the 55 AA, you see the mode byte (54, or T for Title), and then an ASCII string (PREVUE GUIDE). Lastly, there is another 00 to terminate the string, and D0, the checksum for the entire string.

Initial Checksum

Most commands have a checksum that is calculated on all the bytes of the data part of the command. This is sent over the serial port and compared to the correct value by the receiving machine. If the checksum does not match, the computer discards the whole command. The checksum is calculated by bitwise XOR of each byte of data within the command excluding the command letter itself. Each command has its own seed checksum which is loaded as the initial value of the checksum as soon as the initial command letter is received. This initial checksum is calculated by XORing the mode byte with $FF.

Command Modes

Some of this is conjecture and named according to clues found in the reverse-engineered code - it's subject to change and mistakes! Some of the checksums were found from an Atari disassembly, and a few were found by running UVSG sample messages through UVSGXOR. Initial checksum values are actually calculated by XORing the mode byte with $FF.

Command Name Description Notes Atari Amiga
A Box On Addresses the machines by select code, informing them to listen for commands Yes Yes
C Channel Contains the channel lineup Divided by the receiving machine into a list of channel numbers, call letters, and sources. Yes Yes
c New format of channel? No Yes
D ? ? ? No Yes
E ? ? Atari L9118 (3 bytes - some kind of configuration bytes relating to CURDAY and NXTDAY?) - on Amiga, reads in a bunch of bytes... possibly related to select code? Yes Yes
F Configuration Gives the receiving machine information about its location, local time, settings, ads, and more. Same syntax on both Atari and Amiga, just a lot of unused values on Atari. Yes Yes
f Config.dat Provides some settings, like GridMR, Sport, SBS, ClockCmd, and more that are written to config.dat. Length specified in first byte of command. No Yes
g ? Defines future DST information No Yes
H Download Can be used to write a file to disk, likely other Amiga maintenance tasks as well Exact same command is also available under 'h' and '=' No Yes
h Download Same command as 'H' No Yes
I ? Sets weather ID? No Yes
i ? No Yes
J Order Information For pay-per-view channels No Yes
j Order Information For pay-per-view channels (likely newer format) No Yes
K Clock Sets the time centrally Requires ClockCmd to be 2 on Amiga Yes Yes
L Ad Centrally provides an ad or message Seems to crash Prevue Grid if there is already ad in a slot, maybe bad syntax Yes Yes
M ? ? Atari L9152 (reads 2 bytes) - on Amiga, reads 0 bytes and does NOTHING but increment the Cmds count Yes Yes
N ? ? Atari L92A4 Yes No
O Clear Listings Clears program listings - but not always? Reads 0 bytes - send 00B0 immediately after Yes Yes
P Program Program information Yes Yes
p Program Program information Possibly newer format, example in NEWP test file No Yes
Q ? Not sure, probably has something to do with PPV channels No Yes
R Reset Reset computers with select code If no select code is given, all computers are reset Yes Yes
T Title Sets the guide title Yes No
t ? ? No Yes
V ? ? Software upgrade/version check mechanism? No Yes
v ? ? No Yes
W ? ? No Yes
w ? ? No Yes
x ? ? Has sub-commands? No Yes
Z ? ? Atari L9206 (12 configuration bytes read into 04E7 onwards) Yes No
$03 ? ? Atari L949F (hexadecimal 03) Yes No
! ($21) ? ? No Yes
% ($25) Save Data Saves/backs up data to disk Analogous to one of the "Save Data" options under Special Functions No Yes
= ($3D) Download ? Same command as 'H' No Yes
$BB Box Off Tells all listening boxes to stop listening No checksum - send $BB $00 $FF immediately after Yes Yes

Known Command Syntax

C Command Syntax

0x43 [Julian day, byte]
0x12 [flags, byte] [6-character source, string]
0x11 [Channel #, string]
0x01 [5- to 6-character channel name, string]
0x00 [checksum, byte]

NOTE: On EPG Jr. the channel name has a limit of 5 characters

C Commmand Flags

Flag name Hex value
None 0x01
DITTO 0x20

P Command Syntax

0x50 [Timeslot 1-48, hex] [Julian day, hex] [6-character source, string]
0x12 [flags, byte] [Program name, string]
0x00 [checksum, byte]

P Commmand Flags

Flag name Hex value
None 0x01
Movie 0x02

CTRL Format

In 1988, with the introduction of Prevue Guide, a second, 110-baud feed called CTRL was added.

In the CTRL format, there is no initial 55 AA to start a command. Commands are begun right away with a mode byte, which is a number from 0 to 16 (instead of an ASCII value). Next, the body of the command is sent, followed by a $0D, and then the message checksum, which uses the same format as the DATA feed. The CTRL format has not yet been fully reverse engineered, but more information can be found here.

CTRL Commands

Command Control Name Length Description
$01 A ? Branches based on the first byte it receives - looks like it has "sub-commands"
$02 B ?
$03 C ? 0 bytes Different than the other commands - not parsed
$04 D Set Position 1 byte Sets CTRLEvent_Position to 1 if byte is 'L' or 0 if 'R', if neither, CTRLEvent_Position is toggled
$05 E Event 2 bytes First byte corresponds to right side, second corresponds to left - seems to set a "mode" for the overlay of each side
$07 G Resume Scroll 0 bytes Resumes listing scroll (analogous to pressing 's')
$0B K Clock Slightly different syntax than DATA, only works when ClockCmd is 1
$0C L ? Has something to do with what program is displayed in the overlay in E mode
$0D M End of Command
$0F O ? Blanks out screen - probably used to set some stuff
$10 P Stop Scroll 0 bytes Stops listing scroll (analogous to Control-S)
$11 Q ?
$14 T ? 1 byte? Sets some internal variable
$16 V ?

Mode A Sub-Commands

Byte ASCII Name Length Description
$31 1
$33 3
$34 4
$35 5
$36 6
$37 7
$44 D
$46 F
$57 W Weather 0 bytes Show weather info?