Digital Television

New Features of Digital Television

Digital television is a quasi-new broadcasting technology that will bring the age of modern television that much closer. It is not about having a bigger screen, having a flatter screen, or having lighter weight. It is much more important than that. What good does a 100 inch flat screen TV do you if the programming is bad? Well I suppose you can watch the white spots and scratches amplified by the bigger screen.

Digital television brings changes “under the hood” of the TV. It is a new system for broadcasting that offers so much more than normal broadcasting that I won’t be able to put it in one sentence. First and fore mostly it will give you superior video quality, but also audio quality. I always thought of sound as something that just comes out of the TV. I never really thought about it that sound is also broadcasted. But it is, so any deterioration in the system will also cause sound mix-ups too. So the better the broadcasting quality, the better the audio and video quality.

I don’t want to go into great technical details, but the main difference is that as opposed to an analog signal that we get today, digital TV uses digital signals to transfer its stuff. This allows for a lot more of this “stuff” to be transferred. This means that practically anything can be transferred, it is almost like downloading something. So what do I mean by stuff? One cool option of this digitalized way is to have multicasting. This practically means that you wouldn’t have two HBO’s, HBO could have one channel, and broadcast multiple programs on it. A good example of multicasting is if you’ve seen some programs (I know CSI had this), that said at the beginning: “Simulcast in HDTV”. This means that the channel broadcasting didn’t broadcast two different programs at the same time, instead they broadcast two different formats. You can also broadcast digital program guides, which is much more elegant than teletext, that looks like something on the C64.

This brings us neatly in to quality. Now more information can be sent, so this doesn’t mean that you will receive programming that is twice as fast. It means that you will get better picture quality. There are basically three tiers to the quality ladder. SDTV (Standard Definition) is something we all know and love (or hate), it is the mode in which both analog and digital TV’s function. EDTV (Enhanced Definition) is a much better format, but still not quite the best. HDTV (High Definition) TV is what everyone is talking about now. As opposed to the other two it is broadcast only in widescreen format, but it has a superior picture quality. To debunk a common myth HDTV is not digital TV, it is just a type of programming that can be achieved through digital TV.

The reason I said in the first paragraph that it is only quasi-new is that in many parts of the world this broadcasting system is already in place. The Netherlands for example has already moved to completely to digital (December, 2006). Many countries have money to make the leap, but the real prohibiting factor here is the households, not really the companies.

Of course as with analog television there just couldn’t be one standard. The world had their usual little feud and managed to come up with four standards. There’s a European, a US, a Japanese and a Chinese standard. Have fun trying to get used to this.

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