Since the last time you purchased a TV, technological advances have been considerable. TVs are now wider and more rectangular than they used to be. Up
until recently, the screen dimensions of TVs have been the familiar 4:3 Aspect Ratio (the relationship of a TV’s width to height). Most new TV screens
are now a 16:9 ratio (or letterbox proportion), that we would see from time to time when we rented a movie. The 16:9 ratio is the same aspect ratio of movie
theatre screens; this is the native dimensions that movies are shot in.
The other change you will become aware of is the move from analog TV to digital TV (DTV). Digital TV provides us with the opportunity to have a clearer,
more detailed picture. Analog TV involves the transmission and reception of a continually varying signal that the TV translates into a picture and sound.
DTV is digital, the transmission and reception of ones and zeros (think of it as light on, light off), instead of a continuous wave. While the move to digital
TV is a major change, it’s hardly revolutionary; ones and zeros are the native language of computers, CD and DVD. Television transmission and reception
is just catching up to the digital age.
There are common points of confusion about digital TV. So before you hit the stores with your cash in hand, let us clear up the most serious misconceptions.
The first misconception is that a digital TV will give you a better picture. True,
kind of, the best analog TV is only as good as the lowest level of digital TV. But remember, the quality of the picture you view largely depends on two factors;
the capabilities of the TV monitor and the quality of the source material being sent to it. So an old VHS movie will still look like an old VHS movie.
The other misconception is that DTV and HDTV are one and the same; they are not! DTV is a set of transmission and reception standards of which HDTV is the
highest quality. So while it is true that buying HDTV gets you DTV, the reverse is not true. The lower quality subset of the most common DTV standard is
currently called SDTV. To ensure that you purchase the highest quality, you need to make sure you
are purchasing HDTV.
Mix the DTV/HDTV misconception with some DTV milestone dates, (July 1, 2006: All new 25’ or larger sets must have a DTV tuner or be DTV-ready;
March 1, 2007: 13” or larger sets must meet the aforementioned standard; February 17, 2009: Proposed shut off date for over-the-air analog broadcasts),
and you could easily be led into thinking that all new televisions are HDTV sets.
The majority of new TV sales going forward will likely be high definition sets. The ongoing competition between satellite and cable providers,
and the two competing high definition replacements for DVD (Blu-ray Disc and
HD DVD) will continue to make more high definition content available. Current estimates project that there will be close to 80 million high definition
televisions purchased in 2007. So let us pull the curtain back on HDTV.