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High-definition television


High-definition television describes a television system providing an image resolution of substantially higher resolution than the previous generation of technology. The term has been used since 1936, but in modern times refers to the generation following standard-definition television (SDTV), often abbreviated to HDTV. It is the current standard video format used in most broadcasts: terrestrial broadcast television, cable television, satellite television, Blu-ray discs, and streaming video.

Since 1917, high definition starts as Full Picture Form. The term high definition once described a series of television systems originating from August 1936; however, these systems were only high definition when compared to earlier systems that were based on mechanical systems with as few as 30 lines of resolution. The ongoing competition between companies and nations to create true "HDTV" spanned the entire 20th century, as each new system became higher definition than the last. In the 2010s, this race has continued with 4K, 5K and 8K systems.

The NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) began conducting research to "unlock the fundamental mechanism of video and sound interactions with the five human senses" in 1964, after the Tokyo Olympics. NHK set out to create an HDTV system that ended up scoring much higher in subjective tests than NTSC's previously dubbed "HDTV". This new system, NHK Color, created in 1972, included 1125 lines, a 5:3 aspect ratio and 60 Hz refresh rate. The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), headed by Charles Ginsburg, became the testing and study authority for HDTV technology in the international theater. SMPTE would test HDTV systems from different companies from every conceivable perspective, but the problem of combining the different formats plagued the technology for many years.

In 1958, the Soviet Union developed transformator, the first high-resolution (definition) television system capable of producing an image composed of 1,125 lines of resolution aimed at providing teleconferencing for military command. It was a research project and the system was never deployed by either the military or consumer broadcasting.

However the Hi-Vision/MUSE system also faced commercial issues when it launched on November 25, 1991. Only 2,000 HDTV sets were sold by that day, rather than the enthusiastic 1.32 million estimation. Hi-Vision sets were very expensive, up to US$30,000 each, which contributed to its low consumer adaption. A Hi-Vision VCR from NEC released at Christmas time retailed for US$115,000. In addition, the United States saw Hi-Vision/MUSE as an outdated system and had already made it clear that it would develop an all-digital system. Experts thought the commercial Hi-Vision system in 1992 was already eclipsed by digital technology developed in the U.S. since 1990. This was an American victory against the Japanese in terms of technological dominance. By mid-1993 prices of receivers were still as high as 1.5 million yen (US$15,000).

Despite delays in some countries, the number of European HD channels and viewers has risen steadily since the first HDTV broadcasts, with SES's annual Satellite Monitor market survey for 2010 reporting more than 200 commercial channels broadcasting in HD from Astra satellites, 185 million HD capable TVs sold in Europe (60 million in 2010 alone), and 20 million households (27% of all European digital satellite TV homes) watching HD satellite broadcasts (16 million via Astra satellites).

The massive amount of data storage required to archive uncompressed streams meant that inexpensive uncompressed storage options were not available to the consumer. In 2008, the Hauppauge 1212 Personal Video Recorder was introduced. This device accepts HD content through component video inputs and stores the content in MPEG-2 format in a .ts file or in a Blu-ray compatible format .m2ts file on the hard drive or DVD burner of a computer connected to the PVR through a USB 2.0 interface. More recent systems are able to record a broadcast high definition program in its 'as broadcast' format or transcode to a format more compatible with Blu-ray.