BACK IN OLDEN TIMES, THERE WAS A THING CALLED THE BOX, and it offered a simple proposition: you called up a 900 number on your landline, punched in a four-digit code corresponding to a music video you wanted to see (ideally something banned from mainstream media for obscenity), and incurred a charge of between $0.99 and $2.99. When your selection aired on your TV about 20 minutes later, you sat there, or danced, or sang along, or quite possibly masturbated to it. Maybe all four at once if you were talented and your parents weren’t home.
While every single thing about The Box (1985-2000) seems hilariously dated now (landlines! taboos! paying for content! not enough porn!), it once represented the cutting edge of media and technology. “The Box doesn’t have its proper place in the history of music, if not television, because it was so ahead of its time,” says its former executive vice president, Les Garland, who, prior to joining The Box, was a hugely influential executive at MTV.