High-frame rate analog HDTV from 1990


And it’s a damn good thing.

The HD proposal that almost made it to production was a god-awful hybrid. The standards were being set by a committee that was insistent on preserving the legacy NTSC signal. They were going to keep the 4:3 525 line broadcast standard intact, and transmit the sidebars containing the cut-off parts of the 16:9 as digital data embedded in the blanking and flyback intervals! The receiver would have to glue the two ends onto the sides of the viewing area.

Nobody had the balls to tell the public that their old TVs would stop working.

In the end, the ability of a single broadcast channel having the capacity to carry half a dozen separate streams sensibly won out. The compromise was for the government to issue vouchers to everyone before they shut down the analog transmissions, good for one free digital tuner-to-analog converter box.

By the time analog was shutting down, most people had already replaced their TVs in anticipation of the better signals. Our company wasted far more money on incompetent contractors to upgrade our retail computer systems to accept the stupid coupons than we made by selling DTV converters.

It literally would have been cheaper if we’d just given away the converters, thrown away the vouchers, and ate the losses. The code was so buggy and problematic that near the end of the program, that’s exactly what we did.


The major issue I have with the whole digital conversion was the loss of simplicity and for better word connectivity. By the 90’s every TV had a built in tuner. You just plugged the coax line in and away you went. Sure the cable company had to change some filters around if you bought a premium channel, but for the most part it was simply plug and play. Once digital came we went back to the idea of the set top box. Sure ATSC tuners were/are a thing, but really cable companies never opened themselves up like they had done. They saw the opportunity to lock you into an endless rental agreement and for it you got a slow, laggy, set top DVR. Cable card is the perfect example where technology could have bridged the gap between consumer and retailer making it a seamless experience.

But for those of us who had seen what HDTV really could be (see my post above) this was a real downer. One one side of the broadcast hardware/software development ecosystem, you had designers working to elevate the quality level of video and audio for everyone. On the other side you had people going ‘what? you mean we can spew 6 times as many adverts at people for crap they don’t need? Sign us up!’

Sadly this is also logical from most consumer viewpoints. When push comes to shove, a wider choice of content to consume was always going to win out over quality - look at the very small number of UHD channels going live to air, they just didn’t prove to be the big hit that was anticipated (see also: 3D).
On the quality end, things are now getting a little silly - see those wonderful folks at NHK working on 8K and even 16K.

Eh, so I finally remembered to click on the link in the MUSE entry for HDVS:

That was the kit I worked on back in the day. None of the MUSE compression techniques on the production gear, and stunning pictures.


“The price of the HDD-1000 and its required companion HDDP-1000 video processor in 1988 was US$600,000. The metal evaporated tape (tape whose magnetic material was evaporated and deposited onto the tape in a vacuum chamber) cost US$2500.00 per hour of tape and each reel weighed nearly 10 pounds. The high price of the system limited its adoption severely, selling just several dozen systems and making its adoption largely limited to medical, aerospace engineering, and animation applications.”

Now that’s what I call a video tape :vhs:. I was a 22 year old student, and they let me make hardware modifications on their HDM-1730 17" monitors - I think they were about £20k list price at the time.

There was one of the 38" HDM-3830 monitors in the back of the warehouse, waiting for the insurance claim to be processed. It came with a handling kit consisting of 6 metal rods that screwed into the chassis (3 each side), then 2 scaffold bars that bolted on the end. Handling instructions mandated a 6 person lift, but they tried to do it with 4… :man_facepalming:


Happy times!


Worth noting that MUSE/Hi-Vision was used for broadcasting in Japan from 1991 until 2007.


This jogged a memory, and after a bit of digging:

Don’t know how I forgot this one. It was implemented in Europe, Channel 4 used to broadcast films in this format mid to late '90s. Not HD, but at least it was proper 16:9 with the right decoder. Instead of cutting off sides, it letterboxed the 16:9 source, downscaling vertically, for display on ordinary 4:3 sets. Then it ‘hid’ extra information in the black bars (coded as chroma only), which a decoder could use to reconstitute the original vertical resolution for fullscreen 16:9 display. Ingenious!


As far as composition, it sounds so much like 80’s pro-synth demo music.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.