AOH :: HDTVWAR.TXT|
The secret war behind HDTV
The Secret War Behind HDTV
High Definition Television, HDTV, is the newest electronic gadget for our
home entertainment systems.
Because it doubles the number of scan lines per picture, HDTV produces a
sharper picture; inaddition, signal format changes required by HDTV will
result in better reception with fewer problems from ghosts, snow, and channel
interference on our home TV sets. Still these advantages do not explain why
the greatest government- industry effort since World War II is aimed at the
Obviously HDTV means one thing to the consumer, home entertainment, but
another to government and industry. One difference is that the US government
and industry both desire domestic sources of advanced technology and they see
HDTV as one way to get it.
For example, the automobile industry uses advanced electronics for antilock
brakes, solid state displays for consoles, tire pressure monitoring, engine
controls, cruise controls, radios. cd systems, and collision avoidance
systems. If these advanced technologies are not available from American
sources, then American automobile companies and the American defense
establishment will necessarily be dependent on our foreign competitors for
The easiest fix for this problem is to provide American companies with an
electronics consumer products market. Only about 10% of American
semiconductor output goes into consumer goods, i.e., autos, stereos, watches,
calculators, appliances, televisions etc. In contrast, over 40% of the
Japanese semiconductor output goes to consumer goods.
This disparity shows up as there is almost no American producer of fax
machines, vcr's, camcorders, tape recorders, radios, digital watches,
televisions, laser discs, and compact discs and hence no easy cash for
research and development needs.
Now along comes HDTV. Not only will HDTV be electronics intensive, HDTV will
be a $500 billion dollar market in the US alone over the next 50 years.
Government and industry have jumped into this market battle with both feet.
The center of government industry activity is the Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency, DARPA. One of DARPA's purposes is to sponsor product
development related to future defense needs. This is a broad charter which
finds DARPA funding x-ray lithography development for advanced semiconductor
technology on one hand and evaluating currency tracking schemes for drug
enforcement agency on the other.
So far, DARPA has awarded 5 contracts to develop aspects HDTV technologies
for a total of $30 million dollars. Additional authorization for $300 million
dollars of funding is expected for 1991.
Not withstanding the current research, American success in HDTV, and quite
lightly the industrial success in electronics, lies not with technology but
with a government regulatory body, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC).
For instance, the Japanese are ready to market a complete HDTV system which
uses a picture with 1125 horizontal lines interlacing 60 times a second in a 8
megahertz bandwidth. But the Europeans are developing a system largely
incompatible with Japan's.
Europe will use 1125 horizontal lines per picture interlacing 50 times a
second in a 12 megahertz bandwidth. The FCC as yet to select an American
standard, so American companies are not even developing one. Selection of the
Japanese or European standard would effectively freeze American electronics
firms out of the HDTV market.
Over 27 signal standard proposals on HDTV have been submitted to the FCC. One
proposal gaining support is the open architecture receiver (OAR). The OAR
design approach expands use of the television receiver to that of a general
purpose receiver compatible with many different information sources including
television broadcasts, fiber optics, cable, telephone lines, and satellite
The FCC decision is due in 1992. That's when the real war will begin.
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