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HDTV History

HDTV seems like a completely new innovation but actually the system has been around in various forms since the mid-1970s and has developed quite an impressive history.

In the Beginning
During the 1970s and 1980s, the prototype for HDTV was being developed in Japan as a way to improve television quality and therefore sell more TVs. The first HDTV system was called MUSE and it promised to offer customers the highest quality picture and sound available.

The idea of introducing HDTV in the United States was met with mixed responses. In the 1980s, the National Association of Broadcasters in the United States invited NHK, Japan's public network, to present the ideas behind the MUSE system to the Federal Communications Commission. At the time, there were two groups that were adamantly against the introduction of HDTV in the U.S.

No, No, No
The first group opposed to the introduction of this new technology was the Terrestrial Television Broadcasters. They were scared by the possibility of being excluded from the HDTV market because HDTV required more bandwidth (the amount of information sent through a channel or connection) than standard TV. These broadcasters worried because the channels that they already had license to would not be able to handle the bandwidth of this new form of television.

The other group that became concerned about HDTV in the U.S. was Congress. Congress felt threatened by the many Japanese innovations that they saw arriving in the U.S. and ultimately they didn't want to introduce a new form of communication that was owned by another country all together.

Making it Your Own
With these two complaints in mind, the American government sought to invent a new form of HDTV. Groups of researchers and manufacturers were gathered together to form different teams. Each team would attempt to create an HDTV system that could fit into the existing channels that were used by broadcasters.

After years of work, the separate teams of researchers and manufacturers decided to combine forces. This unity came to be known henceforth as The Grand Alliance.

As researchers continued their attempts to develop this new form of HDTV, they discovered that this new technology would have to be partially digital in order for all the necessary information to fit into the existing channels. With this in mind, they were able to develop a system that was quite different from the Japanese system.

The Japanese NHK version of HDTV was analog but the updated version created by the American researchers ended up being completely digital.

HDTV Timeline
1968: Japan's NHK initiates a project to develop a new standard in television.

1970-1980: An HDTV prototype is developed in Japan called the MUSE system.

Early 1980s: Movie producers are offered a high-definition television system developed by Sony and the NHK. This high-definition system allowed producers to record, play and edit immediately and then transfer to film so that production time was considerably shortened.

1987: The NHK is invited by the National Association of Broadcasters in the United States to present their MUSE system to the Federal Communications Commission.

1990: General Instrument Corp. submits the first proposal for a completely digital HDTV system.

1993: The Grand Alliance is formed combining together the four separate American teams that had been working independently on the development of HDTV.

1993: Broadcasters speak out in opposition of HDTV saying that it would cost far too much and limit broadcasting opportunities.

1994: Rupert Murdoch also speaks out against HDTV saying that unused channels should be utilized to develop new stations, not to support the HDTV system.

1995: The U.S. Federal Communications Commission officially sets the standard for completely digital HDTV.

1998: HDTV products become available to consumers.

1999: FCC mandates that the top 10 markets start offering Digital TV broadcasts by May 1st of 1999.

2006: According to the FCC mandate, all stations are to be capable of broadcasting HDTV by the year 2006. At this time conventional broadcasting will be almost completely phased out.

Will it Last?
Unlike BETA VCRs and 8-track players, HDTV is one form of technology that is being built to withstand the test of time.

With the decades of development and research that have gone into optimizing the HDTV system, this form of television is likely to endure for decades to come.

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