What is High-Definition TV (HDTV)?

What is Digital Television?
Little has changed in television since it's original introduction. The major change in the NTSC television standard last came when we moved to Color. The FCC mandate to change our broadcast standards from NTSC analog to ATSC digital broadcasting is big bold move, requiring changes in everything from the way the studios shoot video, the format that's transmitted, to the equipment we use to receive and watch broadcasts.
The federal mandate grants the public airwaves to the broadcasters to transmit digital TV in exchange for return of the current analog NTSC spectrum, allowing for a transition period in the interim. At the end of this period scheduled for 2006, broadcasters must be fully converted to the 8VSB broadcast standard. FCC's Digital Television Website.
Will it require new equipment?

    Yes, it does. The broadcasts signal is sent in digital format as data (1's and 0's) and transmitted over the air where it will need to be converted at the receiving end to actual video. This conversion requires a "decoder" otherwise known as the "set-top-box".

    There are 18 approved formats for digital TV broadcasts, but only two (720p/1080i) are proper definition of the term HDTV. Sets that do not have any decoding capabilities but can display the high-resolution image is often labeled as "HD-Ready" a term that describes 80% or more of the Digital TVs on the market.  Finally, new formats are currently being reviewed or starting to appear on the market today. For more information, see: HDTV equipment standards. Also Visit ISFTV article Display Types and Technologies on the Miller Channel.

    The Monkey Wrench

    Well, like everything else in our current market, we didn't expect to escape the built-in obsolescence factor, a "gotcha" for all new compelling formats that can translate into many eyeball views. The war is on for the financial niches that need to be carved. The studios refuse to show content for fear of piracy, the manufacturers understandably are afraid of alienating their customer's reasonable expectations of timeshifting, and the coming earthquake of possible incompatibilities of today's equipment to tomorrow's transmissions is enough to put a damper on the whole transition. Add to that these facts:

    1. Studios want "broadcast flags" inserted in all public transmissions by our big four national broadcasters to make it difficult to record these broadcasts. They also have a problem with digital recording devices that allow for commercial skipping.

    2. Cable companies who service majority of all TV viewers have faltered in delivering HDTV. Then there is the issue of "digital cable", conceivably the most deceiving misnomer that tries to piggyback on HDTV. Worse yet, the broadcast format they employ will not be the same as the FCC mandated ATSC standard. Not only will two separate decoders be required to watch both QAM (Cable) and 8VSB (NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox) broadcasts but we also must now consider ........

    3. ....Satellite TV. With their "serve anywhere" capability and yet another modulation scheme that requires a third decoder. Even worse, between the cable and satellite operators, there are no real consensus on what type of connection they will employ for timeshifting. The battle of Firewire vs. DVI and and the accompanying encryption format and the consequences of both for Analog (Component and RGB) video only digital TV owners rages on.