Source of Knowledge? The NAB Show Ain't It

Look, there's only one legitimate reason to go to the big show each April. It's to get away from the office and maybe play a little golf in the desert sun.
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You might not have noticed that batteries don't charge themselves. Yes, you've stumbled onto Quest for Knowledge, NAB 2009 edition.

Look, there's only one legitimate reason to go to the big show each April. It's to get away from the office and maybe play a little golf in the desert sun.

On the other hand (where, hint to my secret identity, I still have five fingers), you probably ain't going to get your bean counters to approve a paid vacation these days. So you have to call it a need to learn about equipment.

The NAB Show greatly cooperates in this scheme. They offer miles of aisles and tides of guides. But enough about me and my ilk. How about that information?

Let's start with that aforementioned battery. I was wandering down a convention aisle when a sign grabbed my eye (which can hurt). It said Dynacore had a "self-charging battery."

Methinks that would make a good power source for a perpetual-motion machine. But I'm going to cut Dynacore a break. Their battery has a built-in charger, so you can plug it directly into an outlet instead of lugging around an extra system. And Dynacore ain't based in an English-speaking country, so they've got nothing to be ashamed of.

Likewise, I'm going to give a pass to those folks who say Anton-Bauer had the first solar-powered battery charger or that Marshall or Nebtek had the first LCDs visible in that there sunlight. I didn't see any such claims in their exhibits, and they can't control what we (ahem) "fact-checking" reporters and editors dream up.

ZERO DELAY

Boxx is a different story. Their Meridian transmission system was called "Zero-Delay." Really? Zero?

Light is pretty fast stuff. It'll get from one end of a studio to another before you can say boo, but it takes a good long while to get from the moon to the earth and a heck of a lot longer to get from the sun to either.

Heck, even at a mere 22,300 miles above the equator, geostationary satellites make a round-trip conversation take close to half a second for a reaction to get to the person who spoke. "Zero-delay?" I don't think so.

At least Boxx didn't keep me waiting too long. Right on their data sheet, "Zero-delay" is defined as less than 1 millisecond. I ain't going to say that ain't a pretty brief period, but it's enough time for about 63,000 HDTV pixels to go flying by, which is a larger number than zero in my book.

NTT, another bunch of folks with a speedy transmission system at the NAB Show, had this quaint way of referring to less than 1 millisecond, "less than 1 millisecond." And they ain't native English speakers, either.

Maybe Boxx was just being overly enthusiastic. At least Boxx's product sheet (and Web site) clearly explained their terminology. I'll chalk Fusion-io's giant "1,250" as a label for the 1,024 simultaneous streams they were feeding from a solid-state drive to too much or too little coffee consumed by the sign maker.

And I just feel sorry for J. P. Claude Inc., with their huge pile of literature announcing "Media Processing of Exiting Content" instead of "Existing Content," but, hey, it sort of works either way.

No, none of that got me riled up like being unable to find out about stuff that seems to matter. Remember B.E.T.? I ain't referring to Black Entertainment Television.

Back in the days of videotape, TDK wanted to be a major supplier, so they took out ads touting how good their B.E.T. was—some number per meter squared. So I figured this must be something important, and I tried to learn more about it.

I asked around at various tape suppliers, and they had no idea what I was talking about. Then I asked at TDK, and they had no idea what I was talking about. So I showed them the ad, and they wrote the home office.

A long time later, I got a technical paper about surface smoothness, methinks. It turns out B. E. and T. were the initials of the guys who made the measurements. I hope their mothers got to see the ads.

So, at this year's NAB Show, Panasonic introduced some new P2 cards. They're called the E series, which means the plain ones are now the A series.

LIFE SPAN

They're a lot less expensive, which means the E stands for economy, methinks. But, get this: Besides being a lot less expensive, they're also twice as fast! And they're available from the usual suspects: Panasonic, Fuji, Maxell—all of which had them in their booths.

Well, geez, why would anyone want to buy another A-series P2 card? That's life. That is, the reason you would want to buy more A-series cards is that E-series cards have more limited lifetimes—a mere five years. P2 cards have lifetimes?

"P2 cards are considered to be one of the most durable video storage mediums available," said Michael Hall, chief information security officer at DriveSavers, in a recent press release about how they can recover data from the little solid-state vaults. Lifetime issues? Heck, no.

"...Like all removable media, they are inherently susceptible to physical failure..."

Curiouser and curiouser. So I visited Fuji, Maxell, and Panasonic and asked about the lifetimes of P2 A&E cards (why do storage media use names that make them sound like basic-cable channels?). "The E cards will last at least five years," I was told. "The A cards will last longer." Why? What failure mechanism? How many write/erase cycles? Read cycles? Something? Anything?

Maybe some mother's kid knows.

Mario Orazio is the pseudonym of a well-known television engineer who wishes to remain anonymous. E-mail him atmorazio@nbmedia.com.