In just sixty years, family television night has changed from having a choice of two or three programs on an eight-inch black and white screen, to literally choosing from a universe of program and movie options at the touch of a button. The industry has quickly progressed to colour television, cable TV, paid programming and now, HDTV.
Although high-definition television (HDTV) has been available in the consumer market for five years, there are still few people who actually own an HDTV set, and programming is limited. Consumer interest, however, is on the rise.
The industry is big on hyping HDTV. You may be tempted by the promise of more life-like pictures and crystal clear sound. Even some of your favorite programs will advertise the fact that they are available in HDTV. Maybe you’ve seen the store ads, or heard friends bragging about their own HDTV sets. If you’ve been thinking about testing the HDTV waters, this is a great time to do it. HDTV does, in fact, offer audio and video that are leaps and bounds over the quality of traditional television sets. You can easily create the perfect movie night at home with the addition of a good quality DVD player. The best news, however, is that you can now find a wide variety of affordable HDTV sets.
Some television stations have been slow to jump aboard the HDTV train. This type of format change can be a costly undertaking for smaller stations. The equipment alone requires a great deal of financial investment just to make the transition. Television stations need to know that there is a big enough market to justify the expense. In the meantime, we have some local stations broadcasting in high definition, while others continue to transmit analog signals. There are federal guidelines in place, however, and all stations will be forced to comply and make the transition. Considering this fact, it’s safe to say that HDTV is here to stay. Until then, digital signals are currently only available through the local stations through a traditional antenna or modern satellite dish.
The first question in making the HDTV transition is whether to buy an analog or digital capable TV. Analog TV is the same basic television service you’ve used in the past years. Analog signals are sent and received in analog format. This system has been a popular choice for a long time, although the analog TV signals are limited by how much data can be held for the screen and sound. Also, analog signals can easily degrade. It’s not perfect technology, although it will still be in use for many years to come, even after HDTV has become the standard format.
HDTV models are known for their wide screens. It may take a little while to get used to the 16:9 ratio, rather than the 4:3 screen you’re used to. The truth is, widescreen sets deliver more sports action and incredible theatre-like movie viewing. The screen is nearly twice as wide as it is tall, and you’ll see things in your favorite flicks you’ve never noticed before.
Don’t be fooled by imitations. In other words, read the label and the instructions carefully before buying. Some television sets are labeled ‘HDTV Ready’, or ‘HDTV Monitor’. These are not true high-definition televisions. HDTV’s have a digital tuner built in, while HDTV-ready sets get their high-definition images either from external sources, like cable boxes and satellite receivers, or from a separate digital tuner (priced at about $350) that hooks directly to the antenna.
These are the basics of high-definition television, although there is much more to learn. Speak to reliable sales associates at a trusted retailer, or do your own research online to learn all about HDTV technology. With the right information, you can be confident in choosing the HDTV model that’s best for you.
We’ve come a long way from those days when the family gathered around a six-inch black and white screen to watch the local news. The incredible sound and picture provided by HDTV brings your family movie night to a whole new platform.