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Hi-D! Hi-D! Hi-D! No?

You might not have noticed that all numbers are zero. There’s a good reason you might not have noticed that, but I’ll get back to that in a few shakes of an image stabilizer. First, I wanted to mention the purpose of this month’s rant: proving that HDTV ain’t color.

Okay, enough relevance; back to the numbers. Methinks Abbott & Costello had a routine about how seven into 28 is 13. Draw it out long-division style. Does seven go into two? Nope. Does seven go into eight? Yep, one time, and the remainder is one. Bring down the two, and you’ve got 21, which seven goes into three times, so the answer’s 13.

You can prove it by multiplication: seven times three is 21. Seven times one is seven. Seven plus 21 is 28. Or try addition. Make a stack of seven 13s. Start counting down the right column: three, six, nine, 12, 15, 18, 21; then continue down the left column: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28.

That’s good for amusing toddlers (which is why it’s popular among TV technologists). Here’s one for a slightly older audience.

One equals one, eh? One can be expressed as 1/1. Similarly, negative one can be ex-pressed as -1/1 or 1/-1. Are you with me so far?

So -1/1 equals 1/-1. Take the square roots of both sides of the equation and cross-multiply, and you get the square root of -1 times the square root of -1 equals the square root of 1 times the square root of 1, or, to put it more simply, -1 equals 1. Add one to both sides, and you get 0 equals 2. Multiply by any desired factor, and you get all numbers being equal to zero.

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME

Well, now, unless you’ve been sniffing an old can of Cramolin, you’ve probably figured out by now that not all numbers are actually zero, and seven doesn’t really go into 28 13 times. But that’s only because you’ve got enough going on in your cranial cavity to read this column. Sad to say, the same ain’t true of a large proportion of HDTV owners.

Scientific-Atlanta, (er, Cisco?) commissioned a survey of 500 owners of HDTVs. Most folks who’ve read about the survey are most shocked by the finding that about half of them had no way whatsoever to get any HDTV to watch: no HDTV broadcast receiver, no HDTV cable, no HDTV satellite, not even a D-VHS machine.

Personally, I don’t find that either surprising or a bad reflection on those owners. Maybe they just went into the store and asked for “the best you’ve got.” Maybe they figured they might as well get HDTV now and watch it later. Maybe they figured an HDTV screen would improve their pictures enough (that’s sort of what 28 percent of the owners said). All of those are legitimate reasons in my book.

I could even live with the statistic that 18 percent thought they didn’t need anything besides the HDTV to get HDTV. Hey, I once heard of an accident victim who’d set the cruise control on his RV and then went back to fix a drink. You get something new, and you don’t necessarily know everything about it.

No, the statistic that floored me was that almost a quarter of the HDTV owners knew they were getting HDTV (even though they weren’t) on account of the announcement at the beginning of the program. It goes, “The following program is being brought to you in high-definition television.” And there you have it. Maybe a survey of non-HD TV owners would show an even higher proportion enjoying this miracle of modern TV technology.

Before you laugh too hard, let me tell you that I’ve got a lot of sympathy for even those folks. “HDTV” is so misused that it’s a wonder anyone’s got a scintilla of an iota of a shred of an idea of what it means.

For instance, if about half of those surveyed couldn’t get HDTV, that means about half could. The vast retail-industrial complex has decided that a HDTV set without digital-TV reception should be called an HDTV monitor, and an HDTV with digital-TV reception should be labeled “HDTV Built-In.”

Methinks that’s fair enough. But there is a bunch of non-HDTV TVs with digital-TV reception, and some retailers are calling them “HDTV Built-In,” too. I am not making this up.

Now, then, not all retailers call those HDTVs without digital-TV reception HDTV monitors. Some call them “HDTV Ready” or “HDTV Compatible.” Sound okay to you?

There just one small problem. What do you call a TV that’s not HDTV but can handle an HDTV signal fed into it? Would you believe “HDTV Compatible?” There’s also “HDTV Supported” and even an occasional “HDTV Ready.”

NOW PLUG THAT HOLE

Now, then, those HDTV monitors have been sold for years—millions of them. And they’ve got analog-component inputs for getting HDTV signals. Except you can’t always find a source with analog component HDTV outputs, and some legislators, egged on by Hollywood, want to “plug the analog hole.”

That doesn’t mean giving you a plug you can use to get analog outputs. It means eliminating those outputs.

Yes, analog component gave way to DVI. Then DVI gave way to HDMI. Now HDMI is giving way to UDI. What’s that? You don’t know what UDI is? Then how come you’re laughing at those folks who think they’re getting HDTV when they ain’t?

Do you think you can tell the difference between HDTV and not? It ain’t exactly like the difference between black-and-white and color. It ain’t even like the difference between mono and stereo. And, if you shoot with too narrow an aperture or sit too far from a screen, you ain’t going to see HDTV even if you’ve got the right kind of source and the right connections.

Maybe someday we’ll drop this “HDTV” lunacy in favor of terms that make more sense. “Hey, look! This one has a better picture!”