Prologue - Early Work on HDTV and Advanced Television Systems

1969 – Japanese broadcaster NHK began research on High-Definition Television (HDTV)

1981 – NHK demonstrated HDTV for the first time in the U.S.

1982 - RCA and Philips secretly begin some collaborative efforts.

 

1982 – The Advanced Television Systems Committee is formed by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) to standardize an advanced television transmission system.

1983 - Late 1980s – Research on HDTV and Advanced Television systems intensifies.  Much of the work was based on the concept of "Multiplexed Analog Components" to send brightness and color information as separate "line segments" in a transmitted signal.  Concerted efforts are organized in Japan and Europe, culminating in NHK's MUSE and the European HD-MAC two-channel analog systems.  Please see the References page for some of the many technical papers published on these topics.

September 1983 – CBS Technology Center demonstrates a two-channel HDTV system intended for satellite and cable delivery

1987 – Broadcasters petition the Federal Communications Commission to reserve spectrum for HDTV.  The FCC established an Advisory Committee on Advanced Television Service (ACATS) to select a new television standard, headed by former FCC Chairman Richard Wiley.  The prospect of a new advanced television system and the rewards to the owners of key patents unleashes a furious technical competition.  

 

April 1987 – Philips E-NTSC Demonstration (Philips' Enhanced-NTSC system was a two-channel system; the first channel NTSC-compatible and the second channel carrying "side panel" video for wider aspect ratio pictures, additional resolution and digital stereo audio)

 

June 22, 1987 - Philips E-NTSC submission to NCTA - proposal to the cable television industry

1987 - 1988 – The Advisory Committee engages in intense study and planning activities as the industry prepares for intense battles among system proposals, with rivals vying to claim any possible advantage for their system.

April 27, 1988 – "Planning Subcommittee Working Party 2 Report - ATV Testing and Evaluation Specifications";  Dick Green, PS/WP-2 Chairman

May 9, 1988 – "Final Report, FCC Advisory Committee on Advanced Television Service Working Party 4, Alternative Media Technology and Broadcast Interface"; Edward Horowitz, PS/WP-4 Chairman

May 9, 1988 – "Economic Factors and Market Penetration -  Planning Subcommittee Working Party 5 Report"

 

1988 – Initial technical alliances are formed: Zenith partners with AT&T;  Sarnoff, Thomson, Philips and NBC form the Advanced Television Research Consortium (ATRC). 

 

1988 - 1989 – More than twenty competing systems are proposed.  Notably, Advanced Compatible Television (ACTV) strove to extend the analog TV system and provide wider aspect ratio pictures in an NTSC-compatible signal, but it required a second channel to provide enhanced resolution.  NHK's MUSE system was designed for satellite and it also required two TV channels for transmission.  NHK began satellite broadcasts with the system in 1989.  Much effort and consideration was focused on the three goals of: achieving HDTV performance, reducing the amount of spectrum needed for transmission and providing practical and affordable consumer receivers.

July 26, 1988 – Advanced Television Cost Analysis -  Booz-Allen & Hamilton study for HBO (courtesy Craig Cuttner)

 

March 21, 1990 – FCC Chairman Al Sikes sets the goal of simulcasting full HDTV in a single TV channel (WSJ coverage).  Four digital system proposals emerge from General Instruments, Sarnoff-Thomson-Philips-NBC, Zenith-AT&T and MIT-General Instruments.