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Published by: Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala
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May 30, 2000
Tech Note - 057

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++++++++++++++++++ Reader Responses

From: Michael Brinkman
RE: Tech Note #56

Michael Brinkman of Panasonic here: In the USA, HD is defined as either 1920 x 1080 (at various scanning schemes), or 1280 x 720p/60. Because the naming convention is a bit confusing (and different from the past), many people do not realize that the most commonly employed HD format today, 1920 x 1080i/60, means only 540 vertical lines are displayed in each 1/60th of a second---we used to call that 30-frames per second (60 half pictures, or fields, equal 30 full pictures, or frames, per second). One of the reasons that 720p looks good is that 720 V lines, a full frame, are displayed 60 times a second.

Humans are more sensitive to vertical resolution than we are to horizontal resolution.  The 720p format definitely has lower H res than 1080, but we don't seem to notice it much. (And, readily available monitors cannot display the difference.) Sony has made good use of the fact that humans will give up H res in their HDCAM format. HDCAM can only record about 75% of the 1920 pixels, but like the 1280 H pixels in 720p, the picture still looks good. Panasonic's just introduced DVCPRO HD uses similar pre-filtering techniques as HDCAM does to make portable recording possible.

Bottom line is that both HD formats look very good. 1920 x 1080, recorded on a VTR that can capture that resolution, has the largest pixel map, but the 60-full frames per second of the progressively scanned 720p format handles motion better. Users should make their choice accordingly. NBC and CBS prefer 1080, ABC and FOX (when Fox does HD) prefer 720p. Many people now say that 1920 x 1080--the large pixel map--at a true 60-frames/second progressive---the frame rate/structure of 720p--is the ultimate solution. That goal will probably be achieved in a few years, but it isn't technically possible for camera/VTR's at this time.

As you know, Panasonic makes and sells 480p equipment so I will not claim to be neutral here. That said, I have had a lot of opportunity to study 480p pictures. Here's a little review: 480 progressive records 720H X 480V, at 60 full frames per second using the 16X9 aspect ratio. The 720H x 480P format is NOT HD, but the results are stunning none the less. When viewed from a distance of 4 or 5 picture heights away, highly qualified engineers routinely mistake 480p originated pictures, particularly after upconversion to HD, for pure HD. Handled well, 480p gives much of the HD bang, for a lot less buck. The biggest limiting factor to wide use of 480p has been a lack of peripheral production/post-production equipment. Manufacturers can only make so many things at one time, and most concentrated their early efforts on building 1080 or 720 compatible products. This year will see the introduction of a number of 480p products which will likely lead to wider use of the format. Again, 480p is not HD, but it elicits a very HD-like response from viewers.

BTW, the now years old quote that: “480p is a TAD better than NTSC" came from one engineer who had never seen our equipment. In fact, I have not seen that quote published for a long time.  There are a couple of things wrong with it. First, the term NTSC correctly refers to composite pictures, not component digital pictures. One of the great advantages of DTV is the fact that any component digital picture, even 480 interlace, is noticeably superior to NTSC. DTV transmission lets us deliver to the home a picture very similar to what we see in the post facility or television station.  Therefore, even 480i is far more than "a tad better than NTSC." Now, I have never encountered anyone who feels that 480i looks better than 480p. Thus, 480p must be far superior to NTSC. If you haven't seen the difference
between NTSC, 480i and 480p, find a Panasonic salesperson and ask them to set up a demo for you.

Finally, the once popular terms Extended Definition Television (EDTV) and Advanced Definition Television (ADTV) are rarely used anymore. If I remember correctly, 480progressive would qualify for inclusion under those proposals based on picture quality and aspect ratio. I can't remember if the EDTV spec required the use of 18mHz (960 H pixels). If
so, then neither 480i nor 480p in 16:9 would qualify.
                                                      Michael Brinkman
Jim Mendrala Responds:

Mr. Brinkman is generally correct in his assumptions. The sweet spot for 720p is about the same for 1080i. Therefore the picture would look about the same. As for 480p yes it should look a little better than 480i and at 4 to 5 picture heights one should see a slight difference. At the 480i sweet spot of about 8 to 10 picture heights I don’t think there would be any significant discernable differences in picture quality for any of the formats.


From: Ralph P. Manfredo
RE: Tech Note #056

480P is 1/2 D1 resolution and is a tad better than VCR quality.  We transmit 352 x 480 MPEG-2 over one T1 line.  This will give a better picture than MPEG-1 but is VCR quality without stereo audio and also no SAP.  720P is considered SDTV and up to four of these will be transmitted in the same space as a HDTV channel, which is 19.39Mbps.

The actual number will be based on the compression bit rate required for the video image. Typical DVD video is compressed at less than 5 Mbps, so you could fit four SDTV channels in the HDTV space.

Ralph P. Manfredo President & CEO Broad Band Networks Company (BBNC)

(Ed Note: In a subsequent e-mail, Manfredo corrected the above and said that he means 480p not 720p.)


Jim Mendrala Responds:

720p is 1,280 x 720 in a 16:9 aspect ratio. 480p is 640 x 480 in a 4:3 aspect ratio. He says that four-720p videos can be transmitted over one channel using statistical multiplexing and that is possible. I think Manfredo is confusing wide screen 480p which is not 720p but 480p like on the DVD format. Jim


From: George Coles
RE: Tech Notes #056

I am not sure I agree with your assessment of 720P vs.1080i.

The confusion over the differences between different HDTV formats is in large part due to the technically incorrect and exaggerated performance embodied in the very name given to the first generation of interlace HDTV which is called 1080 interlace. The 1080 interlace name was chosen more for its historical similarity with legacy analog standard definition technologies and is essentially an analog marketing description rather than a technical description. One
technically correct and temporally normalized description of this signal is 1920x540x60 (1920 horizontal pixels by 540 vertical pixels scanned 60 times every second). The 1080 interlace description is misleading in the ITU-R BT.709-3 standards document because the 1920x1080 interlace raster is identified as 2:1 scanning … here 2:1
means that the 1080 vertical lines are divided by 2: 1080/2= 540. When 1080 interlace is properly characterized as 1920x540x60, it is recognized that 1280x720x60p (1280 horizontal pixels by 720 vertical pixels 60 times every second) delivers greater vertical resolution than 1920x540x60 (720 is better than 540).  Interlace proponents claim
falsely that 1080 interlace delivers full spatial resolution (1080 lines) while at the same time delivering full temporal resolution (60th of a second). For this reason, the term 540/60i to describe the 1080 interlace signal should be used.

George Coles, Video Products Group


Jim Mendrala responds:

I agree with Mr. Coles in that the 1080i was chosen for its historic similarity with legacy analog systems but interlace is interlace.

1080i at 30 frames per second with 60 fields is not the same as 540p at 60 times per second. The scanning of a 1920 x 1080i image at 30 frames per second is done with a raster that has 1125 scan lines. 1,125/2 = 562.5 scan lines per field insuring a proper 2:1 interlace.

Remember that with an interlaced picture you have to deal with the Kell factor, which is generally 2/3 of the number of scan lines. Thus in an SDTV signal 525 scan lines produces a vertical resolution of 340 lines and 1125 scan lines produce a vertical resolution of 720 lines. In the above example an SDTV 30 frame image with 60 fields has a resolution of about 480 x 340 and a HDTV 30 frame image with 60 fields has a resolution of about 1280 x 720.

Confusing the issue is the new 1920 x 1080p 24-segmented frame video called 24sF or 24-segmented fields per second. In that scenario the image is captured and read out as all odd lines in field one and all even lines in field two. When reassembled into a 24-frame image it is progressive and the Kell factor is eliminated.


Subj:  Observations
From Roy Trumbull

(Ed Note:  Roy Trumbull is a well known and respected television engineer in the San Francisco Bay area and is Assistant Chief Engineer at KRON-TV)

Several things have bothered me about the transition to DTV. There has been no mention of a date by which TV set manufacturers must include a digital tuner. The emphasis has instead been on setting interoperable standards for over-the-air and cable signals in receivers. I don’t see how the deadlines for conversion can be met without such a mandate.

If a cable operator wishes to use the higher quality digital signal instead of the analog signal at some distant location, a receiver that has an NTSC output has no mechanism to deliver the line 21 closed captioning information. The only way to do this is to recover the data from the analog signal and insert it on line 21 from the digital receiver using a device called a “data bridge”.

Captioning, as implemented in a DTV signal, has no relationship to line 21. During the transition period, when line 21 information is being ported over to a DTV encoder, it would make sense to set a flag bit so that a DTV receiver or set-top box outputting NTSC video would know that that information was to be inserted on line 21.

(It would be a little more complicated than that. An association of the captioning with a specific program within the data stream also needs to be established.)

The upconversion of NTSC video to 1080 or 720 lines is a poor way to introduce the public to digital television. Noise in source material is handled very poorly by encoders and regular NTSC programs and news stories are rife with noise. An upconverter that changes 4:3 to 16:9 produces nasty artifacts. As the added lines add no additional resolution, it makes much more sense to stick with native 480 and 4:3.

Another benefit to staying in a signal’s native format is that the conversion from upconverted 480 to1080 back down to 480 is not without its perils. Lip-sync, which is already marginal in DTV, has a nasty habit of creeping during a reverse conversion. When the viewer stays on the same channel for a long period, the lip-sync slip can be quite annoying. Roy Trumbull


Subject: SID 2000 Draws 6600 People to Long Beach to Look at
Revolutionary Display Technology.
By: Jim Mendrala

The trade-show portion of SID 2000, The Society for Information Display's annual International Conference, Symposium, and Exhibition, ended in Long Beach, California, on May 18, 2000 with 240 mostly upbeat exhibitors packing up their high-tech wares and counting the sales leads they had acquired over the previous three days. The
exhibitors had 425 booths, up 5 ½ percent from last year.

The first microdisplay-based rear-projection TV sets, a look at Kodak/Sanyo’s stunning organic LED display, and the news that hundreds of thousands of portable electronic devices will be using microdisplays by year's end brought home to SID attendees just how different electronic products of the near future will be.

A variety of products – from rear-projection television sets and data/graphic projectors to lightweight headsets and bright viewers for digital cameras and camcorders – will be introduced from now through the end of the year and beyond.

Attendees were buzzing because, in addition to the impressive evolutionary improvements expected in the information display industry, they saw products and prototypes that promise – or threaten – to disrupt traditional market structures. Among the most impressive of the paradigm-busting displays was a 5.5-inch organic light-emitting-diode (OLED) display from the team of Kodak and Sanyo. The display could be used as a viewfinder in outdoor ENG cameras that could actually be suitable for use in sunlight. The bright, slender glass sandwich was driven by thin-film transistors and row/column drivers made of low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) and fabricated directly on the glass substrate. As a result, the only connection to the host system was a 25-conductor flat cable. Said consultant Alan
Sobel: "That Kodak/Sanyo display knocked my socks off!" But it's still a prototype. A 1.8 or 2.0-inch version should appear as the viewfinder/monitor on Kodak and other digital cameras between now and Christmas of 2001.
Ultimately, OLED developers believe the technology can be used to make large direct-view displays at costs much lower than that for liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) and plasma display panels (PDPs).

Another approach to large inexpensive high-resolution images is projection based reflective microdisplays – displays less than an inch on the diagonal. Texas Instruments' DMD (Digital Micromirror Device) has had that arena to itself for several years, but an alternative technology, ferroelectric liquid crystal display (FLCD) from Displaytech, Inc. is emerging. Displaytech's LightCaster FLCD Microdisplay, which had been under development, is now starting to be
sold to OEMs in volume. Samsung Electronics will be using three of the FLCD devices in its new line of large-screen HD-ready FLCD Tantus televisions. The line will include a 43-in., m/n HLK436W, as well as a 50-in. HDTV, m/n HLK506W, powered by three 0.78-in. LightCaster FLCD microdisplay panels. The 43-inch model is 15 inches deep and the 50-inch model is only 18 inches deep. Texas Instruments’ DMD™ will be featured in Panasonics' new HD-ready DLP set, m/n PT-52DLP, that was seen by many at the recent NAB2000 and scheduled to be introduced in
the 3rd quarter of this year.

Another novel approach to color splitting and color combining came from ColorLink Incorporated.  This new innovation called the ColorQuad is designed specifically for 3-panel projectors to provide higher performance in low f/number systems. The ColorQuad, m/n BK-7, has the ability to achieve high performance with low cost. The ColorQuad has a
color gamut that is wider than the SMPTE 274M colorimetry. It also has the ability to notch out the yellow and cyan light typical from the new ultra-high performance (UHP) lamps, which is essential for a good color gamut. The color coordinates for the ColorQuad with a UHP lamp at f/2.5 from their data sheet is Red at CIEx=0.65, CIEy=0.35, Green
at CIEx=0.31, CIEy= 0.67, and Blue at CIEx=0.15, CIEy=0.04 on the C.I.E. 1931 chromaticity diagram.

ColorLink also has ColorSelect filters. These filters use stacked retardation films for producing polarization-based color manipulation filters. These polarizing filters allow high transmission as well as narrow transition bandwidths and high color contrast. With the input linearly polarized, the slope of the bandpass from 10 to 90 percent is ~15 nm. This makes it ideal for color management in projection display systems. The spectra characteristics for the filters offer high peak transmission and high color contrast, along with narrow transition bandwidths and flat profiles that are usually associated with dichroic splitters and are nearly insensitive to the incidence angle.

One microdisplay will be all that is needed to produce flicker-free, perfectly registered color pictures with a large color gamut and full motion imaging. The old 1940s CBS idea of field sequential color with a rotating color wheel has been updated. Since the new microdisplay devices are so fast, sequential RGB can be applied to each field several times per field. ColorLink and Displaytech both demonstrated flicker-free sequential color illumination, using ColorLink's ColorSwitch to switch the RGB to each field at the rate of 360 times per second or 6 times per field for a 30 frame interlaced images. The results were very impressive considering it was a prototype.

It was only in comparison to these revolutionary technologies that the showing of wide-format, high-resolution 22-inch AMLCD displays suitable for HDTV by Samsung and others could seem conventional. Samsung was also pushing Active Matrix Liquid Crystal Display (AMLCD) with their homegrown "SXGA+" format – 1400x1050 pixels. Reportedly, the motivation is to provide displays that look distinctly better than the "commodity" SXGA (1280x1024 ) AMLCDs are being produced by Taiwan’s aggressive new AMLCD manufacturing facilities, while avoiding the higher cost and addressing challenges of UXGA (1600x1200).

SID 2000 also gave the Society for Information Display an opportunity to install its new officers and committee chairs. New President Aris Silzars (Northlight Displays) promised to build on predecessor Tony Lowe’s achievements, and aggressively expand the Society’s role and membership in the international display design, manufacturing, and product integration communities.

SID is an international society devoted to the advancement of display technology, manufacturing, and applications, with headquarters at 31 East Julian Street, San Jose, California 95112. For more information, visit their website at:


Subj:  The BIGGEST Lies Yet
From: Craig Birkmaier

(ED Note: Craig Brikmaier runs Pcube Labs, hosts an online forum, OpenDTV and is a regular contributor to Television Broadcast Magazine.)

I questioned the outrageous claims in the press announcement from the CEA, in which Gary Shapiro contends: "According to figures released by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), early sales of digital television (DTV) outpace those of color TV, video cassette recorders (VCRs), and digital broadcast satellite (DBS), combined.”

One of the specific LIES that I questioned was the claim that DTV sales are outpacing the uptake of DBS. The facts about sales of DBS systems in the first three years appear to be wrong. Could someone from DirecTV please refresh our memories about the date when this service first began a commercial venture (not the private testing phase) and how many receivers had been sold within three years of that data?

I have since taken a few moments to do a bit of research on the subject. The following is extracted from the research archives at the Sky Report:

“DirecTV, U.S. Satellite Broadcasting and Thomson Consumer Electronics sell the first DSS (Digital Satellite System) offering in Jackson, Miss. By the end of the year, DirecTV acquires 320,000 subscribers. DirecTV also launches its DBS-2 satellite from Cape Canaveral, Fla., into the 101-degree position.

“PrimeStar rolls out nationwide digital TV service via a medium-power Ku-Band satellite. The company ends 1994 with about 250,000 subscribers.

“C-Band shipments surge to historic levels, hitting nearly 85,000 alone in August. C-Band subs total 646,000 for the year.”

“DirecTV, USSB and PrimeStar announce plans to spend nearly $170 million in advertising in 1995.

“DirecTV launches DBS-3 into its 101-degree orbital position.

“C-Band reaches its peak with 2.3 million subscribers.”

“EchoStar launches DISH Network on March 4. By the end of the year, DISH acquires 350,000 subscribers. The company also reveals its uplink center in Cheyenne, Wyo., and launches its second satellite into the 119-degree position.

“DISH Network begins DBS price wars, lowering equipment prices to $199 with a programming commitment from new subscribers.

“DirecTV breaks the 2 million subscriber mark.”

“DirecTV passes the 3 million subscriber barrier, while EchoStar's DISH Network achieves the 1 million mark.”

Mr. Shapiro's CEA claims: According to CEA, if DTV unit sales reach the projected 425,000 in 2000, bringing total DTV set sales to more than 500,000, it will have outperformed combined sales of color TV, VCRs, and DBS during the same three-year time introductory period (445,000). Dollar volume for DTV sales showed a similar trend.

The information presented above clearly indicates that DBS (DirecTV and PrimeStar) reached 570,000 subs in the first took DirecTV only 6 months to reach 320,000 homes. In the first three years the total for DirecTV and Dish surpassed 4 million subscribers.

Apparently MR. Shapiro is having a convenient lapse of memory. Here's an excerpt from a 1997 CEMA press release:

“A Million Subscribers a Year Ditch Cable for Direct-to-Home Satellite “Cable Can't Match Sound and Video Quality

“LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, March 25, 1997. Direct-to-Home (DTH) satellite systems are drawing more than a million subscribers a year away from cable, and enabling another 322,000 households to downgrade their cable options to just "basic" service, according to estimates from a national survey released today by the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association (CEMA) at the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association (SBCA) Show.

“CEMA estimated the growing consumer preference for DTH over cable now results in a $1.4 billion annual revenue loss to the cable industry.

"The primary reasons consumers are opting for Digital Satellite Systems (DSS) and other DTH systems, over cable are the satellite systems' superior picture and sound quality and the availability of a greater number of channels," said Gary Shapiro, CEMA president.


DSS hardware includes a mini-dish about 18 inches in diameter and decoding equipment that allow families to receive an array of sports, movies and other programming in digital form transmitted directly from a satellite to their homes. DSS was introduced in 1994 and rapidly gained wide spread consumer acceptance. More than one million units were sold in its first year of introduction, making DSS the fastest selling consumer electronics product ever.

According to CEMA, more than 2.2 million DTH systems were installed in 1995 and 3.5 million in 1996. The Association estimates that 4.4 million systems will be purchased in 1997. Prices for DSS hardware, specifically, have dropped significantly since their introduction and today can cost as little as $199 when purchased with a subscription to one of the programming services.

Mr. Shapiro, I am submitting these facts for publication. Please contact Tech Notes if you would like to explain why you are misleading the FCC, Congress and the American consumer.

Craig Birkmaier

Subj: A sneak attack on our digital liberties
By: Larry Bloomfield

Dan Gillmore is a well-read and respected Technical columnist for the San Jose Mercury News.  I highly recommend you take the time to go to the following web site and read his column.

We would have reprinted it here, but could not get the required permission from the newspaper.

Friday May 26, 2000
Dan Gillmor, Mercury News Technology Columnist:

Stop this sneak attack on liberty.  Larry


Subj:  As seen from the other side of the Atlantic
From: Dermot Nolan

(Ed Note: Dermot Nolan resides in the United Kingdom (England) and has been a strong proponent of DVB.  His vociferousness on this matter has been seen in several Internet forums.)

In reference to the current modulation issues in the US, There are two scenarios:

Sinclair WINS: then DVB-T rules the roost and US terrestrial broadcasting goes forward on a completely different basis to a fantastic future, which OUTSHINES the original DVB-T prospectus. Europeans totally jealous!!

Sinclair LOSES: DBS wins. US terrestrial television dies off over a decade.  Europeans laugh.

The current US regulatory and technical process is too slow to do anything in the face of change: the quick and the very dead.

Right now in Europe there is total incredulity that US broadcasters do not summarily dismiss the ATSC and select a system, which works.

NIHS is a very expensive position when you are fighting OTHER competitors.  Nobody thinks twice about picking working technologies in other industries.  The general view is you are all too scared: in Europe in the same situation ten years ago the broadcasters rose up and CRUSHED the CE crowd.  Who's got the balls? The networks should be heard FROM THE ROOFTOPS!!!!!!! Dermot


Subj: FCC tries to stem area code demand
From: Adapted by Larry Bloomfield from an Associated press article

Something that could affect everyone, DTV and Digital Cinema is the explosion of cell phones, pagers and fax machines - along with a monopoly era system for allotting digits that is endangering one of the most basic forms of personal information: the telephone number.

Federal regulators have tried to fix the problem. Forecasts indicate that we could run out of area codes within the next eight to 10 years, requiring callers to punch in more numbers than they do now.  The Federal Communications Commission has adopted rules that would allow states to more efficiently allocate and manage phone numbers, such as taking back numbers that carriers are holding but not using.  This is an issue that bears watching. Larry


Subject: ENG safety
By:  Larry Bloomfield

With the recent tragedy that involved an ENG truck belonging to the ABC O&O in Los Angeles, KABC-TV Channel 7, their microwave mast/dish and a local high voltage power line, it brings up the somewhat backburner subject of safety.  No one wants to see or hear about anyone getting hurt and the reporter who was involved in the accident will bear very strong testimony to this fact once her wounds heal.

For the he Latest on the condition of ABC7's Adrienne Alpert see: also check out: Larry


(Ed Note: The Editors and Publishers of the Tech Notes wish to thank Des Chaskelson, Research Director of SCRI International for his generosity in posting the Tech-Notes on the SCRI web site.

Subject: H/DTV Budgets at US TV Stations Plus SCRI New Reports
From: Des Chaskelson, Research Director (
             SCRI International (

Data from the recent 2000 H/DTV survey of US TV Stations shows that over half of all stations (51%) expect to spend between $2 and $7.5 million in total on their conversion to digital; 11% expect to spend less than $2.5M; 7.9% expect to spend $7.5 - $10M; 11% between $10 - $15M; 16.5% were unsure.

These figures are very representative of the norm if all parts of the transition are taken into account:  tower, transmission system, studio and ENG/EFP facilities.  The 17% who don't know can take their cue from the $2.5-$7.5M that most stations are budgeting for.

The full report is available from SCRI -- online table of contents at:

Also, New 2000 Product Reports - Market Size and Brand Shares for over 20 Product Categories --

Coming Soon - Streaming Video Survey Among Broadcast and Pro Video Facilities send any questions you would like to see included to: Des Chaskelson  


Parting Shots & Food for thought:
1. We’re building a web site so we can put pictures, when available, with our stories.  Many of our subscribers cannot handle attachments or the enhancements we can offer there.  We will continue to publish the e-mail edition and it will continue to be on the other web sites, but we hope to include a place for television’s technical history, trivia, war stories, pioneer’s Bio's, memorabilia, pictures & the like.  We are open to suggestions.  All our back issues will be posted there as well, along with articles Jim and Larry have written in the past for the industry relating to these subjects.  We are entertaining the idea of a sponsor, but have not decided on that as yet.  Make us an offer we can’t refuse.

2. With all the news recently about viruses etc, is there anyway these could impact a       Digital television station’s bit stream?


  The Tech-Notes are published for broadcast professionals, and others, who are interested in DTV, HDTV, Electronic Cinema, etc., by Larry Bloomfield and Jim Mendrala. We can be reached by either e-mail or land lines (408) 778-3412, (661) 294-1049 or fax at (419) 710-1913 or (419) 793-8340. The Tech-Notes are sent (BCC) directly only to those who have asked to be on the mailing list, however feel free to forward them, intact (including this message), to anyone who you think might be interested.  There is no charge for this Newsletter, no one gets paid (sigh), there is no advertising and we do not indorse any product or service(s). The ideas and opinions are those of the individual authors. We still administer everything manually. We don't use any "majordomo" automatic servers. News items, comments, observations, opinions, etc., are encouraged and always welcome. We publish when there is something to share. Material may be edited for brevity, but usually not. Tech-Note articles may be reproduced in any form provided they are unaltered and credit is given to both Tech-Notes and the originating authors, when named. If they are to be used by a publication that normally compensates their writers, please contact us first.


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