April 8, 2001
Tech Note – 077
Sponsored by: Bloomfield & Associates

We’re automated!

The list is becoming difficult to manage, manually, so this weekend we changed it over to an automated system. If you got e-mails telling you that you’ve been unsubscribed, or whatever, please disregard them and sorry for the trouble. You’re still subscribed! It is possible some of you may have received more than one copy of this Tech-Notes #77 at the same e-mail address. Although we’ve tried to cull the duplicates, some may have slipped through. Please notify us at , so we can correct this. Thanks. (also see comments in Parting Shots) 

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~~ Reader Responses, Inquiries & Comments ~~

Subject: Response - Tech-Notes #76
From: John J. Stapleton

My response to similar crystal ball request in 1980 by High Tech Magazine was shockingly accurate about TI's digital mirror displays then in research as sensor technology, not display.

Companies need profits and prophets.  Keep your crystal ball handy.

John J. Stapleton


Subject: Comments about working at NBC
From: Reader’s name withheld on request by request

I have worked for NBC since 1985. It is an interesting time at NBC.  We just got word the project group was out of money and they are moving the engineers to other groups. Today we bid a fond farewell to many of our friends who took early retirement or buy outs.  One of them was in projects for many years. 

I must say the last service manual I got from Tek was for the 764 Audio scope.  I was horrified and irritated to discover there was no schematics just a diagnostic procedure to get down to board level and either buy a new one or exchange. At this time our job security is in repairing equipment which was developed in the late 60s.
Regards, name withheld 


Subject: Response Tech-Notes #76
From: Bill Bean, Technical Support Center, TV Products, Tektronix, Inc. 

This issue of Tech-Notes was excellent from a "going forward" business and industry point of view.  Thanks for the work you did in bringing together the many voices of opinion - and concern.

Following along those lines, the survey information contained bits and pieces and even whole ideas on what people are going to have to overcome in order to make the move into the digital domain less traumatic.  There is abundant food for thought for broadcast/network owners and operators, people on the standards committees and regulatory bodies, and for those of us that design, build and deliver the tools and services necessary to put it all together.  

The bulk of information was awesome.  Anyone involved in at least one of those segments might have, therefore, been just a little dismayed when you alluded to "lot's more" in your survey response notes.  (You certainly caught my attention.)  So, for those of us (all of us) that feel that all of the responses have immense value, have you considered placing the bulk of the responses into an accessible archive?  "We" sure hope so.    

Please keep up the writing work.  Your contributions are great - and timely.

Thanks in advance, and best regards,  
Bill Bean 


Subject: Monoscope
From: Dennis Cannataro, WebTV Networks 

The monoscope test pattern that is pictured in your website, I recall the Shibysoku generator and older Tek generator that provides this type of signal. I am trying to find a generator that has this signal for a general video quality test. I used one back in the early 80's when I worked in the Sony QA department.

Do you remember the model # ?

Thanks in advance, 
Dennis Cannataro


Subject: Response Tech-Notes #76
From: “think tank" 

(Specifically: If there ever was a time for engineers to shine, it is now. Until recently, we’ve been relegated to the ranks of a necessary evil, but that’s all changing. The folks in the ivory towers and the bean counters would fall flat on their butts in this world of new and evolving technology if it weren’t for good, qualified engineers to rely on.)

In reply to this statement: To everyone who now has a skill that is important! Become a mentor! Pick some younger folks and encourage them! Please, find eager individuals and cultivate. Give someone a break into the business.

Also, concerning the treatment of engineers... my company just had a "dinner" to celebrate a milestone of success. They forgot to invite a couple engineers, stating that these people were not directly involved with the business. But the funny thing was... those engineers are the first individuals the staff all ran to when a problem arose.

David Snyder at National Teleconsultants in Southern California raise an interesting question and raises a very serious question: "Where to find qualified design engineers. Schools don't teach it generally, and the current work force is getting older or firmly entrenched in their current positions. How do we fill the void ??”

“think tank”

(Ed Note: Good comments, but “think tank”?)


Subject: NAB 2001 – Visit us at Booth #L430
By: Larry Bloomfield

Hopefully you'll stop by the Pixel Instruments booth #L430, where some of the Tech-Notes folks will be so we can meet you and say hello. The Pixel Instruments booth will be located in the north section of the convention center. As you face the main entrance to the Las Vegas Convention Center, this would be to your left. As a navigational tool, Pixel Instruments will be located next to Omneon Video Networks, below and to the left of Parker Vision and above Sencore. We will post a link to a floor plan on our website.

If you wish to attend NAB, you can save $150. Register on the web for a FREE exhibits pass, compliments of Pixel Instruments at: You will need to provide the Information Code: JI06 then follow the prompts and provide the remainder of the information requested. After April 19th, you must register on site, so keep this code.

Thanks to J. Carl Cooper, the man behind Pixel Instruments, for making this possible. If you can't visit us at the booth, stop by Pixel Instruments' web site (My son built it from scratch and I'm proud!) at:


Subject: Broadway Cinema Hits the Big Screen with Rave Reviews 
By: Jim Mendrala (from a press release by National Amusements, Inc.)

National Amusements, Inc., owner and operator of Showcase and Multiplex Cinemas, released results of their successful foray into featuring alternative types of entertainment through the use of Digital projection. On March 10, 2001, a one-night-only showing of the Broadway hit, Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical, was exhibited in four National Amusements theaters in key markets, Boston, Cincinnati, northern Virginia/DC and northern New Jersey/New York, with great success. 

The audience response to this presentation, which ran for over 4 years in Broadway's famous Plymouth Theatre, was overwhelmingly positive: a post-viewing poll showed that 99% of those patrons who responded rated the performance as "excellent" or "good". Attendance in all four markets was equally strong, with participants ranging from those who were just looking for something different, to avid fans of the Broadway hit. And the vast majority said they would like to attend future BroadwayCinema presentations. 

The feature, starring television star David Hasselhoff, was captured live in performance, using 10 HDTV cameras and over 70 microphones by Broadway Television Network (BTN). Digital projectors, from projector suppliers Barco and Christie, used Texas Instrument's DLP technology to present the production, which was stored on QuVIS digital hard drive servers. 

"We are so pleased to have worked with Broadway Television Network in bringing the Broadway production of Jekyll & Hyde to our patrons,? noted Shari Redstone, president of National Amusements, Inc.. We believe that by offering our patrons new and exciting experiences within our theatres, we can expand the traditional notion of  "a night out at the movies", and bring communities together for a variety of events. We are thrilled that this was such a success and look forward to working with BTN and others to continue to provide exciting and innovative programming both for our traditional moviegoers and those who have yet to be hooked.? 

National Amusements, Inc., a closely held corporation which operates more than 1,350 motion picture screens in the U.S., the U.K. and Latin America, is an equal partner in the online ticketing service, and the parent company of Viacom. 

Viacom, Inc. is one of the world's largest entertainment and media companies, and a leader in the production, promotion, and distribution of entertainment, news, sports, and music. Its properties include CBS Television, MTV Networks, Showtime Networks, Infinity Broadcasting, Paramount Pictures, Paramount Television, Paramount Parks, UPN, Blockbuster, Simon & Schuster and theatrical exhibition operations in North America and abroad. 

The company's Internet businesses include the MTVi Group, the CBS Internet Group, and Nickelodeon Online. Viacom also owns a half-interest in the Comedy Central cable channel. 


Subject: Help!
From: Debra Kaufman 

I'm writing with a slightly unusual request, but I'm hoping that you or one of the Tech Notes readers might be able to help me.  I just got back from Nepal - an amazing experience - where I visited a school in a very remote area that has been created by this innovative Dutch guy, offering advanced educational opportunities for boys & girls in remote villages. 

Being an innovative guy, he has a satellite system set up so the school can be connected to the Internet. Considering how remote this school is – and how poor Nepal is - having the Internet is a big deal. But in the year that he's had the system, he's had major problems with it, apparently due to the ODU (outdoor unit).  It is manufactured by Comtech Communication Corporation, and is labeled CSAT 50605/010.  He bought the entire system as a package from a Nepali company that won't take any responsibility for its malfunction.  I'm hoping to talk to the US manufacturer and see if I can't get them to help out - after all, it is their product.

I'm having a lot of trouble tracking down Comtech Communication Corporation.  Supposedly located in Tempe, Arizona - and their number is disconnected, and the Tempe, Arizona directory has no number for them.  I struck out with 800 number directory as well. Do you have any suggestions?  Do you know this company?  If not, do you or any engineer you know think they might be able to offer some advice on how to get this satellite operating?  He spent a lot of money for it - and it's great to get these kids connected to the Internet - but it's just a piece of expensive metal right now.

Debra Kaufman


Subject: AMC exits NATO; exhibitor to pursue its 'own agenda' 
From: Screen Digest

NEW YORK -- AMC Entertainment Corp., the nation's fourth largest movie theater circuit, has quit the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) amid industry tensions over regulatory issues and the development of digital cinema. 

Kansas City, Mo. based AMC gave NATO no reasons for its withdrawal in a letter to the association last week, and a company spokesman Monday would only say that the company had decided to pursue its "own agenda at its own pace." 

But many exhibition executives and NATO members pointed to AMC's more aggressive stance on digital cinema and in dealing with Washington as underlying the surprise move. 

The 2,792 screen AMC becomes the first major circuit to exit NATO since third ranked chain Carmike Cinemas quit in 1988. 

Boston based General Cinema left NATO in the mid-1970s but rejoined this year -- a route that NATO president John Fithian hopes AMC will follow. 

"We are disappointed by AMC's decision and think that it has shared in the association's many major accomplishments," Fithian said. "The door remains open, and we would certainly welcome them back." 

AMC had been a member of NATO since its inception in 1948, and industry pioneer Stan Durwood, who headed the chain until his death in 1999, was honored by the association as its man of the year in 1996. 

Jerry Foreman, chairman emeritus of NATO California/Nevada, expressed disappointment at AMC's departure. 

"With everything that is going on in the industry, we are served by speaking with one voice, particularly in regard to new technology and some of the issues in Washington," Foreman said. 

Among the major regulatory issues facing exhibition are Senate scrutiny of the industry's efforts to enforce the MPAA's film ratings system, compliance the American Disabilities Act and Federal Trade Commission concerns about concentration of market power among fewer players. 

In the area of digital cinema, AMC has been the most aggressive exhibitor in supporting the installation of digital projection systems, which many believe will ultimately replace film. 

Of 13 permanent digital projection facilities in commercial theaters in the United States, seven are in AMC properties. 

The chain is seen as the only major circuit likely to enthusiastically support a plan by Technicolor Digital Cinema to install 1,000 additional electronic projection systems in U.S. theaters, but AMC spokesman Rick King declined comment Monday on that relationship. 

Technicolor announced its plan at the ShoWest exhibition convention held in Las Vegas, NV this month. 

"We've been a proponent of digital where others have been more cautious," King said. But he stopped short of saying that was a major factor in the company's decision to withdraw from NATO. 

"There is no single reason, no top two reasons," King said. "We see advantages in being differentiated from the industry." 

Aside from AMC and Carmike, the only major exhibitor not to belong to NATO is San Francisco-based Century Theatres, though Century does belong to NATO's California/Nevada branch. 

In recent months, AMC has sought to differentiate itself as the only major exhibitor likely to avoid bankruptcy as the industry struggles with a deep financial crisis. 

Two of the nation's top five circuits are in bankruptcy -- Loews Cineplex Entertainment and Carmike. The nation's No. 5 chain, United Artists Theatre Circuit, emerged from Chapter 11 protection this month (HR 3/5). Top circuit Regal Cinemas hovers on the brink of bankruptcy as a group of investors led by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz plans a buyout. 

While carrying heavy debt after participating in a five-year construction boom that ended last year, AMC was quicker than most circuits to realize the need to close older theaters. 

Investors have recognized this fact, pushing the company's share price from about 1 in November to more than 7 last month. On Monday, AMC shares edged 1% higher to close at 6.53. 


Subject: Home owners agreements
From: Roy Trumbull 

Home owners agreements and local ordinances regarding the placement of receiving antennas are without force and void, except in those cases regarding matters of safety. They were pre-empted by the FCC in 1996. Please see:



Subject: Sharp shooter Jumbo-sized televisions needn't weigh a ton or cost a small fortune
From: Barry Fox

A REVOLUTIONARY display technology finally promises to make high-resolution, widescreen televisions more affordable. The display, developed at Philips's research lab in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, uses a rotating prism to create a large, full-colour image from a single, cheap liquid-crystal display chip. 

The new screen costs about half as much as a conventional LCD or plasma screen, and consumes much less power than a bulky cathode-ray tube. 

Display designers have to find their way through a maze of compromises. The size of CRT screens is limited by the weight of the glass needed to make sure that the evacuated tube doesn't implode under atmospheric pressure, and its electron guns waste energy as heat. But making large LCD panels is tricky because a single faulty cell creates a permanent blip on the screen. Plasma panel TVs are bulky, gobble power and cost over $10,000. 

One way around these problems has been to use a back-projection TV that beams pictures onto a translucent screen. In some projectors, red, green and blue light passes through separate small LCD panels, which act as "light valves". These three images are projected onto the screen, where they are superimposed. But it's difficult to keep the colours perfectly aligned, and you have to pay for three LCDs. In addition, the layer of transistors which control the LCD's cells block some of the light, reducing brightness. 

Philips's answer is to use a new kind of LCD panel made by depositing a liquid-crystal array directly onto a transparent silicon chip. It places a transparent electrode sheet on top of the LCD and a reflective layer underneath. Light shines through the top sheet and then through the LCD, before being reflected by the backing layer into a projection lens system. The projected image is very bright because there are no transistors to obstruct the light. The resolution of Philips's "liquid crystal on silicon" (LCOS) panel is high because the LCD cells can be very small - just 2 micrometres apart. 

To cut the cost of flat-screen/widescreen TV - and its complexity - the researchers have devised a clever way to squeeze full-colour video from a single LCOS chip. White light from an arc lamp is split into red, green and blue beams, which pass through a rapidly rotating prism. This continuously scrolls red, green and blue horizontal strips of light down the LCOS panel, so the cells in the LCOS panel reflect the three colours in sequence. 

The video signal is split into red, green and blue frames and fed to the panel in synchrony with the corresponding light beams. So when the LCD cells are bathed in red light they display only the red content of the picture, when bathed in blue light they display only the blue content, and so on. The prism scrolls at 200 hertz - fast enough to fool the eye into seeing full colour without flicker. 

Project leader Ad de Vaan will demonstrate the new screen at the Society for Information Display annual conference in San Jose, California, on 3 June. He says 1-metre diagonal displays will be ready by 2003 and cost under $3000.

Barry Fox


Subject: Gemstar-TV Guide and Charter Communications Announce Long-Term IPG Agreement
From: BusinessWire

Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. and Charter Communications Inc. recently announced the signing of a long-term Interactive Program Guide agreement. 

Terms of the agreement provide for Charter to continue to use and further deploy TV Guide Interactive(SM) into additional markets and across all digital platforms. TV Guide Interactive is the IPG currently used by Charter in 200 systems representing more than 600,000 digital households.

During a conference call with Wall Street analysts and investors on Feb. 15, Charter President and Chief Executive Officer Jerry Kent said his company ended the year with 1,069,500 digital customers, and that approximately 90% of Charter's customers now have access to digital video service.

“The digital platform that Charter is building today is our launch pad to providing new, advanced video, audio and data services,” Kent said. “In order for our customers to realize the full value of these digital services, a robust, user friendly IPG is absolutely necessary. We've had a great experience with TV Guide Interactive, so I'm pleased that we've come to mutually beneficial terms. I look forward to further deployment of their IPG to additional Charter markets.” 

“We are delighted that Charter and Gemstar have concluded this long-term, mutually beneficial agreement to provide TV Guide Interactive to Charter's digital customers,” said Peter C. Boylan III, co-president and co-chief operating officer of Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. 

“Charter is an industry leader in the deployment of new, advanced broadband technology to the home, driven by their ‘Wired World’ vision,” he continued. “We look forward to a cooperative relationship with Charter to explore various new shared revenue streams that will result from advertising and T-commerce opportunities inherent in our product,” Boylan said.

(Ed Note: I wish them luck. Charter Cable provided what I would have to describe as the worst quality cable service I have ever had, while I was living in Morgan Hill, CA. I canceled it in favor of the superior quality satellite delivered pictures and service, which I now subscribe to.)


Subject: Interactive TV Makes Moves
From: SkyReport

Key interactive TV companies have recently met critical milestones in continuing efforts to get their wares to television viewers. 

Last week, Wink Communications said its enhanced television services now reach more than 3 million North American homes - a 20 percent increase in distribution since the end of fourth quarter 2000. Growth among Wink users with DirecTV, coupled with deployments into digital cable systems owned by Adelphia, AT&T, Charter Communications, Comcast  and Time Warner Cable, has further positioned Wink as a viable mass market ITV service, the company said in a statement. 

"Our partnerships with the nation's leading digital satellite television and cable operators have resulted in another milestone for interactive television," said Maggie Wilderotter, CEO of Wink Communications. "With more than three million households enjoying the benefits of programming and advertising enhanced with Wink's technology, mainstream America finally has the power of true interactive television at their fingertips." 

Last month, TiVo, which is working with DirecTV, announced that it had approximately 154,000 subscribers for its personal TV/digital video recorder service as of Jan. 31. The subscriber total was listed in TiVo's results for the month of January, which was being reported as a separate transition period in accordance with the company's decision to change its fiscal reporting period to a Jan. 31st year-end from a Dec. 31st year-end. 

Meanwhile, OpenTV, a developer of software products for digital, interactive television, said its offerings were placed in more than 2.8 million units in the fourth quarter, a 65 percent increase compared with the year-ago period. OpenTV is working with EchoStar on its interactive TV services.


Subject: Bush reveals FCC picks
From: Broadcasting and Cable

Republicans Kevin Martin and Kathleen Abernathy and Democrat Mike Copps are President George W. Bush's choices to fill three open seats at the FCC.

The fourth seat remains Gloria Tristani's, but last week House Democratic leadership backed Andy Levin, counsel to Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), for the post when Tristani departs.

The White House announced its intent Friday. The nominations will not be sent to the Senate for confirmation until the FBI clears all three names.

Martin comes right from the FCC's ranks as a former aide to Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth. Martin also led the White House's FCC search, giving him the opportunity to put his own name at the top of the list. Abernathy is currently a lobbyist for the Broadband Office and a former law partner at the Washington law firm of Wilkinson, Barker, Knauer. As a former aide to former FCC Chairman James Quello, she also is no stranger to the FCC.

Copps is a former staffer for Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) and more recently, former assistant secretary of commerce in charge of trade. Tristani hasn't said when she plans to leave the commission, but forces are lining up to replace her. Last week, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt and House Minority Whip David Bonior (D-Mich.) put their weight behind Levin. Dingell, who wields power both as ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House's longest-serving member, strongly supports Levin.

“Andy is widely viewed, both on and off Capitol Hill, as a superb candidate to address those challenges as an FCC Commissioner,” they wrote in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.). “That is why we ask the Senate Democratic Leadership to join us in recommending him for the second Democratic seat.” - Paige Albiniak Levin also has the support of key Commerce Committee members Reps. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.).


Subject: FREE 75 page H/DTV Marketplace Overview 2001 Report to Broadcast / Production / Post Survey Respondents
From: SCRI 

SCRI International, the company who posted the Tech-Notes prior to getting their own web site, is conducting a comprehensive survey among broadcast and non-broadcast pro video facilities regarding the migration to H/DTV. The survey is open to TV and cable stations as well as other non-broadcast pro video facilities (production, post, streaming, corporate etc).

Save yourself nearly $500. Respondents will get a FREE copy of SCRI's 75 page H/DTV Marketplace 2001 Overview Report, compiled from a wide range of published sources.  If you are a manufacturer or non-survey respondent, it’s $495.

In addition, respondents get the usual access to SCRI's weekly online Insider Reports, a $495 subscription to non respondents.


Subject: Newly Created Material Defies Laws of Physics 
From: Reuters

Experiments on a newly created composite material have shown that it bends microwaves passing through it in a direction that seems to defy the laws of physics, scientists said on Thursday, in a discovery that could help in making more advanced lenses and antennas.

The composite, made of fiberglass and copper, caused microwaves shot through it to bend in an opposite direction than the laws of physics predict, making it the first material to have a “negative index of refraction,” physicists said in a study appearing in the journal Science.

Electromagnetic radiation -- such as light and microwaves -- passing through ordinary materials is deflected in the same direction, giving those materials a “positive index of refraction,” they said. An example is the way light bends when it passes from air to water.

The composite could be useful in developing better antennas and other technology for the cellular communications industry, said physicist Sheldon Schultz, who created the material along with colleagues David Smith and Richard Shelby at the University of California at San Diego.

Although the composite cannot focus visible light, Schultz said he hopes that obstacle can be overcome in the future.

Physicist John Pendry of London's Imperial College has said that a material with a “negative refraction”' would make possible the construction of a lens capable of focusing light to limits not currently achievable.

Parting Shots
By Larry Bloomfield

As you may or may not know, we automated our mailing list this weekend. Changing over 1100 address is not the easiest task in the world, but it was done to better serve our subscribers. I’m very sorry if this caused any of you extra work or additional e-mails, but I hope it is completed now and we can get on with what we all do.  Thanks for your understanding.

I’m not sure if we will have one more Tech-Notes before NAB or not, but should we not, here’s what’s happening with your humble servant: On April 30th, we’re pulling the plug in Silicon Valley and making tracks for Oregon. The cost of doing business here has grown to ridiculous proportions and in an effort to reduce costs and maintain effectiveness, we’ve decided to relocate to one of the best kept secrets and one of the most beautiful places on the planet, Florence, Oregon. Great local seafood, great beaches, very appealing climate (not as much overcast as the central valleys), friendly people, lush forests and the list goes on.

Tech-Notes was founded while we lived in Central Oregon (Bend). We were able to do our work and keep our readers informed then and I see no reason why we can’t do the same today. With the Internet giving us complete contact with the world, it matters little where a person writes. Although there is no DSL there, we will be using a full duplex satellite Internet connection, which will suffice until something better comes along. At least it is faster than our 56K modem.

New subject -- For over 50 years, we’ve been the recipients of analog TV using such formats as NTSC, PAL, and SECAM. With digital technology coming into vogue the RF spectrum offers many more services than have been possible before and in the same space, while offering significantly improved quality of service when it come to watching television.

There have been a number of studies and reports that have focused on the migration from analog to digital television and some of the quagmire the standards are suffering through during this evolution. Particularly important are the organizations involved as well as the technical specifications being endorsed by the participants, willing and/or unwilling.

Some of these reports profile as many as 25 countries and looks at how far along they are in their rollout of terrestrial services, as well as how receptive they are to terrestrial services. It’s a known fact that some countries have very weak cable infrastructure and very little direct broadcast satellite (DBS) service, suggesting they might be primed for swift uptake of digital terrestrial television. 

Other studies discuss many of the issues that have accelerated, or delayed, the rollout of DTV services around the world. Viewer numbers, equipment shipments and equipment revenues – both from the digital tuners as well as the TV displays - are forecasted across multiple platforms (i.e. satellite, cable and terrestrial) and many worldwide markets.

The one thing blatantly obvious, by it’s absence in most of these studies, are the political aspects and who is pulling what strings. Partial knowledge is a dangerous thing! These reports are worthless until they get to the bottom of the problem by name names, state cases completely, present all the facts and call a spade a spade. 

At the risk or repeating myself, the world is too small to have multiple standards for a world embracing technology such as television. Until political agendas are scuttled in favor of technical excellence, keeping in mind the constant change and improvement within the technology, we can never hope for success in our endeavors or efforts.


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