Digital Bits Are Better than Analog Bits

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The Progressives v the Interlacers


A Brief History of the Problem: 

The world is poised to transform television from its ancient analog technology base to a modern digital one. A 1997 book, Defining Vision: The Battle for the Future of Television by Joel Brinkley (Harcourt Brace & Company, NY), attempted to capture this difficult transition. Its dust jacket message was, "How cunning, conceit, and creative genius collided in the race to invent digital, high-definition TV," but even this detailed book missed some of the main action and stopped short of one of the principal turning points in the history of this transition: the entry of the computer industry (as a coordinated entity) into the fray. A major event occurred at the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) convention in Las Vegas in April 1997. (See Network Plans for results one year later.)

The gist of the disagreement between the newcomer, upstart personal computer industry and the "Grand Alliance" of broadcasters and consumer electronics companies is detailed in The Advanced TV Problem. Here too is a glossary necessary for understanding much of the arcane debate. This document was one of many used by the computer industry to establish an argument against the Grand Alliance proposal before the FCC for a new digital TV system.  In a series of tough negotiations in November 96, between the broadcasters and consumer electronics companies on one hand and the computer companies on the other, a compromise was reached that happens to be exactly the computer industry position advocating:  (1) The FCC accept 90% of the Grand Alliance proposal as is, but (2) not specify the video data formats.

The sentence at the top of this page tries to capture a problem with "the other side". They seem to believe that to go digital means to digitize the old process. True, they want to go digital, but they are using analog thought patterns and constraints. This is what I mean by "analog bits". "Digital bits" are, of course, what you get when you use full digital thinking when going digital.