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The Grand Alliance

The Who?
This elite alliance was made up of some of the most revered researchers and manufacturers in the United States. Their collective aim was to produce the ultimate television viewing experience.

Researchers and manufacturers from AT&T, General Instrument Corp., MIT, Philips Consumer Electronics, David Sarnoff Research Center, Thomson Consumer Electronics, and Zenith Electronics Corp worked together as The Grand Alliance to develop a new, completely digital form of HDTV.

What is interesting about this alliance is that all of the participants started out working against each other in competition.

Each Team for Themselves
This rivalry initially began in the 1980s after the Japenese impressed the American Federal Communications Commission with their MUSE system, an early type of HDTV. However, the U.S. Congress was concerned by the impressive Japenese presentation. Some Congress members felt that the same thing would happen with MUSE as happened with the VCR, which Japanese manufacturers made an immense profit from American consumers.

Instead of accepting the Japanese analog MUSE HDTV system, it was decided that an American version of HDTV had to be created. In order to further this development without much government funding, the FCC set up a competition between American developers. The idea was that many teams would work towards the goal of developing the optimum HDTV system. The best among them would become standard throughout the U.S.

Going Nowhere
By 1988, the FCC had received numerous proposals but none seemed viable. The first beacon of hope came in 1990 when General Instrument Corp. submitted a proposal for an all-digital system. Soon after, Zenith, MIT and AT&T also had ideas for digital systems and the FCC decided that digital was definitely the way to go. However, they couldn’t decide which team should be chosen to complete the project. It was this indecisiveness that led to the creation of the Grand Alliance.

Dream Team
Instead of choosing one team or company to continue with the development of HDTV, the FCC chose the top contenders to become one team. They asked AT&T, General Instrument Corp., MIT, Philips Consumer Electronics, David Sarnoff Research Center, Thomson Consumer Electronics and Zenith Electronics Corp. to work together in 1993. This powerhouse would split the profit and the acclaim that would come with this new technological development.

By forming an alliance, the seven contenders were able to compile all of the research they had done separately over the years to achieve a common goal. In essence, the best of the best came together to share all that they had learned to create the ultimate television system.

How the West Won
By 1994, The Grand Alliance had created a system that was quite different from anything that had been seen before. Unlike the Japanese analog MUSE system, the HDTV system that was developed by The Grand Alliance was completely digital and designed to be compatible with computers instead of conventional televisions.

The HDTV standard created by the Grand Alliance was designed to withstand the test of time. When this system was created, the developers took into consideration future innovations in computing technology and multimedia applications. The system was therefore designed with added features like the ability for HDTV to be recorded on multimedia computers and also the ability for CD/ROM applications to be played on HDTV systems.

This new form of HDTV was heralded not only because it let the U.S. lay claim to a new form of popular technology, but also because, being that it was digital, it allowed HDTV to be transmitted using the existing channels that were already used by broadcasters.

The saga of the Grand Alliance proves the age-old theory that partnership will always be more effective, and profitable, than discord. Instead of waging a war, the members of the Grand Alliance became allies and succeeded in creating a legendary form of communication that will be marveled over for ages.

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