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Comparing HDTV to standard television viewing is like comparing a filet mignon to a hotdog. HDTV has taken television to a whole new level by combining high-resolution video with sound that will make your house rumble.

Seeing is Believing
In terms of sound quality and picture resolution, this form of television is truly a cut above all the rest. The sound is sharper because the audio signal is split up into six channels. The picture appears more crisp because, with HDTV, hundreds of thousands more pixels (the picture elements of a digital display) and twice the amount of lines per picture are involved in comparison with standard television.

HDTV is designed to make watching television seem more like a trip to the movies. The idea is to really get the viewer involved by making what is happening on the screen so realistic that the viewer really feels like they are part of the action.

A History Lesson
The first seeds involved in the development of HDTV were planted in the 1980's when movie producers began using a system called NHK Hi-vision, which was developed by Sony. People began to realize that this type of system was able to offer a striking picture quality that was quite similar to that produced with 35mm film. After HDTV remained popular in the film industry for a number of years, many people started to consider adapting this sort of technology so that it would be available to homeowners.

A Distinct System
Other than the obvious differences that are evident when viewing HDTV, there are also significant differences involved with the way the system works in comparison to standard television. HDTV uses digital encoding which compresses the signal and makes transmission and storage easier.

All HDTV signals are digital so they are transmitted in the form of data bits. These data bits are stored and transmitted in a way that takes static and crackling noise out of the picture entirely.

Nobody's Perfect
Although HDTV does rise above all television viewing standards, there are still a few things that are preventing this advanced form of technology from becoming completely mainstream. The first is that people have to give up their old, trusty TVs and replace them with specialized HD equipment. This new equipment will usually include a converter that can translate digital signals into analog signals. Some people may need to buy a whole new HDTV set, so the transition can be costly.

Another issue is that not all stations broadcast in HD, which might be a problem for people who have a set television schedule and watch the same shows on the same channels each week.

Moreover, it's not just the consumers who are timid about switching to HDTV. It's also the broadcasters and cable providers. Some broadcasters have tried to resist adapting to this new technology because the switch usually involves buying new cameras, editing and sound equipment plus a host of other advanced pieces of equipment. Additionally, new towers often need to be built to broadcast certain channels. This can make the move to high definition somewhat pricey.

Seamless Transition?
While HDTV may not have completely caught on yet, most experts feel that it will only be a matter of time before all viewers are converted. Just as when people weaned themselves off of black and white TV in the mid-1950s, many believe that the general population will leave standard cable behind and learn to love the crisp resolution of high definition. In fact, the Federal Communications Commission has actually put together a mandate requiring all stations to be capable of broadcasting HDTV by the year 2006.

With impeccable detail, wider images and CD-quality surround sound, there is no denying the appeal of high-definition. Though it might be slightly costly and the switch might be a bit high maintenance, most people will agree that any time and money invested in HDTV will be well worth it in the long run.

No other form of television will have you grasping your couch for dear life when the onscreen bombs explode with fury or when tornados seem to whip through your living room. There truly is no better way to get a piece of the action (and impress your friends who have rickety, old standard cable) than to invest in HDTV.

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