As Pinwheel (1977–1979) Nickelodeon was originally launched as Pinwheel on December 1, 1977 and was a channel on Warner Cable's QUBE system in Columbus, Ohio. Pinwheel went national on April 1, 1979, expanding to Buffalo, New York, thus Nickelodeon has declared that 1979 is the network's official launch year. Running for only six hours a day, shows airing during its broadcast day included Video Comic Book, Pop Clips and the long-running Pinwheel along with other shows such as America Goes Bananaz, Nickel Flicks and By the Way.
The original Nickelodeon logo from April 1, 1979 to 1984. Relaunch as Nickelodeon (1979–1990) Pinwheel was re-launched as Nickelodeon on April 1, 1979 and began airing on various Warner Cable systems, beginning in Buffalo, New York and quickly expanding its audience reach.  In 1980, new shows were added to the lineup, including Dusty's Treehouse, First Row Features, Special Delivery, What Will They Think Of Next?, Livewire, and Hocus Focus. Also in the same year, Video Comic Book was renamed to Video Comics. On April 12, 1981, the channel extended its hours from 8 a.m. (EST) to 9 p.m. (EST) by turning its channel over to the Alpha Repertory Television Service (ARTS) and, later for about a year, A&E Network after ARTS merged with NBC's struggling cable service The Entertainment Channel. When A&E became its own 24-hour channel in January 1985, Nickelodeon simply went to a test screen after sign-off until launching the Nick at Nite programming block that July.
The network's original logo was a silver pinball with the "Nickelodeon" title in multicolor. Nickelodeon's first popular series was You Can't Do That On Television, a Canadian sketch comedy that made its American debut on Nickelodeon in late 1981. After a while the network became known for its iconic green slime, originally featured in You Can't Do That on Television. The green slime was then adopted by the channel as a primary feature of many of its shows. In the early years, other shows such as Livewire, Standby: Lights, Camera, Action, The Third Eye and Mr. Wizard's World were part of the regular Nickelodeon time slots.
The channel struggled at first, having lost $40 million by 1984, and finishing dead last among the cable channels. After firing the previous staff, MTV Networks president Bob Pittman turned to Fred Seibert and Alan Goodman, who created MTV's iconic IDs a few years earlier, to reverse Nickelodeon's fortunes. Seibert and Goodman's company, Fred/Alan, teamed up with Tom Corey and Scott Nash of the advertising firm Corey McPherson Nash to replace the "Pinball" logo with the "orange splat" logo with the name Nickelodeon written in Balloon font, that would be used in hundreds of different variations for the next quarter century. Fred/Alan also enlisted the help of animators, writers, producers and doo-wop group The Jive Five to create new idents for the channel. Within six months of the rebranding, Nickelodeon went from worst to first and has stayed there for more than 25 years even with increasing competition from other family-oriented cable channels such as Disney Channel and Cartoon Network. In 1985, after ARTS dropped its partnership with Nickelodeon, Nick added a new nighttime block called Nick at Nite, and became a 24-hour a day service. In 1988, Nick aired the first annual Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards (previously known as The Big Ballot) and introduced Nick Jr., an educational block for younger children around preschool age.
 Success in the 1990s and the 2000s (1990–2009) By October 1990, Nickelodeon was seen in 52 million homes across the United States. In 1990, Nickelodeon opened Nickelodeon Studios, a television studio/attraction, in Orlando, Florida at Universal Studios Florida which many of its sitcoms and game shows were filmed and entered into a multimillion-dollar joint marketing agreement with international restaurant chain Pizza Hut, which involved launching Nickelodeon Magazine, available for free at participating Pizza Hut restaurants. In 1991, for the first time, Nickelodeon developed its first animated series, Doug, The Ren and Stimpy Show, and Rugrats. These series, known as Nicktoons, premiered on August 11, 1991. The network had previously refused to produce weekly animated series due to high cost. The three Nicktoons found success in 1993, while in mid-1993, Nickelodeon developed its 4th Nicktoon, Rocko's Modern Life, which was also a success along with the three other Nicktoons. Later, Nickelodeon partnered with Sony Wonder and released top selling video cassettes of the show's programming. By 1994, Doug ended production, but Rocko's Modern Life, The Ren and Stimpy Show, and Rugrats were still in production and airing. In mid-1996, Nickelodeon developed two new Nicktoons, KaBlam! and Hey Arnold! which would take the place of Rocko's Modern Life and The Ren and Stimpy Show since they would both end production about that time, but still would air re-runs up until about 2001. Rugrats, on the other hand, was still airing. In 1998, The Rugrats Movie came out. The movie grossed more than $100 million in the United States and became the first non-Disney animated movie to ever sell that high.
In June 1993, Nickelodeon resumed its magazine brand, Nickelodeon Magazine. In 1994, Nickelodeon removed sketch comedy You Can't Do That on Television from its schedule after thirteen years on and by the same year the network had launched a new sketch comedy, All That. For many years, until its cancellation in 2005, All That would launch the careers of many actors and actresses including Kenan Thompson, Amanda Bynes, and Jamie Lynn Spears. In 1994, Nickelodeon also launched The Big Help, a public service initiative created to encourage kids to volunteer in local communities. It expanded in 2001 by encouraging kids to talk with their friends and loved ones. In October and December 1994, Nickelodeon sold Halloween and Christmas themed episodes of its Nicktoons through syndication to local markets across the United States, with then-new former corporate relative, Paramount Domestic Television (now CBS Television Distribution).
One of the many variants of the logo used from 1984 to September 28, 2009.In October 1995, Nickelodeon ventured in the world wide web and launched Nick.com. Initially the website was available only using America Online's internet service, but was later available to all internet service providers and became a strong promotional tool for Nickelodeon. The website's popularity grew and in March 1999, Nick.com became the highest rated website for children aged six to fourteen years old. Nickelodeon used the website in conjunction with television programs which increased traffic. In 2001, Nickelodeon partnered with Networks Inc. to provide broadband video games for rent from Nick.com. The move was a further step in the multimedia direction that the developers wanted to take the website. Skagerlind indicated that over 50% of Nick.com's audience are using a high speed connection which allows them to expand the gaming options on the website. To accompany the broadband content, TurboNick was created. Initially it was a popup panel which showcased broadband content on Nick.com. Nickelodeon Studios closed down in 2005 and was converted into the Blue Man Group Sharp Aquos Theatre in 2007; Nickelodeon now tapes its live-action series at the Nickelodeon On Sunset studios (formerly the Earl Carroll Theatre) in Hollywood, California and other studio locations in Hollywood and other areas.
 Rebranding and plans for the 2010s (2009–present) Nickelodeon had announced in February 2009 that Noggin and The N were to be rebranded as Nick Jr. and TeenNick to bring both channels in line with the Nickelodeon brand identity. Nickelodeon later announced in May 2009 that Nick Magazine would be discontinued by the end of the year. In July 2009, Nickelodeon unveiled a new logo for the first time in 25 years on the packaging of Nickelodeon DVDs coming out beginning that month, the Australian service, and that year's Nickelodeon Animation Festival, intending to create a unified look that can better be conveyed across all of MTV Networks's children's channels.
As of September 28, 2009, the new logo is used across Nickelodeon, and Nick at Nite, along with the rebranded TeenNick, Nick Jr. and Nicktoons (The N, Noggin and Nicktoons Network, respectively) channels in varying iterations customized for brand unification and refreshment purposes. The Nickelodeon rebrand was created by New York based creative studio Trollbäck + Company. A revised instrumental version of the Nickelodeon audio ident originally performed by The Jive Five was the only part of the "splat logo" era that was retained in the rebrand. Reaction to the rebrand has been largely mixed, though many fans of 1980s and 1990s Nickelodeon have expressed dislike over the rebranded logo. Though it is mainly a wordmark, during the days prior to the 2010 Kids' Choice Awards, the logo bug was given a blimp background to match the award given out at the show. The new logo was adopted in the UK on February 15, 2010, Spain on February 19, 2010, and by Nickelodeon Asia on March 15, 2010. The "Nick on TV5" block on TV5 in the Philippines will adopt the rebranded logo around April or May 2010.
On October 21, 2009, it was announced that Nickelodeon secured the rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise from Mirage Studios. The network plans to develop a new CGI-animated TMNT television series and will partner with fellow Viacom company Paramount Pictures to bring a new TMNT movie to theaters. Both are expected for 2012.
Recently, Nickelodeon has been criticized by the press for dismissing the classic animation shows and creating new and unpopular CGI-type shows. This has hurt the network's reputation for classic and enjoyable television. Another issue is the lack of male leads in shows and too many shows with female leads, turning away the young male viewers.