Television Technology Innovations

The next great advance in television will be the adoption of a high-definition television (HDTV) system. Non-experimental analog HDTV broadcasting began in Japan in 1991. In 1994 the FCC approved a U.S. standard for an all-digital system, to be used by all commercial broadcast stations by mid-2002. Although it was hoped that the transition to digital broadcasting would be largely completed by 2006, less than a third of all stations had begun transmitting digital signals by the mid-2002 deadline. In 2005 the U.S. government mandated an end to digital broadcasting in Feb., 2009 (changed to June, 2009, shortly before the deadline in 2009), but by Apr., 2008, only 80% of those stations required to end analog broadcasting had begun digital broadcasting.

The most noticeable difference between the current system and the HDTV system is the aspect ratio of the picture. While the ratio of the width of a current TV picture to its height is 4:3, the HDTV system has a ratio of 16:9, about the same as the screen used in a typical motion-picture theater. HDTV also provides higher picture resolution and high quality audio. Each frame of video consists of 720 or 1,125 horizontally scanned lines instead of the current 525. Furthermore, the lines are scanned sequentially, not interlaced as they are now.

The wide availability of television has raised concerns about the amount of time children spend watching TV, as well as the increasingly violent and graphic sexual content of TV programming. Starting in 1999 the FCC required TV set manufacturers to install "V-Chip" technology that allows parents to block the viewing of specific programs; that same year the television industry adopted a voluntary ratings system to indicate the content of each program.

Various interactive television systems have been tested or proposed. An interactive system could be used for instant public-opinion polls or for home shopping. Many cable television systems use an interactive system for instant ordering of "pay-per-view" programming. Others systems poll their subscribers' equipment to compile information on program preferences. Several competing commercial systems have connected televisions to the Internet.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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