June 20, 2001
Tech Note – 082
Sponsored by: Bloomfield & Associates


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Surprise! None for this issue
Subject: PSIP
By: Roy Trumbull
I don’t wear an expert badge on PSIP (Program System Information Protocol).  I’ve run into a few things over the last three years you might find interesting. We had three different receiver manufacturers come out to check off-air signals in San Francisco. Two of them recorded samples with CD burners and took them back to the lab.
The problem started with the DVD. It had a standard and a few companies making players were foolish enough to follow it to the letter. The authoring systems observed no such constraints and some DVDs flat out wouldn’t play.
In our case we were the only station in town running PSIP and the box from one major company when tuned to our signal would lose its mind. It was a problem in our encoder that was fixed in the next software release. Some receivers, though, worked without trouble.
The nut of the matter is that a standard doesn’t mean that everyone gets the same meaning when they read it. In the case of the DVD players that would read “bad” DVDs and the ATSC receivers that worked regardless, the manufacturers had built a lot of forgiveness into their code and didn’t take the utterances of the authoring/encoding systems as definitive.
When you add full PSIP and data casting, the receivers must operate closer to the standard. That means the designers have to get together in a room and thrash it out. Not just PSIP, but table values buried at the system level need to be looked at.
We analyzed a number of signals off-air and found that the signal encoders weren’t modeling the receiver buffers properly and would cause them to overflow. I never got an answer before I retired as to what to tweak to get our encoder on track. Another station, that was out by a mile, switched to another brand; they never got an answer.
I had two interesting calls from Silicon Gulch engineers reading our signal. One questioned certain values set at the system level and I sent him to the encoder company. I talked to them also and they had their reasons for doing what they did. The other was a major mystery. Their equipment was seeing a PID that we didn’t even have defined, pop up every five minutes or so with an encryption flag set. My thought was that there might be some unanticipated interactions between the various encoding tasks or confusion at the mux. Perhaps error correction at the receiver can create phony signals.
In a nutshell, this was all rushed to market without a lot of coordination between those encoding and those decoding and now we must sort it out.
Another thing I found, while digging through the setup tables was that the number of horizontal elements per line in an SD encoder wasn’t what I expected it to be. It was close. The confession that I got from the encoder people was that their system had been developed for DVB and adapted to ATSC. I suspect there’s a lot of warmed over DVB gear on the market.


Subject: Custom panel
From: Sue Clark
How many times have you tried to lay out a custom panel with plugs, jacks, etc., to find that it was a very tedious, time consuming job?  To help those really great technical folks who have to do this kind of thing, we have devised a custom panel program that will take much of the stress, time and trouble out of the job. This will help you get exactly what you want and not what someone will try to sell you.
What happens if you have a remote truck or ENG van with limited space where you need to put all of your jacks in a very confined area? No one will probably have an off-the-shelf 2 RU (rack unit), or whatever, plate that will meet what you needs. This template program will help you design what it will take to get the job done. Use of this design tool is, of course, free. Should you decide you don’t want to go through the trouble of fabricating your custom designed panel yourself, we’d appreciate the opportunity to bid in it.
The program has more than 50 connectors to choose from and gives you the versatility to design anything from a 1RU panel to a custom 25 x 50" panel. Whether you are building a facility, or a mobile truck, this program can be very handy. By the way, should you have a connector that is not listed, let us know and we’ll do an update so that all can benefit.
Use it in the best of health and let us know how you like it. You can find it at:
Sue Clark, President – Clark Wire and Cable.
(Ed Note: Sue tells us that she will give a 3% discount on all orders of wire and/or other products her company manufactures to subscribers of the Tech-Notes. This offer may not be combined with any other discounts. She will verify your subscription status with us.)


Subject: SID
By: Larry Bloomfield
SID isn’t an uncle stashed away in a Florida retirement home; it’s the Society for Information Display, who recently concluded their annual conference, symposium and exhibition in San Jose, California. Normally just “another trade show” isn’t something to spend a lot of time and space relating to our busy readers, but this one is an exception.
The biggest stumbling block in public acceptance of digital television, not to mention digital television’s big enhancement – HIGH DEFINITION, is the cost of the display devices, with or without tuners. SID, the showcase where display technology is put out for all to see, offered attendees a great deal of promise in advanced design and significantly lower cost to manufacture – ultimately to the consumer.
There were many prototypes of organic light-emitting-diode (OLED) displays and organic electroluminescent (OEL) displays. These devices work on much the same electro-chemical principal as does the common firefly except they have to be electrically stimulated, operate much faster and are considerably brighter.
What may have a major effect on consumer products sooner than OLEDs, though, are the many LCDs that are fast and bright enough to be attractive as television displays. Most of the major manufacturers had significant offerings. According to a SID spokes person, the rapid drop in prices for LCD panels is a critical element that will soon make LCD-TV sets - as well as computer monitors - affordable, although they will still be premium products.
Plasma display panels (PDPs) are still wearing their high prices like the subject in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” (the albatross), but that didn't keep them from being nearly ubiquitous on the show floor. PDPs sell well for applications where price is not critical, such as trade-floor, in-store advertising, and for public information screens. It's was interesting to see how many PDPs that were used to advertise other display technologies.
Price was on everybody's mind. In his keynote address, Fujitsu Hitachi Plasma (FHP) Display's Yoshito Tsunoda, presented his company's strategy of producing smaller - 32- and 37-inch - high-definition PDPs that would permit the manufacture of more affordable TV sets for the Japanese and European markets. However, at a projected price of $4500 in Japan later this year, it is doubtful that the price will be low enough to move many units. Costs and prices aside, the PDPs on display were impressive.
A new generation of microdisplays for “near-the-eye” applications were looking better than ever and frequently consuming much less power. Microdisplays for rear projection (RP) were the other story, with a three Displaytech chip device will be ready for sale this summer in an electronics store near you.
There is general agreement that to get RP-HDTV sets cheap enough to really take off, designers have to use RP engines with a single LCOS imager producing field-sequential color (FSC). (Shades of the old CBS color wheel –for give the anology) The problem is that chips able to produce good-quality images in an FSC configuration have either been non-existent or in very short supply. There will be a definite push in that direction, though. Smaller sizes, perfect registration, no bulky deflection coils, high voltage power supplies or heaver than life bottles containing phosphors at one end. Philips may have solved the problem with its engazeTM chip and a clever scrolling-color projection-engine design. The engines were being shown in 64- and 36-inch HDTV sets, and looked good.
JVC, with its D-ILA chip - an LCOS variant that can tolerate high optical input power - announced they welcomed a face off against TI's DMD chip for high-brightness, high-end projection applications. JVC's 2048x1536 chip has full compatibility with 1080 lines of high-end HDTV, the company said, and JVC is taking aim at digital-cinema applications - until now the undisputed province of DMD. Watch out TI!
SID is not for everyone, but it doesn’t hurt to track what SID has to offer, especially if you are a manufacturer looking for the best technology, at the lost cost. It will be most interesting to see what SID will have to offer next May when they will hold court in Boston at the Hynes Convention Center.  For more information, visit their web site:


Subject: Cable looking for shortcuts
(Ed Note: This article is from a variety of sources.)
Sources say that operators have given up on higher-end digital set top boxes (STB) for their short-term interactive-television (ITV) strategies. But somewhere down the road, they will have to add higher-end functionality or face fierce competition and shrinking revenue.
Another key factor in backing away from the more sophisticated STBs was the growing conviction that customers didn't want or were not ready for some of the more elaborate ITV services, whether it was the Web, T-commerce, e-mail services or other applications. Instead, cable operators now believe their subscribers simply want better television viewing. Cable operators believe what people really seemed to enjoy is fuller expressions of entertainment, rather than trying to simply bring Web sites and the Internet to the television set, and that means simpler applications could be in place without new equipment and expensive gadgets.
Cable operators also believe in a prompt return on their investment and that means they’ll push entertainment applications like video on demand (VOD). Speaking about VOD, one cable president and CEO recently said, during the National Cable Television Association show in Chicago, ''It's a tremendous service. We're getting a significant amount of incremental revenue, cash flow. It's less than a three-year payback.''
With the speed of technological change, operators want to ''go with a system now that they'll never have to change out.'' If the cable network is properly configured, an STB with enough processing power and memory will be able to handle whatever applications become popular. The one big issue cable operators avoid at nearly all costs is compatibility. Despite long elapsed FCC timetables, the cable industry continues to muddle down the road of mediatory when it comes to giving the public systems where they can plug in a “standard” set top box that will work anywhere.
The only ray of hope to all this is for the FCC to set standards that all can live with, then let the marketplace create the innovations within that framework for whatever competitive edge each thinks it can achieve. It is distasteful for the government to step into anything, but when the private sector can’t get off their duffs and do the job, someone has to. So far, the private sector has fail miserably in coming up with a standard that all can live with.
One major issue seems to be that cable operators are fearful of loosing control, but there is enough technology out there that will permit them to retain control in those areas that are important. STB is certainly not one of them, but an adjunct the STB could do the trick. One such device is the smart card. STBs can be programmed by the cable operators remotely and with a respectable condition access system that interfaces with a subscriber management system, the viewer will only be able to watch want the cable operator grants access to anyway. So what’s to worry?
In all fairness, the cable companies have a significant investment in STBs and are not in any hurry to send them to the STB graveyard in favor of privately owned devices. In truth, nobody really knows what's going to generate revenue besides VOD these days. There are a lot of small ideas, like instant messaging or a basic e-mail service or things along those lines-which will require a keyboard in the living room-but VOD is it for now.
But there is a big risk involved in a short-term strategy by cable operators, box makers warn. ''In the short term, they're meeting their objectives, so you may hear some complacency toward launching additional applications. The modeling done says that that sustains for about another year or two, and then they've got to find news ways of incremental growth for them to keeping doing what they're doing.
One function that operators are likely to regret losing in their decision to stick with lower-end digital boxes is the increasingly attractive and viewer-friendly personal video recorder (PVR). Motorola is building PVR capacity into its new 5200, as are S-A, Pioneer and other manufacturers. The payoff should be obvious. If TiVo can charge $10 a month for its PVR service, then cable operators could provide the same service through a higher-end STB and pocket that money immediately. That would be a great return, not an ephemeral or an elusive revenue stream. Why not sell the boxes then charge for the additional features much like the phone company does for call forwarding, caller ID etc.
One other thing cable operators should wake up to is the broadcast industry is in the process of moving to digital, like it or not. Although the FCC says they only have to carry one or the other (analog or digital) of the two signals, it wouldn’t surprise many if the cable operators were to wake up one day and find that all they were getting from the broadcasters was a digital signal. What now maw?  They certainly have the bandwidth, in most cases, to offer their subscribers both signals and stop the crybaby routine.
Cable operators shouldn't take the risk of compromising future revenue because of today's economic squeeze. Everyone's worried about their books; about how to meet their quarter. With this kind of “Bean Counter” attitude and thinking, they’re bound to fail. There is little doubt that three years from now, they may say, Had I invested in this or that, I'd be better off now. Come on guys, wake up and smell the roses!


Subject: Intel Makes an Ultra-Tiny Chip
From a story by John Markoff
Computer researchers have fashioned infinitesimally tiny electronic switches using conventional chip making equipment, demonstrating that the semiconductor industry will be able to continue shrinking its basic building blocks at a torrid pace at least until the end of this decade.
At a technical conference recently held in Kyoto, Japan, a scientist for the Intel Corporation reported that the company had successfully made a handful of silicon transistors no more than 70 to 80 atoms wide and 3 atoms thick. They are capable of switching on and off 1.5 trillion times a second, making them the world's fastest silicon transistor.
Although the Lilliputian switches do not represent the smallest experimental transistors yet invented, they are being hailed by the industry as a watershed because they were made using standard commercial techniques and the same materials used in today's microprocessors and memory chips.
Researchers have once again found a way around technical barriers that might have slowed or stopped the phenomenal “four-decade march” that has led to the speed and power of today's computers.
Although semiconductor engineers can now predict with great accuracy the amount of computing power that the transistor advance will bring with it by 2007, computer scientists cautioned that speculating about labor-saving applications or dazzling technological consequences can be more risky.
While the semiconductor manufacturing process underlying the modern microchip continues to improve steadily, specific new applications are frequently unpredictable. Some of the most prominent advances of recent years — for example the electronic wristwatch, the personal computer and the Internet — all largely came as surprises to experts.
The research will make make possible computer processor chips with as many as one billion transistors and 20 gigahertz speeds. That is more than 23 times the number of transistors used in Intel's current state-of-the-art Pentium 4 microprocessor, which has 42 million transistors and is capable of executing 1.7 billion instructions a second.
It will also make possible a generation of fingernail-sized memory chips that can each store four billion bits of data — more than 333 copies of "Moby Dick."
 Industry researchers said that shrinking the transistor size was a technical tour de force.
 Moreover, the new chips will require less than one volt of electricity — perhaps less than half of today's Intel microprocessors — making it likely that within half a decade the world's fastest processors will be portable and perhaps even hand- held.
The semiconductor industry's technical road map has generally forecast that integrated circuits will stay on their doubling path until 2014. But doubters have continued to emerge, suggesting either that there will be insurmountable technical obstacles or that at some point the cost of each new generation of semiconductor factory will soar astronomically.
It is important to note these advancements, which on occasion, seem to antiquate the computer based equipment currently used by broadcasters.  It is nice, however to take a look at what the future holds.


Subject: First the VCR – now the DVD recorder.
By: Larry Bloomfield
Many of us have been told that the ¾ inch Umatic format was never intended for broadcasting.  The same thing was said about the SVHS format, but someone failed to tell broadcasters. There’s many a station that continues to use both. For these reasons, especially with the look to digital in the not too distant future, economical ways of recording digital signals should be on the minds of most engineers.
There is no earthly reason why a DVD carousel player hooked up with a respectable automation system couldn’t do the job quite well. Those bits could care less where they’re coming from, as long as they’re all there and the transport media has the bandwidth capacity to get them on the air.
To that end, Panasonic has recently announces its second-generation DVD video recorder, which will be available in stores this October. They say this unique recorder “allows consumers to digitally record high-quality, MPEG2 video on DVD-RAM or DVD-R discs. DVD-R discs can be played back in most DVD players,” and at a manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) of $1499.95. Panasonic’s first DVD recorder was more than twice that price.
Panasonic says their new unit “was engineered to take full advantage of the DVD-RAM format's capabilities, such as simultaneous playback and recording. DVD-RAM provides a single format for computer and video-based applications.”  I guess the guys in their broadcast group would have had a fit if they’d added “broadcast” to the possible users. “With its vast storage capacity, incredible speed, random access memory, exceptional picture and sound quality, and writing/erasing/rewriting capability,” they continue, “DVD-RAM is highly adaptive to the expanding digital media environment.”

It would be interesting to know of any broadcasters who have the nerve to try one of these new Panasonic DVD recorders. Does a super-fast data transfer rate of 22.16 Mbps, hold any lure for the brave at heart?
One of the issues we had at a station where I worked was the large storage space required for legacy video tapes. Panasonic says that in addition to recording new video content, their unit also allows the “user” (I took out the word consumer) “to transfer their favorite VHS tape recordings to space-saving discs.”  Sounds like a solution to me.
Their DVD video recorder offers another important advantage: it actually enhances old videos, thanks to a built-in noise reduction processes, input time-base corrector, 3D Y/C separation and 3D DNR, the transferred video is capable of having better picture quality than the analog original.”  That’s a bit much, but why not?
For more info visit Panasonic’s home page at


Subject: Streaming Media Ad Market $3Billion By 2005
From: Streaming Media Ad Market $3B By 2005
By Martin Stone, Newsbytes
Rapid growth of home broadband Web access will push spending on streaming media advertising to $3.1 billion by 2005, according to a study released this week.
Researchers at the Yankee Group pegged the 2000 market at $44 million. The analysts said that widespread adoption of broadband access will generate new technologies that produce streaming media-enabled ads bearing product information and on-demand infomercials.
Yankee Group analyst Steve Vonder Haar said surfers making major purchases will have access to videos providing information on cars, computers, vacations, and other big-ticket items.
"This is multimedia content that helps people get things done. It represents how the Web is best suited for delivering video with a purpose rather than video for couch potatoes," he said in a statement.
The Yankee Group said marketers should prepare for the streaming media explosion by experimenting with online multimedia promotion to find the best way to utilize promotional videos.
The researchers are at .


Subject: States eye Dish Tax

Not only did Florida eye a tax on dishes, but Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law a bill imposing a new telecommunications sales tax on providers of telephone, cable and satellite services.
The new Florida law imposes a 10.8 percent tax rate on satellite providers. With the dish tax proceeds, 63.5 percent would be retained by the state. The balance of the collected tax would be distributed to local municipalities.
The 1996 Telecommunications Act contains an exemption for the satellite television industry from local taxes but not from state taxes. The cable rate at the state level is 6.8 percent. Cable operators will also pay an additional 4.9-5.1 percent to local governments, depending on whether or not a cable operator pays "permit fees" to a respective local jurisdiction.
There was no comment from the governor's office in Tallahassee on the bill signing. A spokesperson said the governor's office typically doesn't comment on routine bill signings at the Capitol.
After the bill was signed, some were questioning the need to tax satellite TV when it provides much-needed competition to cable. Others suggested that the new tax rates could be a violation of federal law in that they differ between satellite and cable, irrespective of what is paid to localities.
James Ashurst, spokesman for the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association, said, "The SBCA still has major concerns over the structure of the bill, and we will be watching to see how the tax works in the marketplace and how it impacts consumers. We are certain that our member companies that stand to be impacted by the bill, will be watching as well."
The tax becomes effective Oct. 1.
With the Florida tax in the bag, another state is considering a tax on satellite TV.
Lawmakers in North Carolina recently introduced the 2001-2003 state budget, which includes a provision to equalize the taxation of satellite and cable. According to the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association, a 6 percent tax would be charged on gross receipts from the sale of cable and satellite TV services across the state under the legislation.
Currently, satellite TV is not taxed by the state, while cable is subject to local taxes.
In addition, a provision in the bill would allow cable operators to be credited for any local franchise tax they pay. That would allow a cable provider that pays a five percent local franchise tax to be charged a one percent state tax. Satellite would always remain at 6 percent sales tax.
North Carolina is a significant state for satellite TV, with more than 800,000 subscribers getting service through a dish, according to SkyTRENDS state-by-state data for first quarter 2001. North Carolina ranks fourth among all states in the number of satellite TV subscribers, behind Florida, California and Texas. Those three states each have more than 1 million DTH subscribers.
Does any of this really surprise you?  Perhaps California could bail themselves out of their electrical crunch with such a tax.


Subject: FCC's Powell Cable must lead digital transition
By Junko Yoshida, with additional reporting by freelance writer David Benjamin
Chicago - Sounding a warning that the cable industry should help, not hinder, the deployment of broadband digital communications, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell told the cable industry's annual convention that its members could invite renewed federal regulation if they squander their technology lead.
Speaking last week at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) convention here, Powell urged members to "find a way to become a productive partner to aid this transition-rather than its obstacle." His comments also reflected concern over the resistance of companies in the industry to carrying terrestrial digital broadcasts over their systems.
The NCTA filed new comments to the FCC on June 11 reiterating its opposition to so-called "dual must-carry" requirements that would compel cable operators to carry both analog and digital TV signals until the digital transition is completed. In its comments, NCTA stressed that the FCC lacks the statutory authority to impose dual must-carry rules and that the rules themselves would be unconstitutional.
"As a matter of policy, it would be a mistake to allow dual must-carry during the [digital] transition to be the driver of the ultimate outcome of the provision of digital programming to cable customers," NCTA said in its comments. "As a matter of law, neither the [1932] Communications Act nor the Constitution allows it."
The FCC tentatively ruled in January that imposing digital must-carry rules would be unconstitutional, but pressed the broadcast and cable industries to continue seeking a compromise.
As new elements flow into cable's coaxial pipeline, including high-speed data, telephony and the expansion of interactive television, noted Powell, "The hopes and fears [for broadband service] are acute. . . . You will contribute to the environment in which it exists."
Or else.
He said, "Don't deny programmers the fair opportunity to reach consumers. . . .Consumer value must always remain high with the products and services you deliver."
Although Powell praised the cable industry for its leadership in the adoption of a variety of digital consumer services, his cautionary tone was in marked contrast to his appearance in April at the convention of the National Association of Broadcasters. There, Powell assured broadcasters of his preference for laissez-faire regulatory oversight, and he seconded NAB chairman Edward Fritts' enthusiasm for "free over-the-air broadcasting."
Powell's warnings last week followed the NCTA's comments to the FCC on the proposed must-carry provisions. The NCTA-already well-advanced in the digital transition-is concerned that cable companies might be required to tie up significant amounts of broadband spectrum helping broadcasters phase over from analog to digital. Such a requirement might include the necessity of carrying TV programs simultaneously in both analog and digital forms, drastically reducing spectrum available for multiple TV channels and other broadband services like telephony and high-speed Internet access.
Cable operators have also argued against requirements that they present HDTV programs exclusively in the spectrum-intensive high-definition format, rather than in standard format.
Powell conceded that the cable industry's technology and infrastructure have forged a "clear competitive edge" over both terrestrial broadcast TV and digital broadcast satellite (DBS). He said that cable has achieved its "most favorable regulatory environment in decades." But he noted that in the past, the cable industry has squandered such advantages. "It's largely in the hands of the industry to maintain favorable conditions."
The subtext of those warnings lies in past accusations, brought before the FCC, of price gouging and poor customer service by cable companies. Striking a populist chord, Powell said that a "grateful nation" welcomes the speed of cable's move into broadband telecommunications, but that the country needs this technological leap to reach consumers at "affordable rates." And he called on the cable industry to compete with traditional telephone companies to "enlarge consumer choice in telephone services," stressing the importance of competition over regulation.
Among all the aspects of broadband cable, the possibility of competing for telephone customers and reducing the average family's phone bill gained the most favor with the FCC chief.
Meanwhile, in a speech at the NCTA last week, new Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) was similarly populist, but significantly more accommodating toward his hosts. He characterized broadband cable services as an ideal medium, allowing the participation of the largest number of Americans.
In terms that signaled impatience with any provision-including must-carry-that might slow the transition to widespread digital broadband access, Daschle said, "Technology is an unstoppable force. . . . Government can get in the way to impede the inevitable, or it can participate in democratic change."
Broadband to all
Sending his own message to broadcasters, DBS providers, NCTA members and the FCC, Daschle insisted, "Working together is not an option. It is a requirement." Clearly signaling his preference for cable broadband as the technology of choice, Daschle said, "As part of our Democratic [Party] technology agenda, we are setting about our goal of delivering broadband to every American by the end of the decade."
Although eschewing any such grand designs, Powell, in his turn, agreed that cable-once viewed as "the toad of the communications sector," a "dangerous upstart" shunned by Wall Street investors-has been the benefactor of a "digital kiss" that has turned it into a prince.
"Many platforms and technologies are chasing the broadband rainbow," he said, but cable is today the leader. He expressed his hope that-without need of substantial oversight by the FCC-the cable industry will expand the country's "rich mosaic of interests." He called this "a challenge worthy of a prince."


Subject: 2001-2003 US TV Station HDTV Product Reports
From: Des Chaskelson
Data for these reports was derived from an extensive survey of US television stations from November 2000 through April 2001. Product Reports include a written category analysis, plus quantitative summary tables and charts showing installed base and annual purchases (units and dollars) fro SD and HD, 2001-2003, brand shares, average prices, incidence of purchase etc. Product Reports are available for 23 product categories -- view table of contents online at:
(ED Note-- Subscribers to Tech Notes Eligible for a 10% Discount!! --)


Parting Shots
By Larry Bloomfield
Keep an eye out for an interesting article about a filter built by Dielectric for WKBD-TV in Detroit. Seems that the WKBD folks got a channel 14 assignment for the digital outlet and there are 2-way radio users less than a ½ mile a ways at less than 25 KHz down form their 470 MHz; a little too cozy for comfort. Dielectric and the other folks involved did a nice job of addressing and solving the problem.
Take a look at the web site under Educational Opportunities. Santa Fe Workshops, based out of Chicago, IL is offering Tech-Note subscribers a discount. Check it out.
I hear that Sierra Video has a new HDTV switcher that might be worth a look at.
Be glad you’re a subscriber. It will be a few days before this gets posted on the web site.
That’s it for this time; let’s go to press!


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