Mario Looks Ahead to 2009

Watch out, professional grade, consumer quality is catching up

You might not have noticed that the vote is in, the American people have spoken, and we're looking at the greatest change since the 1930s. No, I ain't talking about last month's Presidential election, and I sure as heck ain't talking about analog shutdown (I'll get to that little whimper of an event later). What I'm talking about, naturally, are LCD TVs.

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'Twas back in the '30s that TV made the big switch from spinning disks to picture tubes. Now we're switching from CRT to LCD. Methinks there are still more CRT TVs out there than LCD TVs, but more LCD TVs are being sold these days than any other kind (for other kinds, randomly hit any three keys, and you're bound to list display technologies: DLP, FED, GLV, LED, PDP, SED, etc.).


For years, now, companies from Barco to Sony have been trying to come up with LCD reference monitors that emulate CRTs. Others, like Field Emission Technologies, are trying to sell other flat-panel technologies that look like CRTs. But I've got to ask: If LCDs are taking over in homes from CRTs, why the heck do we want reference monitors to look like CRTs? So I predict that sometime in 2009 someone is going to push a plain-old LCD as a reference monitor and market it by showing that it makes pictures "as seen on TV" by the old folks at home.

Yes, these days you might be better off looking for new technology at the Consumer Electronics Show than at NAB. Need a satellite receiver? You could get a nice expensive one from a company like Tand—I mean Ericsson—or Scien—I mean Cisco—or you could buy two or three from a consumer-electronics company like Sonicview or Viewsat and add the spare change to your golden-parachute fund.

The funny thing is that the consumer stuff is getting more and more professional—built to last, HD-SDI connections—while professional stuff is going more consumer. And who can blame them? Remember the original, all-powerful 4 GB P2 cards? Well, these days you can get a 16 GB microSD card pretty easily.

In case you're not familiar with the size of a microSD card, let me note that it's often shown sitting on someone's thumbnail. And you know it's a thumbnail on account of the card being small enough that it doesn't cover the whole nail. That's how small we're talking about for something with more than three times the capacity of a DVD.

So, in case there was ever any doubt, I predict tape is dead. Archivists are still into 35 mm motion-picture film, the only format that has lasted 100 years (at least in the black&white version), and there are boxes for recording bits onto same. Optical discs might hold a price edge over solid state for a while, especially if the holographic kind ever get off their butts and start selling as massively as their capacities. But I don't know. SanDisk announced in September that they'd start distributing music on microSD, so maybe they're expecting to price them like audio cassettes.

The only problems might be figuring out how to label them—hire one of those artists who paint scenes on grains of rice?—and how to keep someone from accidentally ingesting the master. "Gee, that chocolate mint didn't taste very good, but it sure was crunchy."

So, having nailed storage to a cell-phone card, we might as well dispense with in plant wiring. I am not making this up. Take a gander at

Yes, it's consumer stuff. So, how many bits squeeze through HD-SDI in a second? A wee mite less than 1.5 billion. That's a lot more than a 56 kbps telco modem, but it's been a few years since those were introduced. How many glide through a WirelessHD connection? Would you believe 25 billion? Again, I am not making this up. Maybe there ain't going to be a wireless 256 x 256 router at the 2009 NAB Show, but it's coming. It is coming.


As long as I'm ranting about transmission, I might as well touch on that tiny event of Feb. 17 of next year. It ain't the year all full-power broadcasters have to start transmitting digitally. That was 2003 for all, 2002 for most, and 1999 for a bunch. It also ain't the year anyone has to transmit HDTV, on account of no one in the U.S. is forced to transmit HDTV.

It ain't even the end of analog. Never mind the loopholes. Thousands of low-power broadcasters can keep right on transmitting analog.

No matter what happens, it probably ain't going to have much effect on any cable, satellite, or telco-TV subscriber, which just happens to be most TV viewers. And a whole bunch of the rest will have functioning over-the-air digital reception.

That still leaves one whole heck of a lot of viewers, and I predict complaints, but methinks they'll get a lot worse once white-space data-transmission devices go on the air. I just ain't yet figured out who will complain louder: TV viewers or white-space device owners.

If they ain't watching TV, maybe viewers will be making TV. And, heck, if they're doing it for YouTube, who cares? But the definition of high definition has been getting blurrier by the frame. Got a camera with only about 400 rows of sensors? Call it hi-def; after all, NHK does (in a million-fps prototype). But what I really like are the supposedly HD cameras with 1/6-inch sensors that open all the way up to ƒ/1.8.

Too bad ƒ/1.8 on a 1/6-inch camera ain't ƒ/1.8 on a 2/3-inch camera—more like ƒ/6.6. Linear resolution ain't the same, either. A hundred line pairs/mm in 2/3-inch is closer to 400 in 1/6-inch. You might be able to measure some HD-ness on a microphotometer, but it ain't going to amount to a hill of beans on a 150-inch 4k plasma display.

HD? Har-Deeharhar.