Published by: Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala
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December 27, 2000
Tech Note – 069


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Subj: Reader Responses – A chance to voice your opinion

From: Ked

Here’s what I’d like to see in 2001: The announcement of a mobile DTV initiative by the Bush administration, whether it be 8VSB or COFDM.

Reason?  The myriad opportunities that will immediately proceed for commercial implementations in all areas of the country, both urban and rural.

Best regards,  Ked Fitzpatrick


Subject: When You're Not Home for the Holidays
By: Larry Bloomfield

We ran a slightly different form of this very same story last year, about this time, when we had less than half the readers we have now.  Since it is timely, we have decided to run it again this year.  Enjoy and Happy Holidays.

During my 16 years in the US Navy, I recall many a Holiday season in a foreign land. It was always interesting to see how many of these other folks, having things in common with us or not, how they departed in their ways of celebrating what we consider as “our” traditional holidays. Most all service personnel were very grateful for the little bit of home that came our way in a USO show, to help fill a very large void. I'm sure there are many former service personnel who, along with me, who are very grateful for the efforts of such people as Bob Hope and the other touring shows. 

In addition to these road shows, there was always the local Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) outlet. These AFRTS facilities dot the globe on every continent and on many of our ships at sea. While stationed at AFRTS, when they were in Hollywood, I often wondered why I recorded Capt. Kangaroo, and at 6 AM Saturday mornings too, but it only took one tour overseas to realize that AFRTS wasn't only for the men and women in our armed forces, but it also served the many needs of the families that accompanied them. This was and is especially true around this time of year.

Although the US military presence around the world has diminished since I was a member of Uncle Sam's canoe club, we still have many thousands of men and women scattered to the far reaches of this planet to keep, as corny as it may sound, the world free for democracy. I believe so long as there is any member of our greater family serving in uniform anywhere, this service should be kept alive and we should never forget! I'm sure I'm not the only person who really appreciates, even more so at this time, the sacrifices these folks and their families make on our behalf.  I know they'll be in my thoughts and prayers. 

Well done!



Subj: NxtWave's New Chip COFDM/8-VSB
From: Bob Miller,

One of the strongest advocates of 8-VSB just did a remarkable thing.

Check out this story “NxtWave's New Chip Addresses DTV Hurdles” as originally published in TechWeb and authored by Mark Hachman:

Nxtwave Communications announced its next generation digital television chip Tuesday, hoping its latest effort will accelerate DTV penetration within the United States.

NxtWave’s latest effort, scheduled for production in the first quarter of 2001, addresses two fundamental problems that still plague the nascent DTV industry: multipathing; and a persistent standards battle that has yet to be completely solved.

The new NXT2002 demodulator was designed to eliminate echoes, or "ghosts," that can disrupt a digital television signal.

While a DTV receiver can tolerate some gaps in the signal due to interference, it's an all-or-nothing proposition. Instead of displaying static, the receiver will drop the picture entirely.

"Most of the time, rabbit ears are good enough for analog TV," said Matt Miller, president and CEO of Nxtwave, Langhorne, Pa. "It's pretty bad in the digital world. You'll have a difficult time receiving the signal when you're sitting in your basement, surrounded by insulation."

The earlier NXT2000 chip, introduced in August 1999, was designed to handle the static, or multipathing, that occurs when a signal is bounced off objects like buildings, trees, or hills.

The NXT2000 was designed to handle an echo from a single signal that arrives 4.5 microseconds to 44.5 microseconds out of phase. But the chip couldn't distinguish between two signals arriving simultaneously, which the NXT2002 can do.

DTV has been slow to take off. The problem has been a classic "chicken-and-the-egg" puzzle.

Without the hardware, no signals can be transmitted. But the DTV industry also needs programming to boost its acceptance.

Another problem has been the use of two different signals standards, the European COFDM and the American 8-VSB.

Demodulator manufacturers like Motorola Inc. (stock: MOT), Nxtwave, Oren Semiconductor Inc., and Philips Semiconductors must decode the signals and transmit the data to chips for display.

But the new NXT2002 solves the problem by decoding both COFDM and 8-VSB signals.

"We still believe the right number of standards is one," Miller said. "But we've solved the problem. Let's get going."

Oren Semiconductor also sells an OR51220 chip that decodes both standards. 

DTV is slowly gaining adoption worldwide, transmitted via satellite, cable, or terrestrial broadcast systems.

Cahners In-Stat, Phoenix, estimates that just fewer than 20 percent of U.S. households will view some form of digital broadcasting this year, increasing to 24 percent in 2001 and 42 percent by 2004.

Worldwide, DTV adoption is expected to move a percentage point or two faster.


Subject: Invitation to the All Industry DTV Summit
From: "Mark Hyman"

Five million.    That is the equivalent number of digital television receivers that would be in consumer homes if the U.S. had kept pace with Britain.  Instead, less than 48,000 DTV receivers have been delivered to U.S. retailers (from August 1998 to November 2000) according to trade industry reports.

It is for this reason that I urge you to attend the:

               "All Industry DTV Summit"
               January 11, 2001
               International Trade Center
               Ronald Reagan Building
               1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
               Washington, DC.

To register contact the NAB at 202.429.5367

The intention of this all industry meeting is to inform any and all broadcasters of the latest developments in the DTV standards dispute.  The combined boards of directors of both the NAB and MSTV plan to meet and vote on January 15th on what steps to take, if any, regarding the dispute and the public's disinterest in adopting DTV.

As all of you know, the status quo is woefully inadequate.  The pitiful rollout in the U.S. is in stark contrast to that of the other three countries that have already launched DTV.  Sweden, with a population of less than nine million - - 267 million less than the U.S. - - has as many DTV receivers in consumer hands (40,000 as of November 1st) as the U.S. and it launched DTV months after we did.  More disturbing for American broadcasters is the realization that Spain (population: 40 million), which launched DTV six months ago, already went over the 100,000 mark and is well on its way to reaching 150,000 by year-end.  Digital television leader, the U.K. (population: 56 million), broke the one million plateau last month.

The "All Industry DTV Summit" may prove to be a seminal point in our attempts to jump-start the DTV rollout.  A well-placed minority of broadcasters in our industry is hoping your voices are not heard so that they can railroad a measure through the NAB/MSTV board meetings to take no action, to seek no alternatives and to instead continue with the same DTV standard that has failed our industry, thus far.  We think our industry can do better.

As the technology world becomes digital, we have become stalled in an analog past.  Moreover, the rest of the world has continued to adopt DVB-T, the proven, global standard for digital television.  There are nearly three-dozen countries representing over two billion people that have already adopted DVB-T.  This month, Hong Kong and Russia selected DVB-T.  China is expected to follow the lead of Hong Kong in the near future.

No country has adopted the ATSC standard since 1998 and no country is known to be seriously considering ATSC.  All five countries that have adopted ATSC are conducting various levels of government and/or industry review. Broadcasters in Taiwan and South Korea (home of the 8VSB patent holder, L.G. Electronics) have requested their governments adopt DVB-T.  Canada and the U.S. are conducting reviews and Argentina has announced it will formally rescind adoption of ATSC.

Without global scales of economies, U.S. consumers will continue to pay the highest prices in the world for DTV equipment and that will only further slow the public's adoption of DTV.

The U.S. failure has been measured by the millions of consumers who have voted against DTV with their feet by walking out of retail outlets empty-handed, or by settling for significantly less expensive alternatives such as analog TV sets.  In fact, 25 million analog televisions will have been sold this year.

No clear thinking broadcaster can be satisfied with the status quo.  The handfuls of companies, which benefit financially from exclusive reliance on ATSC, preach a "stay the course" sermon with full knowledge the system is flawed.  They care less about the plight of over-the-air broadcasting.  Why should they?  They make their profits from 8VSB patents, 8VSB chip production, newspaper sales, chummy satellite subscription deals or from their huge radio business.  TV broadcasters ought not to let those companies decide the future of our television business.

If the ATSC supporters believe they truly have the better system in the ATSC standard, then they have nothing to fear in allowing their fellow broadcasters to use either DTV standard.  However, their fears are well founded and they know it.

I strongly urge you to have someone represent your company at the All Industry DTV Summit.  Your voice does count.  This is one meeting you should not miss.

The industry made a colossal mistake when it misjudged the cable threat. Don't make the same mistake regarding our nation's failed DTV standard. 

Mark E. Hyman


Subject: Leaked ATSC memo calls for "Transmission Alternative"

A crucial internal document from within the ATSC, which recommends, "the ATSC investigate a DTV transmission alternative", has been made available on a webbed bulletin board service.

Back in July of this year 365broadcast was made aware of the availability of a leaked internal ATSC report that criticized the current technical specifications of the US DTV standard, specifically the signal modulation. Motorola's Frank Eory wrote the report, and at the time, the ATSC claimed it was simply the viewpoint of one person, and it was not for public consumption. Eory is the chairman of an 'ad hoc' group put together by the ATSC to examine the problems with the standard and the slow rollout of DTV in the USA.

Now the report is in its final draft, and represents "a consensus of the ad hoc group". Its findings are likely to fuel the debate over the merits of ATSC versus the European DVB standard. The leaked final version of the report - which is expected to be published in mid January - plainly states that: "it is the recommendation of the VSB Performance ad hoc group to the RF task force that the ATSC investigate a DTV transmission alternative".

According to the report, much of the discussion within the ad hoc group focused on the requirements of the DTV transmission system - original requirements, industry interpretations of those requirements and current broadcasters requirements. The original requirements for the DTV system were to provide robustness "better than NTSC."

The expectation of broadcasters was that wherever there is acceptable NTSC reception to the viewer, DTV reception would be available if the broadcasters transmitted per the allocation plan.   That expectation has not been met. A further leak escaped from within the group when a private memo from J. A. Flaherty, Senior Vice President Technology, CBS Television to the ad hoc group's chairman Frank Eory found its way onto the bulletin board.

Flaherty, known as a strong proponent of the ATSC, suggests that the ad hoc group delays publishing its report until the results from results from the independent MSTV tests have been completed and published. The ad hoc group has also included data from both Brazilian and Taiwanese tests in its report.

The memo reads: "While the foreign test data may be also useful, it is over a year old, and at the speed with which 8-VSB improvements have been, and are being, made; much of that foreign data is ancient history. In short, it is absolutely essential to include the MSTV/NAB test data in the report. Without it, the ATSC Task Force, the ATSC Executive Committee, and many outside organizations will challenge the thoroughness and accuracy of the report. The care with which the ATSC report has been assembled so far argues strongly for incorporating the American test results, as this will only involve six to eight weeks of delay - a small price to pay for timeliness and accuracy."

But Nat Ostroff, Vice President New Technology, Sinclair Broadcast Group, the broadcasting group that has led the campaign for the use of the European DVB standard in the US denied that waiting for the MSTV results would change the conclusions of the ad hoc group in a further memo to Eory that also made its way onto the web: "Mr. Flaherty has chosen to rely on that old saw that better receivers are either here or just around the corner. This tired argument was put forward over a year and a half ago to try to stop or slow down Sinclair's submission of its petition to the FCC to allow a second DTV standard to be used. Now, 15 months later, we still have no "miracle chips" and no fulfillment of the promises made by several chip manufacturers. Yet, Mr. Flaherty wants your Task Force to "hold the presses" and wait yet again for better receivers to emerge from the lab.

He infers that the MSTV COFDM/8VSB Project Group's "testing is complete". This is not the case. Additional testing with COFDM receivers designed for the U.S. 6 MHz bandwidth spectrum, as well as an entire "Phase II" effort, still needs to be accomplished. In short, Mr. Flaherty has jumped the gun."

"We need only to remember that it was CBS that championed the concept of HDTV, in the form of 1080 interlaced, as the only legitimate application for DTV and that any other use was blasphemous. Today that narrow definition of DTV has proven to be misguided and shortsighted. This narrow definition of DTV caused the early designers of the system to overlook the real needs of a future television industry by focusing on the single objective of HDTV reception using a fixed, outdoor, rotatable antenna at 30 feet above the ground. This failure of vision has now placed the entire TV broadcast industry in economic jeopardy," continued Ostroff.

With the MSTV results set to be published in the next few weeks, the outcome of this latest set of DTV tests could finally see the end for the current ATSC standard - however if the results from these tests do find that the current standard is performing to acceptable levels then broadcasters will have no more excuses to use to further slow up the stalled roll-out of DTV in the US.

(Ed Note: A copy of “Performance Assessment of the ATSC Transmission System, Equipment and Future Directions” -- A Report of the VSB Performance Ad Hoc Group to the ATSC Task Force on RF System Performance is posted on the Tech-Notes web page at  See the front page.)

The ATSC refused to comment on any of the leaked documents.


Subject:  What can I say?
From: anonymous

(Ed Note: Although a little off topic, we have printed this recently received message to encourage those who wish to get their opinion or thoughts on any subject relating to digital television and/or digital cinema in writing, published, we will keep your identity anonymous, but you must make it clear of your desire or intentions to do so.)

If you have worked for a major corporation then you know about the group I affectionately call the sales and marketing prevention department.

Last year in prep for NAB, I authored a press release quoting several figures from a major network O+O, another manufacturer, and me. The clearances required by the marketing prevention department (MPD) were well known in advance, so I worked for months to obtain a release from the network's corporate attorneys, as well as the other manufacturer's counsel. I was about a week from deadline for the NAB show issue, when the MPD rejected my press release with the explanation that I did not have permission to quote myself, and could I prove I am who I say I am. (Human Resources was called in to verify my title, and photo ID matched the one in my file as a new hire) With deadline rapidly approaching, I offered that they sent a paycheck every other week to my house, and a W-2 sometime in January. They would not relent. No Permission, No Proof, No Publish.

I finally missed a much begged for extended deadline, (after all, NAB comes but once a year) and sent them e-mail to the effect that "can anyone really prove they are who they say they are"? I offered to have 50 witnesses present at the instant of my birth pick out my current driver's license photo from a lineup of 50 other pictures, but no, could these people prove who they say they are? Would MPD be happy if the 50 witnesses could provide 50 witnesses who were present at the instant of their birth? …And on for about 20 pages.

From this painful lesson I have learned that anything I say over the phone, couched as my personal opinion, and with the specific disclaimer that I did not say it on company time, or with their knowledge is OK to print, as long as I remain anonymous, and my employer is not mentioned.

And folks want to know what is wrong with our business?



Subj: New Assignment for Satellite System
By:  Kenneth Chang

(Ed Note:  Although a little off top, very interesting and could play a role in technology relating to broadcasters.)

Motorola spent billions to create the Iridium satellite telephone system, allowing anyone almost anywhere to make a phone call. Unfortunately, not many people found much reason to lug a cumbersome phone to a remote place and pay several dollars a minute for the service.

Scientists, however, found a very good use for it.

With the help of Iridium's constellation of more than 70 satellites circling 470 miles above the ground, the scientists have collected a bounty of information about electric currents in the upper atmosphere, data they could not have obtained otherwise.

"We need measurements to make the invisible visible," said Dr. Brian J. Anderson of Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Baltimore, who led the effort.

The sun spews out charged particles traveling at a million miles per hour known as the solar wind. The bombardment of the solar wind would be deadly to life on Earth, but Earth's magnetic field deflects the streams of charged particles — electric currents, in essence — and either deflects them around the planet or channels them toward the North and South Poles. The currents themselves cannot be seen, but they power the colorful, flickering nighttime display of the aurora borealis — what in the Northern Hemisphere is known as the Northern Lights — and the aurora australis in the south.

When the sun sends out a strong puff of charged particles, these auroral currents can disrupt radio signals, damage power grids and puff out the Earth's atmosphere to drag down satellites. The new knowledge should help scientists better understand such "space weather."

The orbits of the Iridium satellites pass directly over the North and South Poles, providing an ideal downward observing perch of the Polar Regions. Several years ago, Dr. Anderson realized that the magnetic sensors that the Iridium satellites use to orient themselves are sensitive enough to detect the 1 percent fluctuations in the Earth's magnetic field caused by the auroral currents.

Since February 1999, the operators of the Iridium system have been shipping the magnetic field data to Dr. Anderson and his collaborators, who then calculate the position and strength of the currents. The large number of satellites means they can detect fairly quick shifts in the currents. A second, ground based system provides a complementary snapshot of the auroral currents.

Eight radar dishes in the Arctic known as the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network, or SuperDARN, measure the electric fields emitted by the charged particles. Multiplying the electric fields measured by SuperDARN with the magnetic fields from Iridium tells how much power is flowing into Earth from the solar wind. The data showed that the power flow was often concentrated in "hot spots" and could change quickly. On one day in March, the power jumped from 17 billion watts to nearly 50 billion watts in two hours.

"They are much more complex than we thought previously," Dr. Anderson said.

For now, the flow of data coming down from Iridium continues, but it may not last long. A partnership set up by Motorola to run the satellite system went bankrupt in August 1999 and had announced in March that it was going to shut down the satellites and crash them into the ocean.  But a new $72 million contract from the Pentagon will keep the satellites up for at least two years.

Even if Iridium is eventually ditched, the collected data could enable scientists to estimate the currents based on the brightness of the Northern Lights.


Subj: A New Years Prayer for you
From: "Burt I. Weiner"

(Ed Note: A little levity going into the New Year and New Millennium.  BTW: Burt attributes its origin to Jerry Lewine)

Dear Lord:
May we get a clean bill of health from our dentist, our psychiatrist, our ophthalmologist, our cardiologist, our Gastroenterologist, our urologist, our proctologist, our gynecologist, our podiatrist, our plumber and the IRS.

May our hair, our teeth, our facelift, our Abs, our honey cakes, and our stocks not fall and may our blood pressure, our triglycerides, our cholesterol, our white blood count, our weight and our mortgage interest rates not rise.

May we find a way to travel from anywhere to anywhere in the rush hour in less than an hour and when we get there, may we find a parking space. 

May we all relax about the third millennium of the Common Era, and realize that we still have 239 years until the down of the sixth millennium of the Hebrew calendar by which time the computer will be long since obsolete and so will we.

May God give us the strength to get through this presidential campaign and may some of the promises made be kept. May we believe at least half of what the campaign candidates propose and may those elected fulfill at least half of what they promise and may the miracle of reducing taxes and balancing budgets come to pass.

May we be awe-struck by God's sense of humor as we realize that it is God's joyous humor that is the reason he really does not want us to touch our toes while exercising or he would have put them further up our bodies; and, the reason so many of us take up jogging is to hear heavy breathing again. 

May what we see in the mirror delight us and what others see in us delight them! May someone, as well as God, love us enough to forgive our faults, be blind to our blemishes and tell the world about our virtues.

May the telemarketers wait until after we finish dinner to call us!

May our checkbooks and budgets balance and may they include generous amounts for charity. (Don't forget the Emilie Gamelin Fund)

May we remember to say "I love you" at least once a day to our spouse, our child, our parent, all of our significant others but not our boss, our intern, our nurse, our masseur, our hairdresser or our tennis instructor!

And may the Messiah come this year, and if he does not, may we live as if he has, in a world at peace, with awareness of God's love in every sunset, flower, baby's smile, lover's kiss, and every wonderful astonishing beat of our heart. May we smile and laugh throughout the year.

Burt I. Weiner


Subj:  Parting shots -What’s to come in 2001?
By:  Larry Bloomfield

The Tech-Notes is rapidly approaching its fourth anniversary.  We started with ten subscribers as an outgrowth of e-mailed notes passed between fellow broadcast engineers back in May 1997.  As we approach year number four, we see our subscription rolls expanding to well beyond 1000 subscribers.  We’ve more than doubled our subscriber base during this past year alone and have established a website that is now six months old with over 3800 visitors. Except for my oldest son's help, Jim and I have done it all ourselves. Our
New Years resolution is to continue to be the best we can be.

This is probably a good place to thank my oldest son, Larry V. (not junior), for his fine art work in our logo over the Halloween, Thanksgiving and the two different bits of artwork, he did for the holidays: – Santa Clause and the current Father Time and Junior.  If you missed any of these and want to see them, visit his website at:  Click on the “Work History” button and select: Graphic Resume.  Yes, papa is proud!

The website has been very warmly received by non technical types who have made use of the glossary of term to help them understand the magic of our business.  Others have given us input for the educational events section, not to mention our links and trivia. We’ve just added a link to active satellites used by broadcasters.

What’s to come?  Well our crystal ball isn’t all that good.  We’re in the process of instituting an automated subscription system through our ISP, which should be on line within a few days.  Constant improvement, input from our readers, writers and others interested in fostering digital television and digital cinema have and hopefully will be our greatest resource. Reasonable, constructive suggestions are also always welcomed.

We’re always looking for input, help and maybe a benefactor or sponsor; the cost of doing the Tech-Notes isn’t prohibitive, but we’ve been paying for everything out our own pockets since it all started and some help would be nice.

From Jim and I, we both hope for you nothing but the best in the New Year and as Star Trek's Spock would say:  “Live long and proper!”

Happy New Year from Larry and Jim

Larry Bloomfield and Jim Mendrala publish the Tech-Notes. We can be reached by either e-mail (above) or land lines (408) 778-3412, (661) 294-1049 or fax at (419) 710-1913 or (419) 793-8340. The opinions expressed herein are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of their friends, employers or associates.  If you wish to remove yourself from this list, send E-mail to:  In the subject area put the word “Remove”.

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