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Digital Television Transmission Standards

Hemos posted more than 14 years ago | from the what-do-we-want-to-use dept.

Television 233

kcarnold wrote to us with a discussion piece about the digital television standards, covering both what the government is trying, the Sinclair effort as well as some of the technical aspects. Click below to read more or just add your voice to the debate.

I wanted to know what Slashdotters thought about the COFDM vs. 8VSB digital television transmission standard issue. However, I was suprised to find nothing related to this topic in a Slashdot search. This is an important issue, and it's a big one: almost half of the broadcast television stations in the US support the movement, lead by Sinclair Broadcast Group, to change the standard.

Here's the issue (another NY Times article talks about this -- search for DTV). Digital television, or DTV, is projected to replace America's current NTSC transmission system sometime in the earle 21st century. Stations have already begun to move to the new trasmission format. It promises better picture quality, no ghosting, and (here's the big one for "nerds") 19.2 megabits per second of raw binary data. One of the major forseen applications is delivering data like the data on the PointCast Network to mobile devices. Of course, however, the main application is television. Broadcasters have a choice: either they can transmit one channel of amazingly high-resolution, stunningly detailed high-quality video (HDTV), or several channels (4, I think) of standard-quality video, which is better than the video of the current system because there is no ghosting and fading up until a point where it doesn't come in at all. The issue centers over that point.

The current system is known as 8VSB, and it passed advanced laboratory testing and even some basic field testing almost ten years ago. However, last year, when Sinclair did actual, in-home, average-viewer's-setup testing of this system, it didn't work as well as the NTSC system. They could not receive HDTV signals from a station near an NTSC station whose picture came in clear. Then Sinclair did more, and more detailed, tests at home in Baltimore. This time they brought for comparison a sample modulator for the European transmission system called COFDM, and a demodulator / decoder box to receive it. They tried it in streets with tall buildings, parking garages, and apartments, all places where multipath, which causes ghosting, is prevalent. Each time they tested the two systems--European COFDM and American 8VSB, the COFDM receiver picked out its signal without fail--"It was hard to find a place where it didn't work," says my dad, who was part of the testing--but it was hard to find a spot where 8VSB would work. Continued testing convinced Sinclair officials that the current system would not be able to work in the real world, and are pushing for a change to COFDM, a system that has been proven in Europe. They wrote up a petition to the FCC, and almost half of the television stations of the US have signed it.

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233 comments

Re:Digital vs Analog radio communication (1)

amorsen (7485) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554324)

Analog mobile phones have traditionally transmitted a signal containing less information over a wider channel at a lower frequency. The two first parts make reception resist errors better, and the last helps long distance reception.

There is no reason you could not make a digital phone system with the same properties, you just need to get a wide band at a low frequency. Even then the system probably would not support many users.

satellite dishes a no-no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554325)

Really? Doesn't Manhattan fall under the jurisdiction of the FCC?

The FCC has invalidated every single covenant and lease restriction that forbids the pizza dish. If it's impractical to nail the dish to the side of your skyscraper, the owner must mount one on the roof and provide a feed.

A housing developer out here in the cornfields tried to pull this stunt with his arrangement with a local "entertainment provider." Didn't work.

Re:This just might suck, you know. (1)

zigzag (2071) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554326)

You're gonna havta buy converters for all those TV's if you want to keep using them.

digital cable (1)

Luyseyal (3154) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554349)

i live in the austin, tx area and time warner cable offers a service called 'digital cable'. it's pretty nice: lots of channels, good picture quality, extra features.
however, when the signal gets messed up, it's REALLY messed up. also, the compression algorithm they use doesn't work very well for contrasting dark shades. i was watching one show where basically all the dark background colors were smudged together into a black cloud. very ugly.

-l

Re:satellite dishes a no-no (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554350)

Is this true?

If it is where can I find more information on it?

I looked on the FCC website, but the search engine there isn't all that friendly.

Re:"TV is for the rich" or "can poor afford upgrad (1)

clancey (21516) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554351)

It's not just that. The small tv stations probably will not be able to afford to re-do their stations with all the new expensive equipment. They will either get help from the big boys or fold. If they get help, the big guys (networks) most likely get control. All the small towns and rural areas will be either controlled by networks or be shutdown when the days of NTSC die, except of course for 'pirate tv'.

Re:Who cares? (1)

el_chicano (36361) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554352)

how many Slashdotters here give a rat's ass about television, digital or otherwise?

I might be weird but I find that my TV is pretty much on when I am home. My computer is in the same room as my TV so I mainly watch TV while I am working/playing on my computer. I would like to turn the TV off more but the sad fact is that most radio programming is much, much worse (crappy, repetitive music and intrusive, too-loud commercials immediately come to mind).

Maybe this has something to do with me not living in the good ol' U. S. of A.?

Most likely. People in the U.S. watch a lot of TV, sometimes too much for their own good. It would be nice if people from the U.S. would pick up a book (or even a newspaper) every now and then...
--

Re:Finally (2)

reeq (111561) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554353)

Umm... not finally. Heard of PAL? GSM? Metric units? Here in SA we've had nation-wide GSM for 4, 5 (?) years already with the states only just starting.

Re:Just me? (1)

clancey (21516) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554354)

What you don't seem to realize is that we are right now in the middle of deploying the DTV system. Broadcasts began this year. The equipment is being manufactured and shipped right now. This thing began a long time ago. They can't begin to switch to COFDM because they are in the midst of deploying 8VSB equipment. It takes years for acceeptance, but the plan is for NTSC to be extinguished by 2005.

Radical Thought (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554355)

Hey, I've got an idea. How about if the government let's the industry decide for itself.

But wait, you say -- what if we end up with three different standards? Right. It would be just like the battle for 56K modems that is causing us so many problems today. Of course, that battle isn't causing us problems anymore, and the solution would be the same: standards consolidation, or a cable box that supports all three standards.

But then, what happens when someone creates a fourth standard, and it's better? Obviously, the manufacturers would end up making a cable box that is software upgradable. The next step would be for the decoding software to be carried on a cable channel so the decoder can be upgraded on-the-fly. After that, people could plug in their TV, and it would just work. End of problem.

Somewhere along the line, it would occur to people that the decoding software can run on a PC, the Internet and TV broadcasting will merge, and we all live happily ever after.

That isn't what's going to happen, of course. The bureaucrats need to maintain their power base, so they're going to enact a standard, and lock us into a technology that will become increasing obsolete. Then, like the railroads, and radio, and telephones, we won't see any improvements for fifty years. Fortunately, we will be using the Internet to bypass whatever they do. That is, unless they forbid it -- in the name of ensuring access for everyone.

Re:Cable can't carry HDTV (1)

Milosch (8290) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554356)

Since the US broadcast standard for DTV is contained within the same 6MHz channel as NTSC, I propose that cable CAN carry DTV. The main problem is co-channel interference, since 8VSB does use a bit more of the channel than NTSC. It may be necessary to skip channels to avoid this entirely. Will the cable companies do it? Not unless they are forced as were/are the TV stations.

As for switching to COFDM, you can rule that out in the top 11 markets, which have already built transmission systems for 8VSB. I suppose the systems could be modified, but in all liklihood, the cost would be close to purchasing all new equipment. Not gonna happen. Maybe the smaller markets can build agile or go COFDM, which would in fact complicate reception quite a bit.

DV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554364)

someday i'll be able to talk to katie couric on the tv and ask her what's happening.

Finally (1)

samael (12612) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554373)

Finally, somewhere where the EU is ahead of the USA.

We've had digital TV here now for about a year, and it's a _major_ advance over analogue. More channels, easy channel selection (Sky digital has a cool, easy to use menu system) and no picture problems at all.

I haven't seen digital cable yet, but i'm looking forward to it....

Just me? (2)

Issue9mm (97360) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554374)

Okay, is it just me, or is there very little cause for worry here? It appears that the problem is already taking care of itself...
Here's the scenario as I see it:
-Moving to DTV cause it's better
-Adopting 8VSB cause it got approved
-8VSB proving not up to snuff
-Adopting COFDM instead cause it's better

Now, is it just me? Since we're not going to immediately switch over to DTV for awhile anyway, and we've already got almost half (a big number no matter how you look at it) rooting for COFDM, which I view as the better, then it's downhill from there.

Any cable company installing a standard in which the reception isn't healthy isn't going to prosper, plain and simply. There are too many alternatives to your local cable company. Satellite, mini-dish, or, as I do, hook up a big antenna and only receive 5 channels... Works for me.
Synopsis:
-Any stations adopting the weaker standard is going to end up with unhappy customers.
-Unhappy customers means revenue loss

We are FINALLY living in a day and age in which consumers are REALIZING their purchasing power. I mean, c'mon, understandably enough, people are locked into things like Microsoft products because they don't know better... but who doesn't know about satellite. In most communities it's considered an UPgrade.
Anyway, I just think the situation is handling itself properly, and that there isn't any cause for concern... Feel free to flame me with more accurate info if I'm wrong.

Re:Finally (1)

Foogle (35117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554379)

That's an understatement.

Europe's been ahead of us (the US) in television broadcast standards for quite some time now, and the US just doesn't seem to get it. What's more, the general public doesn't seem to care about getting higher-res TV standards implemented here. I suppose it shouldn't suprise anyone though; the general public isn't too picky :)

Let's see some digital TV soon!

-----------

"You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

Another standards war (2)

crow (16139) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554381)

Just what we need, another standards war.

At least this one will most likely be decided by the FCC before consumers have to deal with it. Unfortunately, I don't trust the FCC to make the best decision.

Even if the two standards are equal, I hope the one from Europe wins. That will result in more standard world-wide consumer electronics, which is a good thing. With any luck, they can use this as a chance to eliminate the stupid PAL vs. NTSC vs. SECAM television incompatibility mess.

Re:Finally (3)

GnrcMan (53534) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554382)

Finally, somewhere where the EU is ahead of the USA.

Don't forget GSM phones. They work everywhere but the US.

--GnrcMan--

DTV is not necessarily a good thing (2)

JanneM (7445) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554383)

Here in sweden, the plan is to move over to HDTV as soon as practically possible. However, the box needed i rather expensive and not many channels are yet sending digitally. The consequence is of course that very few (like 500-600) people have bought boxes, which means the stations have not started to broadcast in this format. With a box you still do not get HDTV quality and you won't get any more channels than the regular programming; I for one will not pay a lot of money to get exactly the same (crappy) programming I already have.

Related to this is an effort to move to digital radio, but here the problem is even worse. While a lot of people own regular, cheap, receivers, the digital units are several times more expensive, and since FM radio sounds so good already, there is hardly any incentive to switch.

I do wonder if all that money could not be put to better use producing content that we viewers would actually want to see...

future (1)

DFAMan (100419) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554385)

I have followed the HDTV debate closely for years. YOU are correct. Slashdot readers should be aware that the EU and USA standard are worlds apart in terms of future potential. That is one reason the FCC has not endorsed the EU standard. The FCC is taking a shot accross the bow of the entertainment industry. Broadcast frequencies is an easy first shot, free bandwidth (lets dont go there). I think the FCC wants to hook customers, then reel the cable and satelite providers (and customers) into the HDTV fold.This plays towards the future; with DVD and Internet use by a group (family) in front of the HDTV. I tend to believe the average consumer will not be interesting in buying a new TV unless they can *see* the advantages. Astonishing pictures, DVD, and Internet use WILL shake loose a major revamping of how a comsumer is entertained at home. but thats my opinion and I'm just a farm boy.

There's an additional problem (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554386)

The 3 networks+PBS are bleeding viewership because of the obstinacy over the pizza dish.

The reception in rural areas for over-the-air-broadcasts is quite poor. That's why everyone went to cable, and I mean everyone. The local broadcasting stations demanded cable carry them so they could retain viewership. It worked.

The stations have a different attitude with satellite dishes. They forbid the operators to carry their signal. Nohow, noway, never, even when the air signal is poor and cable is unavailable. People in these areas get pizza dishes, and quickly learn to forget about network programming. Loss of customer base.

Now their friends in town see the amazing picture quality, and drop cable for the dish. Same programming, except no local stations. They get over it quickly enough, and it's more loss of customer base.

Most cable companies have really bad customer relations. I know of one that lost a third of its base in a summer because they jiggered tiers and rates. All of the loss was picked up by dishes, and no dish viewer ever sees any network TV.

I think network programming will disappear from rural areas. Half of the potential customers already have dishes, they're not buying spindly antennas or a $4000 TV. When the remaining half see the price of entry, it's Helllllo EchoStar.

So just who is the intended market for DTV?

The Great HDTV Swindle (5)

severian (95505) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554387)

Some of us old farts on slashdot may remember when Wired Magazine actually ran insightful articles. Here was one that I thought was particularly good. It's called The Great HDTV Swindle [wired.com]. I very highly recommend reading it if you're interested in the whole process by which the HDTV standard in this country was established, in all its ugly detail.

Basically, here's the gist: Broadcast companies could care less about broadcasting HDTV. For all their talk about drastically improving the quality of television, their eyes are on the really big asset they're sitting on: their spectrum.

First, a little history. (Sorry for the slight tangent, but bear with me :-) Unbeknownst to most people, network TV stations are the only companies in the country that get free transmission spectrum. This was done in 1932 (or sometime around then) when there were few other uses for the bandwidth and the government wanted to encourage broadcasting because they felt it would be in the public good to have universal access to this new communications medium. Since then, of course, that spectrum has become incredibly valuable, but the broadcasters continue to get it for free.

Enter HDTV. Using modern compression standards, broadcasters can fit the entire datastream of an HDTV picture into the same 6MHz T.V. channel currently used for NTSC. But broadcast companies started looking at it the other way around. Using modern compression standards, they could fit 6 NTSC channels into one spectrum slice. Or... they could fit 1 NTSC channel into 1/6 the slice, and use the other 5/6 slice for other services e.g. data transmission, cell phones, etc. After all, they're getting a full 6Mhz for free; if they can continue their current broadcasts (thereby continuing their current revenue) and add other profitable services without having to pay for the spectrum, why not?

Look at it this way: they could either use the 6Mhz to a) transmit 1 HDTV channel b) transmit 6 NTSC channels c) transmit 1 NTSC channel and a bunch of other services. It's clear that options b & c would be far more profitable than option a. This is why there is no one HDTV standard, but a whole spectrum of standards. Note how NTSC defines one picture standard, but HDTV defines 18 (all of which must be supported by a TV in order for it to be sold as an "HDTV")! One of those happens to include compressed, digitized NTSC...

Grease the palms of our honorable legislators enough, and it's not hard to get a sweet deal. And the networks are sitting on an incredibly sweet deal. First of all, they can decide which picture standard to use (ranging in quality from crappy NTSC to fullblown HDTV) assured that consumers have paid for the expensive decoder chips to watch whichever standard they choose to broadcast. Secondly, they can decide which mix of channels/services/etc. is the most profitable for them with no regulation whatsoever that forces them to use their spectrum for actually broadcasting HDTV. And they can do it all on free spectrum that otherwise would have cost them $70 billion (according to estimates of how much that spectrum would have fetched the government if it was auctioned)!

Are you feeling sick? Do you want to lead a consumer revolt by not buying HDTV sets? Don't worry; they have that covered too. In 10-15 years, by law, all NTSC broadcasts will be halted and everyone will be forced to switch over to HDTV. Unless you want to quit watching TV of any kind, you *must* purchase an HDTV set. Note how if you have a B&W T.V. from the 40's, you can still watch T.V. today, but 10 years from now, your NTSC set will be useless; why do you think they couldn't come up with a way to maintain backward compatibility when they were defining the HDTV standard? Or at least allow the market to determine the rate of HDTV acceptance as it saw fit? Perhaps because broadcasters knew that once people began to see that they essentially bought expensive new sets in order to watch the same crappy TV just so that the network companies could make more money off their spectrum, no one would buy HDTV sets and networks may have to continue broadcasting NTSC and miss out on all their extra profits...

So to segue back on-topic, broadcasters could care less about the quality of TV transmission and the details about penetration rates, signal quality, etc. etc. Because no matter how bad the transmission quality is, in 10 years, everyone will be forced to adopt the new standard anyway. And why should they care if half the people in their station area can't receive their TV signal and are thus not watching their advertising? They'll be making far more from all those extra services they'll be selling on their newfound $70 billion bandwidth horde...

Re:How many recievers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554388)

I believe dish had already shipped a demodulator module to support HDTV on system 5000(might ship them soon if they didn't yet). It basically takes a bitstream from a satellite, modulates into an off-the-air HDTV format, and feeds into a regular HDTV decoder box. I believe they are planning to rpoduce an integrated box later.. P.S. DirectTV is boradcasting HDTV too,I think...

A few points. (1)

zigzag (2071) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554389)

First, a standard has already been finalized. To reopen the standard now would set back the upgrade to TV technology by ten to fifteen years. Be patient. Remember that it took several years for color TV to be optimized and adopted by the public. The same thing will happen with HDTV.

Second, the motives of the broadcast stations need to be questioned. The FCC was fully aware that the upgrade to HDTV would be painful and expensive for broadcasters. So the FCC made a deal with broadcasters. The broadcasters would get a lot of very valuable spectrum in exchange for upgrading to HDTV. Now that the broadcasters have their share of the multibillion dollar spectrum giveaway, they are hesitating to live up to their end of the bargain. (To be fair, there have been plenty of technical glitches holding things up too.) If the standards process can be reopened, maybe they'll be able to keep the spectrum to profit from it in other ways and never have to pay for the transition to HDTV.

Finally, I must agree that it is unfortunate that nationalism is ruining a great opportunity for a single world-wide standard. But this point should have been raised in the early 1990's.

Re:Have you seen it? (1)

hanway (28844) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554390)

tgd claims: The 35mm crap people see in movie theaters can't hold anything on HD.

I agree that HD is dramatically better than current video standards (NTSC, PAL), but disagree that it's better than film. Film still has a much higher contrast range and resolution than any HDTV standard, and most of the HD material you'll see for years to come is going to continue to originate on 35mm film.

At the moment, the limited HD material that's out there may look quite good compared to a worn film print in a typical movie theater, but if you could see the results side by side, with equal care going into each, I think your conclusion would be different.

Disclaimer: I work for a company that builds systems for digitizing film for, among other applications, HDTV mastering.

to go where no man has gone before . . . (1)

DFAMan (100419) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554391)

I have followed the HDTV debate closely for years. Slashdot readers should be aware that the EU and USA standard are worlds apart in terms of future potential. That is one reason the FCC has not endorsed the EU standard. I believe the FCC is taking a shot accross the bow of the entertainment industry with free Broadcast frequencies and it's an easy first shot (free bandwidth, lets dont go there). I think the FCC wants to hook some customers, then reel the cable and satelite providers (and customers) into the HDTV fold.This plays towards the future; with DVD and Internet use by a group (family) in front of the HDTV. I tend to believe the average consumer will not be interesting in buying a new TV unless they can *see* the advantages. Astonishing pictures, DVD, and Internet use WILL shake loose a major revamping of how a comsumer is entertained at home. but thats my opinion and ***I'm just a farm boy***.

Re:This just might suck, you know. (1)

hanway (28844) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554392)

Wakko Warner asks: What I want to know is, what happens in 6 years when stations quit broadcasting in their current format. Will my non-cable-box-connected, normal, cable-ready televisions still be fine? Or will I have to toss them and buy new ones

AFAIK, while there is a timetable for ending NTSC transmission completely someday, which would require you to toss your equipment or get some kind of converter box, that transmission cutoff won't actually kick in until a high percentage of sets in use are compatible with the new digital standard. Practically speaking, that may not happen for several years beyond the nominal cutoff date.

Re:Radical Thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554393)

I thought of the dynamic encoding scheme, where the decoding algorithm is embedded in the signal, you suggest some years ago, and was very excited myself until I realized that the hardware necessary to implement it would be too expensive for the average consumer. For example, how much horsepower does fullscreen display of software decoded mpeg require? And today's fullscreen monitor resolution is still less than HDTV's.

The FCC takes its job seriously (as hard as that is to believe after living with NTSC), and wants to create a new standard that

1) Can be implemented now
2) Will remain competitive in quality for at least 30 years
3) Won't make TVs expensive (for long. the first generation of TVs will of course be expensive)

They have to balance these factors with all the others slashdotters care about.

You can trust me. I'm a disinterested party, since I only watch the Simpson's, which won't benefit too much from high definition TV.

Wake up and smell the roses (1)

bug1 (96678) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554394)

Your worried that your TV will be obsolete in 6 years ?
What about your PC, itll be obsolete in 2, but i bet you buy another one !
From what i understand, your saying your faced with two choices.
1. Have a new crappy (US) standard that doesnt work very well with new TV's, but is backwards compatable so your existing TV's work just as crappy as your new ones.
OR
2. Have a new standard (closer to a international standard) that has been tested to work well with new TV's and will probably work with old TV's via an adaptor box for a few hundred dollars.

If youve got 6 years to plan ahead and even if it did cost "a couple of thousand" say $2000, then you could start saving now, if you put away $0.90 a day youll be right.

You can bet that with the number of old TV's out there someone will come up with a cheap solution to get your old TV working with the new system.

Youve had the standard broadcasting system for 40 years or so, thats a pretty good run, how long did you expect it last?

If you want to live in a world with technology you have to expect it to become obsolete one day.

Re:Who cares? (1)

hanway (28844) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554410)

IMHO, you should give a lot more of a rat's ass about digital television, even if you don't care about the current crap being broadcast. If things get done right (i.e. the gov't and entrenched broadcasters don't screw things up), this will be a convergence of television and computing. The result? Imagine pipes coming into your house with the bandwidth to handle hundreds of channels of hi-res video and commodity displays capable of 1920x1080.

Broadcast HDTV is irrelevant (1)

hisholiness (32875) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554411)

What Sinclair is worried about is silly. How many people still get their TV by the airwaves in the US?

Also, my understanding is that Sinclair used set top rabbit ears, which the FCC has said won't cut it.

What the FCC should have done is required cable companies to transmit the HDTV signal over their broadband. That way we would not be caring about multipathing and more people would have HDTV sets.

Re:Finally (1)

D. Taylor (53947) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554412)

I really hate the BBC, I don't want their insane
'BBC Knowledge', 'BBC Choice', 'BBC News24' channels,
i dont really care about BBC1 or 2 either, with the
possible exception of RedDwarf there is nothing decent on anymore.


I have never understood why the BBC have the right to
charge *everyone* who *owns* a TV, money. OK, so
they aren't allowed to show adverts, but adverts are useful,
you get a break to, e.g. get a drink, go to the toilet,
move for the first time in ~50 minutes, or whatever.


The BBC currently own British TV, effectively. The sooner they get forced to fund themselves, the better.
--
David Taylor
davidt-sd@xfiles.nildram.spam.co.uk
[To e-mail me: s/\.spam//]

Re:Link (1)

zztzed (279) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554413)

Why does the US need another standard? Because gosh darn it, we're the US. If those damned Europeans are using something, well, by golly, it must be evil. And if they invented it, it must be inferior. Besides, Europe is where the Nazis lived, and everyone knows the Nazis were evil incarnate. You don't have anyone like that here, no sir. We're all honest, God-fearing, hard-working people over here.

And if you believe that...well, I'd just like to ask you, what's the weather like on your planet?

EU has always been ahead in the standards game (2)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554414)

I don't know what it is, but most every major "standard" differs between EU and the US, and to be honest, it tends to seem like the EU versions are much better than what we've come up with.

Re:This just might suck, you know. (2)

Masem (1171) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554415)

AFAIK, there is a fixed point as set by the FCC when the broadcast signals are to be turned off. I want to say 2006, but I might be wrong. Of course, given such findings as these, and the fact that digital TVs are still $3000 or more, the FCC may delay it until the tech catches up appropriately.

When are they gonna learn? (2)

Mononoke (88668) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554416)

When are "people" gonna learn that the general public doesn't care about quality?

Want evidence?

  • VHS beat Beta. Why? Because you could record six hours on a VHS tape. Quality be damned.
  • Prerecorded audio cassettes are still selling.
  • George W. Bush (ok, maybe that's the lesser of many evils)
  • Disney
  • E-Machines
  • Micro$oft

The FCC is forcing broadcasters to convert to digital, and along with it they'll be forcing us to spend money.

Or maybe they are just getting us to throw away our TVs and get lives.

Could be a positive thing after all. (For purposes of this discussion: "People" == The government and/or the manufacturers.)
--

Re:Just me? (1)

JPMH (100614) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554417)

CODFM chipsets are already in volume production -- over 500,000 systems shipped just in the UK already, and accelerating (compared to only 50,000, and slowing, for 8VSB in the US).

Dual standard boxes could be on the market within 3 months of any decision -- after all, it's the same manufacturers making the boxes for both markets.

Why do we have to obsolete NTSC analog? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554418)

In every city I've been to, broadcast channels occupy well under half of the Ch. 2-69 (formerly 2-83) channel spectrum, even in crowded broadcast areas like San Francisco. So why not have every broadcast station mirror their brodcast on an unused UHF channel? Why cease broadcasting in NTSC? I mean, AM radio did not go away when the totally incompatible and superrior FM radio came out, did it? AM and FM took on different roles. AM for news and talk radio and FM for music. And both continue to happily coexist. Why can't NTSC and HDTV do the same?

You and your blasted C++ errors! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554430)

You forgot to include #include !! Imbecile, there is NO C+, only C or C++! Argh! Ahh damnit! There, are you happy? I've gone and soiled myself again.

Re:Radical Thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554431)

I agree with your assessment of the cost at the time you did it. But that was a few years ago, and, since then, costs have come down, and CPU power has increased. I think it's time for you to get excited again.

The next round of cable box is going to use a StrongArm or PPC chip, and is going to run a proper O/S, such as Linux, QNX, Palm O/S, or (shudder) Windows CE. It will be more than powerful enough to do the work without custom decoding chips.

As to what it will cost, consider that you can now buy a powerful Celeron PC for $300 U.S. Now consider that the cable box does not need a video card, sound card, harddisk, floppy drive, CDROM drive, keyboard, mouse, serial port, parallel port, PCI-bus slots, tower case with status lights and switches, or a 200 watt power supply with a fan. The cable box basically needs a CPU and some memory, and I think that it's not unreasonable to expect it to cost well below $100 when sold in volume.

Re:Just me? (1)

JPMH (100614) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554432)

There's a bit more to it. You can't set up both standards, they'd be on the same allocated frequency and so would not play well. You also can't set up just COFDM, because the government has required all stations to be broadcasting an 8VSB signal by a certain date (which I don't remember offhand, anyone wanna help me here?) Unless the federal government changes the legislation and/or regulation, we're stuck with 8VSB

Exactly. Sinclair etc are petitioning to be allowed the choice of which format to broadcast in. For more details (and who to write to if you want to support them), see http://www.sbgi.net/dtv/ [sbgi.net].

Re:EU has always been ahead in the standards game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554433)

Hard for me to be objective, but I suspect that in most cases, you're right. The USA created NTSC (btw, in the spoof, "T" stands for "twice the"). Europe took practicalities into account and created PAL, a more robust system. It seems that moneyed interests don't have the stranglehold in Europe with regards to setting standards that they do in the USA; technical merit counts more in Europe, as I see it.

Nicholas Bodley // nbodley@tiac.net

Re:Global Harmonisation (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554434)

I need to ask...who cares? Like anyone in Europe would pick up the signles generated here anyway. Actually a different standard here might be good..that way maybe we'll produce the stuff in the US, instead of relying on another country. It seems rediculous to me that memory prices rose b/c of an earthquake in one country.

EU standards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554435)

But how could that be? Are you suggesting that there are areas in which a more socialist mix of policies might be preferable?!

Digital Theater not to be trusted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554436)

I hope I'm very wrong. However, 8VSB seems to be defended by fanatics. 'Nuff said.

Re:Who cares? My Point Exactly (1)

GreyFauk (18632) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554437)

Besides the obvious baby-boom in 9 months...
The cessation of all TV tomorrow would not be a bad
thing. Network TV turns your brain to cottage cheese
and it dribbles out on your pillow when you sleep.
Cable programming isn't much better.

If there was cable/satellite service that offered
educational-only programming... I might subscribe.
Even then I still wouldn't watch it that much.

Life is too short to watch fantasies all day.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a book... even if it's fiction
you'll still be working your brain cells more than tv.



COFDM doesn't require a roof antenna (1)

JPMH (100614) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554439)

The thing you don't mention is something that will doom HDTV - it requires a roof antenna!

This is why Sinclair are so desperate to have COFDM -- for most of each market it doesn't need a roof antenna. 8-VSB not only needs the roof antenna, but you have to rotate the antenna round to point at different TV towers when you change channels.

Re:Broadcast HDTV is irrelevant (1)

GreyFauk (18632) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554440)

I think you missed the post explaining that
HDTV over cable is not possible. *shrug*
Now doesn't THAT just suck. (assuming you watch tv)

Crappy radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554443)

It's not for everybody (likely to require, or stimulate thought), and may not match extreme politics, but how about National Public Radio, and Public Radio International? There are some darned good shows there! One of our local public stations (WBUR, Boston) carries the BBC World Service, part-time, probably from a digital satellite downlink. (Recently, has had some repeating-frame stutters...)

Nicholas Bodley

Re:Do whatever. As long as it's backwards compatib (1)

hadron (139) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554461)

I take it you don't know much about broadcast signals then.

three words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554462)

Set top box.

I saw digital TV in the Harris truck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554463)

By a fortunate stroke of fate, I was able to watch HDTV on a wide-screen CRT studio monitor (About 33" diagonal) fed directly from a satellite downlink, in the Harris DTV demo van. Believe me, it's so gorgeous, you just don't want to stop watching. What I saw was a ~2hr. loop of low-altitude flights, a travelogue, over Ireland.

Nicholas Bodley // nbodley@tiac.net

Japan's HDTV history (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554464)

Japan pushed analog technology quite far, and afaik, with quite-impressive results. Unfortunately, their analogue system was a technological dead end, and either has been abandoned, or will be. Sad.

Nicholas Bodley // nbodley@tiac.net

Re:satellite dishes a no-no (1)

Quickening (15069) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554465)

Yes it's true. Part of FCC's "digital" initiative. Try http://www.nab.org/legal/

Re:Have you seen it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554466)

yeah, i'm sure HDTV is better
THAN 8mm
but that's it
it's not better than 36mm

I can see Monica's pores! (2)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554469)

Cable is getting almost as bad as Network TV. Its such a bloated, condescending medium, but its the focus of so many people's lives. I'm sure someone will appreciate HDTV, at the very least they can make me an HDTV DVD player.

"With my new TV I can see the twinkle in Matthew Perry's eye!"

Re:A few points. (1)

JPMH (100614) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554471)

To reopen the standard now would set back the upgrade to TV technology by ten to fifteen years. Remember, COFDM is already up and running in Europe, and already approved in large parts of the rest of the world.

Mostly the boxes (and transmitters) are made by exactly the same manufacturers.

For a lot of the transmitters, switching from 8-VSB to CODFM would just be a firmware patch, requiring no hardware changes at all.

As for the reception, with so many COFDM systems already in volume production in the rest of the world, I would be surprised if it took longer than about 3 months to get boxes into the shops.

To grant Sinclair's petition would if anything be likely to accelerate consumer uptake, and accelerate the transition to digital.

Re:This just might suck, you know. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554472)

uhm, sorry dude but in 6 years all those TVs will be dead beyond repair anyway.

Global Harmonisation (1)

YuppieScum (1096) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554480)

The is great news. To see worthwhile technical issues become more important than the petty bickering of national politics and the "Not Invented Here" syndrome.

A selfish view perhaps, but I'll be able to buy a "state-of-the-art" TV that will actually work when I go back to England.

Now, how long before the US goes GSM..?

What can we do? (1)

crow (16139) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554481)

So the FCC has a petition from half the US television stations to reconsider the digitial broadcasting standard; what can we do to encourage the FCC to act? Sure, we can send email, phone them, or even use postal mail, but which methods will they listen to, and which will just annoy them?

Digital vs Analog radio communication (2)

orulz (98036) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554482)

Now it seems to me that the European system is definitely better. But regarding general digital transfer of information over the airwaves, I'd like to bring up a point. Anybody who has used a digital "cellular" phone can say that when it works it has much better audio quality than an analog phone. But if you talk to a sales representative, you'll hear that if you live in an outlying area that you'll definitely want to opt for analog or dual-band. This is due to two reasons, obviously the digital networks are not as widespread as the analog networks. However, in addition, the digital towers have to be about 3 times closer together to ensure a signal. I'd imagine that this is because with digital, you are either getting clear enough reception to get a signal, or you're not, whereas an analog phone can deal with weak signals by simply having sound that's less clear. Error correction can probably in some way compensate for this, but obviously it doesn't work as well because the towers still need to be closer.

Now the point of my response - will the same thing be true of digital TV? Will the broadcast area for each station not be able to reach as far? This study on 8VSB vs CODFM does seem to indicate that there is the potential for this problem. I live in a somewhat outlying area, I don't have cable, and half the stations that I get come from about 100 miles away (and over quite a few mountains) so the signal is fairly weak. If digital TV means that I won't be able to get the CBS and NBC stations that come out of the next state, then as far as I'm concerned it's useless.

Who cares? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554483)

Note: this is not a troll. Neither it's a flamebait. Nothing of this sort. It is a honest question.

Really, how many Slashdotters here give a rat's ass about television, digital or otherwise? I for one turn my TV set on during natural disasters (e.g. elections). Maybe this has something to do with me not living in the good ol' U. S. of A.?

Posting as AC
Not willing to take one big
Karma hit. People...

I have digital TV (1)

bencc99 (100555) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554485)

Digital TV has been here in the UK for about a year now. I've had it for about 6 months. The difference over analogue TV is amazing. Sharp crisp pictures, with no fuzziness or ghosing, and superb sound quality. Once you have it you cannot go back. The extra features of digital TV, allowing shopping, and even games and email through the TV makes it well worthwhile.

HDTV's problems are many, not just VSB vs. CODFM (4)

Argyle (25623) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554487)

I am a professional television broadcaster. I run engineering for one of the major channels on almost all cable systems. HDTV is almost surely doomed to failure.

First and foremost, the majority of Americans watch TV via cable or direct-to-home satellite. There is currently no way for consumers to get HDTV programming this way. There is no benefit to cable companies to send HDTV to cable customers. HDTV uses up much bandwidth and there is no way for cable headeds to insert their own commercials. The VSB vs. CODFM debate is small potatoes compared to the fact that no HDTV is available via cable system.

Second, there are *no* standards for broadcasting HDTV besides transsmission. Broadcasters are free to choose any systems that fits into the VSB transmission system. There is not even agreement on making the system progressive (what computers use) or interlaced (what analog TVs use). This has led to a bad situation for the television set makers. They have to make a choice on the 'native display format' for they televisions. That means that if Sony make a 720 Progressive tube set, all broadcasts not in 720P must be deinterlaced or upconverted to that format. That conversion leads to even more picture degredation

Remember, the base HDTV signal used in post-production is 1.5 GHz and that is squeezed down to 19.4 Mbit/s for transmission. Compression can only go so far.

Lastly, while the VSB vs. CODFM indeed does rage, that is nothing compared to the simple fact that there is no business reason to broadcast HDTV. The only reason broadcasters are doing it is because the FCC is forcing them to do it. No one has been able to demonstrate any revenue plan for HDTV yet.

BTW, what people have in Europe is digital television, it is not High Definition TV. All of the direct-to-home satellite services in America are basically the same as DTV in Europe. I think that Dish Network even uses the DVB (European) format for transmission. Currently, Europe has no HDTV.

Don't Make It Worse (2)

Effugas (2378) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554489)

Whenever I start fixing a misbehaving system, I always abide by one rule:

Don't Make It Worse.

If I give up on fixing the thing for one reason or another, that's fine. I only have so much time in the day. But I'm not going to leave until I get it back, at least, to where it was before I arrived.

It's an issue of trust, and one of reputation: I can't afford to be known as somebody who you much rather have never walked in the door in the first place.

The revelation now that the present DTV standard doesn't even meet the reliability levels of NTSC is jawdropping. You mean to tell me I'm more respectful of my clients than an entire industry?!

The existence of a superior DTV standard from Europe is not particularly relevant to this foulup--NTSC was around ten years ago, and so were the early development versions of the American DTV standard. How, exactly, could it not be noticed that there were large, vast swathes of viewer who would recieve minimal reception even when NTSC offered perfect picture?

How, praytell, did this avoid any and every discussion of the technology?

My guess is that many an R&D budget went into developing the American standard, and should that standard have been left unadoped, upper management would have had to write it all off as a loss--such a significant accounting would be detrimental to the future of Digital TV, and the jobs of all the researchers.

So the reliability issues were supressed, with the improved quality being the siren call that would get widespread industry support. "Color made people watch more TV. More color and more channels means more ad minutes, means more money!", so were told the networks. "Imagine every American being forced to buy a new TV!", and the consumer electronics industry signed on.

And the consumer? "More channels...more quality...all free! You just need new equipment, or you lose all TV." Note, the lack of any less...any downsides...and apparently some degree of truth.

We're really lucky that the European standard actually does do what the American standard was supposed to.

If it wasn't for it, we'd not have known until it was far too late.

Don't think it's purely selfless devotion to the consumer that's leading that standard replacement alliance...suddenly, a large number of television stations just realized that it's very likely that only the biggest stations with the most skilled engineers and highest quality equipment would actually be able to get their signals broadcast successfully.

Anyone else depending on purely off the shelf hardware would be screwed...maybe, just maybe that was the idea?

Yours Truly,

Dan Kaminsky
DoxPara Research
http://www.doxpara.com

Re:Just me? (1)

YuppieScum (1096) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554491)


Any cable company installing a standard in which the reception isn't healthy isn't going to prosper, plain and simply. There are too many alternatives to your local cable company.

Unfortunately not true. Many (if not most) cable operators have a monopoly in their area of operation, so you're stuck with the service they provide, whatever.

Also, in some areas (Manhatten for one), satellite dishes are a no-no.

Still, as long as I can get a DTV that supports NTSC (and PAL) as well as the digital feed, then the cable companies choice doesn't matter, 'cos i'll be using their decoder box anyway (and ghosting won't matter, 'cos it's not broadcast). Either that, or a DTV cable box that outputs S-Video or even composite.




USA vs. The World (1)

David Ham (88421) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554493)

basically, this is an issue of the US using their own product, even when the other option is inferior. my father is the Senior Director of Broadcast Engineering at WETA (Washington Education Telecommunications Association) in D.C. (quite a title, eh?) he's normally a very patriotic american and was at first in favor of the US standard, but after researching it more, it seems clear that the European standard is better. the problem is, the US is going to use their own standard because it was created here and there's that sense of pride. i find it pretty ridiculous that we're passing up quality for pride.

Have you seen it? (2)

tgd (2822) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554494)

For anyone who hasn't seen HD digital television in person, its hard to appreciate how drastic a difference it really does make in the viewing experience.

The first time I saw HD programming was at the Newseum in Washington DC (great place to visit if you're ever in the area). I was *stunned* and stopped in my tracks when I walked around the corner and saw it.

I'm a geek and a film guy. Film was the field of choice when I was in school. The 35mm crap people see in movie theaters can't hold anything on HD. Night and day. Really, until you've seen it you can't appreciate how amazing it really is.

I hope these issues get resolved quickly so people have more confidence in buying sets, and prices start to drop. The art of video and film deserves to be seen that way. Its good to see that there is finally serious pressure to drop the DTV standard we've got now for a better one.

UK Competition (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554500)

In the UK there is intense competition between digital satellite (SKY) and digital terrestrial broadcasting, so much so that set top boxes for either system are free provided you subscribe for 12 months.

Hopefully competition wouild sort out the winners in the US too.

Re:This just might suck, you know. (2)

dominion (3153) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554501)

What of the millions of people who can't *afford* new HDTVs or the little box to convert down to "normal" broadcast signals of today? Do they get told, "Sorry, you're fucked"? There are plenty of people out there that simply will not stand for this, if the options are either buy a new television or give up TV.

Let's see, the poor can't afford the new televisions, so they're forced to no longer watch TV. This results in a massive amount of culture and independant thinking amongst the poor, sort of re-emergance of the "Harlem Renaissance". Suddenly, millions of people realise that they don't need television, and that they can create their own entertainment that is beyond almost anything ever put on the boob tube.

And meanwhile, the rich and middle class are watching reruns of "Seinfeld" in beautiful HDTV quality.

So, what's the problem, again?


Michael Chisari

Re:COFDM doesn't require a roof antenna (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554502)

I've been something of an insider in the DTV field since Sept. '98, when (under fantastic circumstances, partly very hazardous) I went to Wash., D.C. for the NAB [Symposium, iirc]. The field-test reports convinced me that something was hugely wrong with 8VSB propagation, and that COFDM is superior except in its susceptibility to impulse interference. The presentation of just-peachy results of COFDM field trials in Spain was by a nice, but frightfully-nervous woman engineer (very competent). Fortunately, nobody gave her a hard time, at all. The story I like (from a newsletter) is about the DTV receiver in Europe (or the U.K.?) that had its coax. antenna cable connected to nothing at the far end. Somebody stuck a bent paper clip into the center contact: Presto! Lovely picture!

As to outdoor antennas, sadly true. Multipath echoes, which we see as ghosts on analog TV, wreak havoc (intersymbol interference, fairly sure) on an 8VSB signal. Although a couple of companies claim to have ghost-canceller chips, they may not work, because the noise is raised with the signal. The FCC seems to be putting blind faith in these chips; their attitude is that a chip will fix 8VSB's problems. I'm not holding my breath.

I sent a spoof about channel surfing with 8VSB to a DTV newsletter, saying that military gun-mount position servo technology and reinforced towers (and antennas) should allow slewing to the new azimuth in maybe 1/2 second. I also kidded about the passionate channel surfer who had a chimney-mount antenna, and made his chimney fall apart from the reaction torque. The spoof was published, as a spoof. Electronically-steerable antennas (such as phased arrays) might be a (costly?) solution.

The reluctance to recognize the deficiencies of 8VSB has been a fantastic example of stubbornness.

There are other advantages of COFDM: Additional transmitters on the same frequency can fill holes in the coverage, or extend it; iirc, Singapore has very good success that way, with several low-power transmitters instead of the megawatt-category apparently needed for 8VSB. Not only that, but multipath echoes actually help COFDM reception!

As to display standards, quite apart from transmission standards, the situation is a muddled mess; iirc, there are 13 of them! The FCC waffled shamelessly and spinelessly in failing to define our display standards, and decided to let the market sort matters out. (Find out about "Table 3', iirc.)

COFDM also works very nicely for portable and mobile receivers; maybe not so important for TV, but for data, another story.

Yrs. trly. predicts that DTV transmitters will be used more for data, and less for DTV, than we expect, in the future.

Finally, HDTV may get a very bad reputation, because some program material will be upconverted from NTSC analog. Real HDTV is so good that you are likely to be able to tell what kind of cloth a garment is made of, at least sometimes, it seems; maybe not exactly, but that idea. You have to see the real thing to believe it.

Nicholas Bodley (find my e-mail (it's real) from another post; I don't want to be slashdotted!)

Re:Digital vs Analog radio communication (3)

JPMH (100614) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554503)

It's known as the cliff effect -- analogue signals just get slowly worse and worse, but once you start losing digital packets, you lose *everything*, because they might be coding for the most significant bits.

It really depends how bad the picture is that you see on analogue TV at the moment. If the major problem is 'ghosting', ie spurious extra images caused by multiple reflection paths off the mountains, COFDM is particularly good at sorting these out to achieve constructive interference between the different paths.

If the major problem is 'snow', a signal amplifier box can help, just like for analogue TV. But if there's too much snow, this will destroy the digital signal.

One other trick with COFDM is that the TV company can add additional transmitters on the same frequency to sort out reception blackspots. With analogue signals this would just cause particularly bad destructive interference, and would be a Bad Idea. But because COFMM can make the two signals interfere constructively, this opens the door to networks of transmitters all on the same frequency.

This article [digitaltelevision.com] by Craig Birkmaier is very good on COFDM vs 8-VSB generally, and covers the possibility of Single Frequency Networks in a bit more detail.

Digital cinema is in the works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554504)

A newsletter I read sometimes mentions digital cinema; still in the development stage. Tough nut to crack; one matter is that you don't want to be able to see scan lines or discrete pixels even in the front seat rows.

Nicholas Bodley

Re:HDTV's problems are many.. US HDTV is here now (1)

Quickening (15069) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554505)

When, Jim?! I'm leaning toward Directv because they're already downloading and have a settop box planned for Dec. I'd much rather have a linux box with direct access to the MPEG stream! (hint: ethernet port)

Re:Have you seen it? (1)

Quickening (15069) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554507)

Latest thing in hollywood is direct digital cameras. Film, thankfully, is goin' bye-bye.

I'm not convinced. 8VSB's probs. == dirty secret (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554509)

Sorry, although you make a strong case, my reading on the matter for the past year makes me believe that 8VSB is simply not satisfactory, and it may not be practical/cost-effective to make it work. Changing soon to COFDM is not costly now; it will be, in the future. Seems there are some fanatics defending a losing cause, here.

Yup, I've posted some other messages in this thread. However, I'm knowingly hiding behind the A.C. cover for this message.

You're quite likely to be right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554510)

Millions pissed off? You betcha! The guy with the 10-year-old TV in the pizza shop won't pay squat for a converter box, no matter what miracles of cost-effectiveness it contains.

While I'm far from being an expert, I've been sent some "insider" posts to the OpenDTV mailing list, read up on the topic to a fair degree, and the End of Analog could make the Russian Revolution seem somewhat tame (kidding).

Same A.C. as before...

Re:This just might suck, you know. (1)

bbillian (19067) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554513)

First question for you, have you seen an HDTV tv with an HD image on it yet? If not, you probably don't understand what HD really offers. The image quality is MUCH better then current NTSC signals, as is the audio.

Next thing is that in the time before the FCC HDTV mandate goes into effect the boxes for converting HDTV signals to NTSC standard signals will be very inexpensive. An example of this is that fact that Hauppauge, and other computer TV card vendors, are in the very near future going to be offering HDTV cards for the PC at around $300. At that price a company would easily be able to embed a chip like that into a converter box and those boxes to the cable companies, and they in turn, could rent them to you, just as the ordinary converter boxes of today. Look at the price of the chips and all, it would not be too hard to see that it would not be prohibitively expensive to have one of those for every every tv.

To answer the question about wether you will be able to use your current cable ready TVs, the answer is yes and no. Just hooking the cable up from the wall into the tv will not work as far as I know. But, there are actually a couple of ways that you could make it work, a)hook the converter box up to the TV and turn the TV to channel 4 (or 3) and use the converter box to change channels OR b)there may be a way (I haven't seen this technology yet) to have a converter box convert all of the signals all the time so that your cable ready TVs would not be able to notice a difference between that and an ordinary NTSC signal OR c)cable companies may offer a special service where they would convert all of the channels at the head end and then send a set of signals out that could be recieved natively by the old NTSC TVs.
I feel, to a certain extent, that the things that you are worrying about not go to be that bad. I know that in many areas, the cable companies are starting to offer digital cable. This requires a converter box even for you normal everyday NTSC TVs,(same as the HDTV plan that you are worrying about) but the thing is that it offers better picture quality and audio. I know many people who love this, and feel that the trade off for the converter box is worth it.

I'm not sure this whole thing was planned out right, except maybe with the question, "How can the electronics and television industries make a shitload of money in one fell swoop?" being the only objective. What of the millions of people who can't *afford* new HDTVs or the little box to convert down to "normal" broadcast signals of today? Do they get told, "Sorry, you're fucked"? There are plenty of people out there that simply will not stand for this, if the options are either buy a new television or give up TV.
This was not really the driving force behind the movement. I think that the advantages of HDTV HEAVILY outweigh the disadvantages of it.

All in all, I think that HDTV is an EXTREMELY worth while technology. I feel that once people move to HDTV, they will never ever come back to standard NTSC.

Re:USA vs. The World (1)

David Ham (88421) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554520)

other option is inferior

i'm an idiot. i even previewed it too. anyway, change inferior to superior

Some Info (3)

SpiceWare (3438) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554521)

I hang out at Digital Theater [digitaltheater.com] to keep up with Digital TV happenings. They've had many discussions on this topic, and recommend reading the FCC report, DTV REPORT ON COFDM AND 8-VSB PERFORMANCE [fcc.gov]. The summary of which is

Both 8-VSB and COFDM have certain advantages and disadvantages. Both systems are capable of providing viable DTV service. We do not find that at this time the performance potential of either system is clearly superior in all respects. Based on our discussions with CE manufacturers and recent announcements by semiconductor manufacturers, we believe that reasonable solutions to the multipath issue and indoor reception problems raised by Sinclair are being developed and should be available in the near future. We also believe that COFDM's benefits for large single frequency network operation and mobile service may not be important or meaningful given the current structure of broadcasting in the United States. Further, we believe that 8-VSB has some advantages with regard to data rate, spectrum efficiency and transmitter power requirements. Accordingly, at this time, we find that the relative benefits of changing the DTV transmission to COFDM are unclear and would not outweigh the costs of making such a revision. We therefore recommend that the ATSC 8-VSB standard be retained.

8-VSB was choosen over COFDM during the 9 year period in which the DTV standards were created. One of the major benefits of 8-VSB is it covers a much larger area which is a very important benefit in the US. It also carries more data than COFDM, which means a better picture can be received. In Europe, where everything is much closer together and multipath is a bigger problem, COFDM was choosen as their broadcast standard.

The 8-VSB reception problems shown by Sincliar were exhibited in 1st generation HDTV sets. The manufacturers of the sets have already come up with better ways of cancelling out the multi-path interference that plays havoc with HDTV reception. The newest sets work much better than the 1st generation, and it is expected this trend will continue.

The general consensus at Digital Theater [digitaltheater.com] is that Sinclair is not pursuing this for the benefit of us, but for their own benefit as they stand to gain a lot financially if the US changes to COFDM.


This just might suck, you know. (3)

Wakko Warner (324) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554522)

I have seven televisions in my house, shared amongst my family. Right now, they all are connected to cable and only two of them have cable boxes. The rest are cable-ready, meaning I don't need to purchase or rent another cable box from the company to get a picture and sound on my TV. I'm very happy with the current setup.

In 6 years, I imagine most of the televisions in our house will still be in service. TVs last a long time, and I'm not concerned with the "latest and greatest" stuff as long as I can watch the occasional show or Yankee game.

What I want to know is, what happens in 6 years when stations quit broadcasting in their current format. Will my non-cable-box-connected, normal, cable-ready televisions still be fine? Or will I have to toss them and buy new ones, something that'll probably end up costing a couple thousand dollars if I have to replace 5 or more sets. If the latter turns out to be the case, I can assure you that I and *millions* of other Americans will be incredibly pissed off.

I'm not sure this whole thing was planned out right, except maybe with the question, "How can the electronics and television industries make a shitload of money in one fell swoop?" being the only objective. What of the millions of people who can't *afford* new HDTVs or the little box to convert down to "normal" broadcast signals of today? Do they get told, "Sorry, you're fucked"? There are plenty of people out there that simply will not stand for this, if the options are either buy a new television or give up TV.

Do I have my facts messed up? Is this really what's going to happen in a scant 6 years' time? If so, it's going to backfire bigtime. Expect to see common analog signals being broadcast far into the future alongside HDTV signals, until the marketshare of people with older, "inferior" TVs is such that ignoring them and turning off the analog broadcast towers for good is more cosf-effective than not.

If I'm wrong, someone please enlighten me.

- A.P.
--


"One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

COFDM works pretty well for me (1)

Richard Lamont (27936) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554523)

Because of the low transmitter powers, and the inherent vulnerability of any `quart-into-a-pint-pot' modulation scheme to impulsive noise ('cos of Shannon's Law), I get a lot of two-second freezes of the picture during thunderstorms, even though the signal strength is a good 12dB above threshold in normal conditions. Electrical interference can be a problem for the same reason, so you need a good outdoor antenna and double-screened (e.g. RG6 or CT100) co-ax cable. Having done that, it works very well most of the time.

Here in the UK, all TV is on UHF. In countries which use VHF, multipath is likely to be a bigger problem: COFDM is really neat at tackling it.

There's some good background material on COFDM on the BBC Research Department [bbc.co.uk] web site.

Re:Just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554524)

There's a bit more to it. You can't set up both standards, they'd be on the same allocated frequency and so would not play well. You also can't set up just COFDM, because the government has required all stations to be broadcasting an 8VSB signal by a certain date (which I don't remember offhand, anyone wanna help me here?) Unless the federal government changes the legislation and/or regulation, we're stuck with 8VSB

Re:HDTV's problems are many.. US HDTV is here now (1)

Jim Buzbee (517) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554525)

Note that Echostar (Dish/TV) is broadcasting high resolution HDTV now from their satellites. You can check it out at various retaliers such as Sound Track. I believe the feed originates from HBO and is a test feed only, but it shows that the technology is already there. With additional satellites going up all of the time, you should be able to get High Res HDTV all over the United States. I don't think that Europe has anything comparable.

Note also that Echostar will be using Linux for at least some of their HDTV set-top boxes, and that's why I work there :-).

Re:HDTV's problems are many, not just VSB vs. CODF (1)

Iggy (1156) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554526)

You're quite correct. We *do not* have HDTV here in the UK, and i don't think they do in most parts of Europe either.

Even taking this into account, the picture from digital is still considerably better than standard analogue broadcast television. The most benefits seems to be come with films, the better AC3 (5.1) sound, better picture quality etc.


Getting back to the point, i thought that Japan was one of the only places to have had real HDTV for a while, although i believe that this was analogue HDTV. Maybe i'm wrong.

Anybody from Japan like to contribute and let us know how good/bad you're system is.


Iggy

How many recievers? (1)

Argyle (25623) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554527)

Yes, the technology exists to use DTH for HDTV. But are the recievers available to the public?

How many HDTV signals will be broadcast with Echostar's plan to broadcast local NTSC stations in the top 30 markets still moving forward? There's only so much transponder space.

Re:Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554528)

#define "cell-coverage.h"
#define "world.h"

const coverege C_EVERYWHERE = G_EARTH;

coverage everywhere = C_EVERYWHERE;
everywhere = everywhere - usa;
everywhere = everywhere - japan;

cout (everywhere != C_ANYWHERE);

...

1

Re:Who cares? (1)

asmussen (2306) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554529)

Well, I imagine that a lot of people here care about television, even if they do spend more time in front of their computer monitors. I for one follow several shows. Seven Days, Farscape, Sliders, Stargate SG-1, and Earth Final Conflict all come to mind. I also like to watch a little TV while I eat dinner, but other than all of that I'm not a big TV watcher. I turn it on once and a while when I am bored, and don't feel like doing much, but usually end up turning it back off after seeing my choices. Even if they aren't glued to your set like the average couch potato, I think that most people still have shows that they enjoy to watch regularly. Maybe you're right about the difference being with where you live. TV certainly is more predominate here in the US than elsewhere.

Re:DTV is not necessarily a good thing (1)

el_chicano (36361) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554550)

I do wonder if all that money could not be put to better use producing content that we viewers would actually want to see...

You hit the nail right on the head. Now if only the broadcasters would get it through their thick skulls that CONTENT IS KING!
--

Do whatever. As long as it's backwards compatible. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554551)

If they could make color TV signals compatible backwards compatible with black and white TV sets, they they ought to be able to make HDTV backwards compatible with current sets. If they' can't then they aren't trying hard enough.

Re:Just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554552)

I don't think cable reception is an issue... I've never had to adjust my rabbit ears on my cable... and how hard is it to increase the signal strength on your own network?


but then again, you run into the issues of line noise, dirty cable, etc...

but you'll run into those either way.

Cable can't carry HDTV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554553)

Cable tech was developed in the 70s, when the government was telling cable cos to come up with a system that carried a great many narrow-bandwidth channels. It excels at that. HDTV would mean changing that to a few huge-bandwidth channels.

Cable cos are very busy spending $ for internet and landline phone access, so don't expect this change to happen anytime soon.

Anyway, which digital standard are we talking about, anyway? There are 18 of them, mostly mutually incompatible, and each requiring a different TV, and only some of them are HDTV. My Crotchfield catalog lists but one digital TV, a Panasonic, for 2 grand. It's only SDTV, a lousy 480 lines.

The thing you don't mention is something that will doom HDTV - it requires a roof antenna! Who was the goof that came up with that? Sounds like an Ira Magaziner to me. The last thing anyone wants to deal with is one of those turkeys. And besides, the best HDTV won't be half as good as DirectTV is today. Hooray for the pizza dish.

Let ABCNBCCBSPBS spend their bucks converting me to HDTV. They'll go broke trying, and the sooner the better.

Re:How many recievers? (1)

Jim Buzbee (517) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554554)

I'm not sure what is available on the market right now but I know that we are moving full steam ahead with our high-res HDTV boxes. The infrastructure is in place, and it's only a matter of time.

"TV is for the rich" or "can poor afford upgrade?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1554555)

Just what we don't need. A new "standard" being chosen and the forced expiration of the old standard such that everyone is forced to buy all new hardware or be left out. Of course, only the wealthy will be able to afford to switch to the new tech. The poor will not and when the old standard is dropped, the poor will find themselves further separated from the upper classes. HDTV is a stake that will drive classes into further disparity because TV is currently something near all can enjoy right now. HDTV takes that away from some. Guess who?

Re:Finally (1)

Iggy (1156) | more than 14 years ago | (#1554556)

I'm guessing that you are british, sorry if i'm wrong.

The biggest thing at the moment though is the increased TV license fee that they want to stick on those people who have digital.

In one breath the BBC et.al are saying that they are trying to get digital tv accepted into as many homes as possible so that they can shut down the analogue network, then they go and hike up the price of the TV license for those people who are actually helping them acheive what they want..


I do agree with you on the extra features though.

I feel that this is the thing that will probably make or break the acceptance of digital TV here in the UK.

If people have a load of extra options available with their digital TV such as email, home shopping, web browsing then the chances are they will pay the increased license fee, but if all they get is a few extra channels, most with repeats on, then people will just stick with what they've already got.


You'd be suprised how many people are quite happy looking at a picture that has ghosting, color merging etc. if they don't have to pay an extra 35 quid for it :))


Iain
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