"Nick's Flicks" was a Pay-Per View-like channel that was an experiment by Warner-Amex in Columbus, Ohio and was the main inspiration for Nickelodeon.  Nickelodeon first came on the air during April of 1979, then called Pinwheel; and it was all over the country via cable.  The program "Pinwheel" ran then the same way it did for its whole life – 3-5 hours in the morning.  The other things on Nick at that time were old cartoons (like Bugs Bunny and the Pink Panther), short films (like old Charlie Chaplin shorts), and a show where people would read comic books aloud.  The station was not yet “just for kids”. In fact, the ratings were so low that all but two of the programs that aired on Nick ("Pinwheel" and the cartoons) were too low to be rated! The employees at the network called it the "Green Vegetable Network". The network identifier was of a man turning the crank on an old Nickelodeon machine.*  

In 1981, changes began and the network, changed it's name to Nickelodeon. In the coming years, they gradually acquired the rights to more and more various, popular children’s shows from across the globe: comedies from Canada, sci-fi shows from the UK, cartoons from Japan, and so on. 

Nick’s early years were filled with many interesting and mature programs.  Besides Pinwheel, Nick’s most popular show was the Canadian sketch-comedy,
You can’t do that on Television.   The green slime in the show (triggered by the phrase, "I don’t know," later became Nick’s trademark.  Nick was sort of a melting pot, with lots of British programming, Canadian shows, Special Deliveries, and European cartoon shorts.  Fun, intelligent programs such as Mr. Wizard’s World, Livewire (talk show) and Standby... Lights! Camera! Action! were plentiful.  These shows did not talk down to kids, or underestimate their intelligence.  They provided variety, fantasy, and originality.  (the main difference between Nick in 1984 and Nick in 1999) Shows like Today's Special, and to a degree The Elephant Show, used song and dance to teach lessons and entertain. Also, mixed with the programs were movies and specials.  Most of these were of either Canadian or British origin (Chocky, UFO Kidnapped, Witches and the Grinnygog, etc.)

Dangermouse was the first cartoon to be aired on Nick, and in the mid-80s, many other terrific animated shows followed (mostly anime), and became part of Nick’s repertoire (
Mysterious Cities of Gold, Mapletown, and so on.) Around 1987 or so, when Count Duckula was airing, Nick Jr. began.  Fun, charming shows like: Adventures of the Little Koala, Maya the Bee, David the Gnome, The Little Prince, later the Lil’ Bits and The Noozles filled up Nick’s afternoon.   

Eureka’s Castle was produced, pretty much replacing Pinwheel, and this brings us to the 1990s.  Nickelodeon Studios in Florida opened.  This is the time when various game shows such as Get the Picture, Make the Grade, etc. started production; and soon Nick started producing their own cartoons: Ren ‘n Stimpy, Rugrats, and Doug.  The live-action programming began to slowly drift away from the foreign production that once ruled the station to Nick-made shows like Welcome Freshman and Salute Your Shorts… 

Saturday Night Nick, 8:00-10:00. Beginning on Saturday, August 15, 1992, Nick aired a block of shows containg
Clarissa Explains it All, Roundhouse, Are you Afraid of the Dark, and Ren ‘n StimpyRen ‘n Stimpy and Clarissa were already Nick staples and were the stations biggest hits. Nick continued producing their own shows. But, this is about the point All That began, and the point at which I’ll end.  However, Nick still does have many quality shows (Blues Clues, etc.).

*info contributed by Will Dyess