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Introduction

Television ranks among the greatest inventions in human history. The technology of TV has completely and irrevocably changed the human race.

As radio sends sound over the air, (AM, FM radio for example) television sends pictures (as well as sound) over the air.

It took years for a single TV broadcast standard to be adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The National Television Standards Committee (NTSC) was formed in 1940 by the FCC and was comprised of dozens of companies with stakes in the battle to come up with a single set of standards. On July 1, 1941, the first NTSC standard television pictures were broadcast.


Color TV

By December 1953, the FCC approved the all-electronic NTSC color system proposed by RCA that has been the analog standard for over 50 years.


HDTV - High Definition

Digital TV started becoming popular around 1998 with new TV displays and new transmission signals which required many changes both for the consumer and the television providers. High Definition TV requires a receiver capable of decoding the digital signal and a TV capable of displaying the high-content, wide-screen programming.

A gradual implementation over the years beginning in the 21st century, with both old analog and new digital television transmissions, will give consumers time to transfer over to the digital era. The FCC has set target dates for television providers to de-allocate old analog facilities and then continue with only digital signals.

Consumers can then continue to watch television with their old sets, but if they choose to do so, will have to convert the digital transmissions into an analog signal recognizable by their old TV set. Of course, the old TV set will not have the capability to receive High-Definition programming. 

DTV and HDTV programming is currently available OTA (over-the-air) from local TV stations as well as satellite providers. Consumers willing to purchase a new television for the digital era will find a host of new technology displays including Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD), Plasma Display Panels (PDP), and many others available in sizes from tabletop 17 inch to 50, 60 inches and even bigger screen sizes. Many of these can be hung on a wall and when combined with a Home Theater setup (part of the new digital TV signals include surround sound) can create a much fuller environment for the consumer than ever was possible with analog television.

TV Buying Guide

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  Video


Videotape

Video Cassette Recorders
Video Cameras
Video Disc
Video Disc Players
Video Disc Recorders
Video Hard Disk Recorders



Introduction

In April 1956, the first black-and-white videotape recording was introduced.

During the next 20 years, several companies including RCA and Sony attempted to bring some kind of video recording system into consumers homes, but consumers were resistant to reel-to-reel and film-based solutions. If video recording was to become a home device, it would have to be simple and convenient – a cassette, for instance.

The idea of a videocassette first was proposed by a Sony engineer, in 1964, after seeing Philips' audiocassette. But the question was whether consumers were interested in recording TV programs.

It was clear by the mid-1970s that videocassettes made the most sense. But there were two companies perfecting non-compatible videocassette formats: Sony, with its Beta system, and JVC, with its Video Home System, (VHS).

In February 1976, Sony introduced the first Betamax VCR in the United States.

Nearly two years after the Betamax was introduced, in October 1977, RCA unveiled its Matsushita-made VHS VCR. The machine improved on the Sony Betamax by offering not only two-hour recording (the Sony could record for only an hour) but four-hour recording as well. RCA executives told Matsushita engineers that this longer speed was required to enable Americans to record an entire football game.

In six months, the VCR format war was practically over. Sales of VHS machines caught and passed Beta as the video-recording format of choice. By the summer of 1979, VHS was outselling Beta by a margin of two to one.

But some entrepreneurs discovered that people didn't necessarily want to record programs as much as they wanted to watch movies.

In 1987, video rental income reached $5.25 billion for the year, surpassing movie theater ticket sales for the first time.

During the next five years, advancements such as visual fast forward/rewind (1978), front loading (1980), wireless remote control (1980), stereo (1981), hi-fi stereo (1983), improved definition with Super Beta (1985) and Super VHS (1987), digital special effects (1986), digital PCM recording (1987), and on-screen program guides were added to VCRs.

In August 1992,  100 million VCRs had been sold. It had been just 17 years since the Betamax had been introduced; (it had taken 25 years for 100 million TV sets to be sold.)

Video Recording
Traditional video recording works in much the same way as audio tape recording : The picture information is stored on a plastic tape with a magnetic coating. During recording, the tape is wound around a rotating drum inside the video recorder. As the tape winds its way through the machine and around the spinning drum, the video pictures are recorded onto the tape. The audio signal accompanying the video signal is recorded as a separate track along the edge of the tape. With the new digital formats, the picture and sound information is recorded as "bits and bytes" and output as viewable pictures on your TV.


The VHS System
VHS is the world's most widely used system for recording and viewing videotapes at home. There are over six hundred million VHS recorders in use worldwide. VHS technology was developed by Matsushita (Panasonic/JVC) in Japan in the mid 1970's and is still the most popular system worldwide. But the fact is that VHS is now stone age technology. In terms of quality, there is no comparison with the new digital formats now available.

For the last twenty years, the huge installed base of VHS recorders in homes around the globe has been the major obstacle inhibiting the commercial development of a new home video system.


The DVD optical disc
DVDs are identical to CDs in size and appearance, but advances in the amount of information in the form of bits and bytes that can be recorded onto these discs has meant that full length movies can now be stored on a DVD - and the picture quality is extremely good, better than VHS. What the manufacturers love about them is that they are dirt cheap and very easy to manufacture. They are also, unlike VHS tapes, very robust, last longer, and there's no messy tape to get snagged up in video recorders. VHS video recordings are perfectly adequate for home taping but that’s about as far as it goes. Recordable DVDs are here! More... about DVD.

Commercial Video Tapes
The earliest video cassettes were developed by Sony. Their reputation as innovators in TV and video is unparalleled. The system was called U-matic, named after the way the tape was wound around the drum inside the video recorder in a "U" pattern. The tapes are large and bulky but the U-matic system is extremely robust and was the de facto standard in commercial video production up to the early 1990's. It was widely used in school and colleges, as the cameras and recorders would stand up to any amount of abuse from students. The picture quality is excellent, but its main disadvantage is the size and weight of the cameras and recorders.

Sony was at it again when they developed the Betacam system in the late eighties as a successor to U-matic. The tapes are identical in appearance to the old Betamax ones. But that is where the similarities end. The plastic tape itself inside the cassette is a high tech formulation, and the system records in an entirely different way from Betamax. The picture quality is superb, and Betacam and its offspring, Betacam SP (better known as Beta SP) have been the international gold standard in professional video up to now. The system is very robust and relatively compact compared to U-matic. Digital Betacam is the enhanced digital version of Beta SP.


The Digital Age
The prefix "digital" has been appended to almost every conceivable piece of electronic technology that has been developed in the last five years. And video devices are no exception.

Sony and Matsushita jointly developed the new digital video formats for camcorders. The domestic digital format is known as DV, but the quality is so good that it is now widely used in television programs. The professional versions of DV are known as DVC Pro and DVCAM. They use a similar tape to DV but both have professional enhancements. If you are considering buying a camcorder in the near future, you should consider DV. The most widely used professional digital formats are Beta SX, a variant of Beta SP, and Digital Betacam.


The Future
The road ahead in video is via the integration of video with computer technology. Most professional editing is now done on computers. The video footage is digitized or fed into the computer system and the editing is done on screen, in "drag-and-drop" style. The development of video recorders where the tape has been replaced by a hard drive, just like in a computer, is already here.

 


Learn about the various camcorder video formats:
Video formats

TV buying guide for beginners:
TV buying guide