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DTV



Not strictly on topic but likely of interest to many here:

- I've received my free (Philips Electronics-sponsored) copy of "DTV For
Dummies."  It's not the very worst thing I've ever read on the subject,
and, aside from typos, incorrect spelling-out of abbreviations, and some
mistaken history, it also offers many fascinating, if erroneous,
"facts":
     - The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) is "a government
committee appointed by the FCC" (page 47).
     - The 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios have exactly the same shape, but
the latter has more area (diagram on page 23).
     - Cable is "required to" carry DTV, due to "recent" FCC "laws"
(page 14).
     - LCD means plasma panel (page 37).
     - "It is unclear what if any portions of the ATSC standard
satellite companies must comply with" (page 15).
     - Progressive scanning has a higher frame rate than interlace (page
20).
     - A receiver is a set-top box with more outputs (page 30).
     - A composite signal "combines video, audio, and timing signals
into one" (page 48).
     - "...pictures look the same on your digital TV set at home as they
do in the studio..." (pages 19 and 27).
     - There is at least one DTV station on the air now in EACH of the
top-ten markets (page 10).
     - Analog signals cannot be compressed (page 18).
     - "May 1999 - All commercial stations in top 10 markets must begin
to transmit a digital signal" (page 11).
     - "In addition to stereo, a digital TV broadcast signal also
contains audio in the 6-channel... format" (page 21).  Surround sound
offers "the same audio for you that the on-screen characters hear."
     - "The easiest way to check both the TV and potential converter box
purchases is to compare the end connectors [options are phono or BNC]...
and make sure that they are compatible" (page 40).
     - And the ever popular, "The higher the numbers, the clearer the
picture" (page 19).
     Oh, well.  Let us hope Philips DTVs are better than this effort. 
As the book says, "No technology in this world can make George Clooney
look any better" (page 18 -- or would you prefer the previous page's,
"If you've heard one nun yodel off a mountain in Austria, you've heard
them all"?).  It also says (page 2) that it's not for "an industry geek
who wants to know -- or particularly cares -- about the intricacies of
digital technology" (like the fact that LCD doesn't stand for plasma?).
     If you don't understand why these "facts" are wrong, you need
help.  Start with a REAL intro to DTV, such as CNET's.  Go to:
http://www.cnet.com/Content/Gadgets/Special/DigitalTV/index.html.
And, of course, come to this week's ITS Technology Retreat.

- Here's another item from the book:
     - "Interactivity: In DTV context, refers to the ability to request
and receive appropriate responses from the TV.  Interactivity is made
possible through the use of a reverse communications channel, such as a
modem, connected to an interactive medium such as, but not exclusively,
the Internet" (page 49).
     I didn't include that one in the list of definitely erroneous
"facts" because there is at least some debate about its veracity, a good
deal of which has been taking place recently on the DTV Forum. 
Choices are data-carousel (cyclic transmission of the same information,
as is done in teletext), dump (usually program-related) to local storage
(nominally RAM or disk), and reverse channel.  I would say that most
people believe some form of interactivity can be achieved without a
reverse channel, chalking up another one for the "Dummies."

- More on audio/video sync (not in the book):
     - One correspondent suggested that the audio/video sync problem
that CBS brought up at the February 4 T3 meeting was actually an echo
problem (a result of listening to more than one DTV receiver at a time,
with each being in sync by itself but with differing overall latencies
between receivers).  He also noted that tiny A/V sync errors are
difficult to detect.
     - I wasn't at the T3 meeting, but the multiple independent reports I
saw are that CBS said there WERE A/V sync problems, they were
significant (some measurable in SECONDS), and, according to one report,
they varied when receivers were powered down and up.  Even if the
reports are wrong, the echo problem is interesting to consider -- what
if the DTV in the kitchen, the DTV in the living room, and the DTV in
the bedroom are all on, all tuned to the same channel, and all
exhibiting different latencies?  Hmmm.
     - I met with a west-coast network executive last week who indicated
that his lab did NOT show A/V sync problems with L.A.-area DTV
transmissions.  But HE indicated other incompatibilities between certain
encoders and receivers.

- That network executive also had negative comments on DTV in Britain,
saying "half" of certain receivers sold had to be returned for
non-functionality.  Take this with a grain of salt; I have no
confirmation.

- According to Nikkei Weekly, IBM Japan plans to sell DTV decoders
(including Internet access, it said) to both consumer-electronics and
computer manufacturers beginning this month.

- How to increase sales of H/DTVs?  Bribes.  Starting today, retail
salespeople who sell certain Mitsubishi "HDTV-ready" projection TVs will
get either $200 in cash or 40,000 points towards prizes from a catalog
for each set sold.  If you've been hearing strange sales pitches so far,
just wait!  Today's Consumer Electronics newsletter reports that the
program is aimed at reducing inventory of 4:3-aspect-ratio units!

- If you haven't seen it already, check out the January 31 "Jump Start"
http://www.comiczone.com/comics/jumpstart/archive/jumpstart990131.html

---
Thanks to Bill Hogan of Sprocket Digital for support in 1999.
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