This is a phenomenal insider look at the concept, creation, and growth of the digital television industry.
When I sit and watch Netflix on my 56″ flat-screen HD television, I know that a lot of time and effort went in to the creation of this technology, but of course, like most people, I know next to nothing about how it all happened. Thanks to Marc Tayer, who was in on the ground floor of the development of this technology, we can get a peek at how this all came about.
The first thing to recognize is the timing. It’s 2016 as I watch streaming, digital content on my HDTV. When was this technology created? The HD TVs started appearing on the market about a decade ago. That’s right…it’s only been about ten years since HDTVs were reasonably on the market. So when were they developed? THAT goes back a little further.
You can practically pinpoint the year 1982 as the start of the digital era, when a new company had a contract with HBO for satellite television encryption.
Starting with this event in 1982, Tayer details all the stepping-stones to the development of digital, HD technology with incredible precision and insight. And he introduces us to a cast of characters that would rival a Tolstoy novel.
Because Tayer is an insider and was a part of this process from an early stage, he is able to offer some incredible insight in to the people (why were they hired) and the process. And it would be easy for Tayer to emphasize his role in the process, or to only report on those aspect in which he was directly involved, but this is much more than a memoir. This is a report on the process as a whole. This isn’t just a one-person’s point of view tale. There has been a vast amount of research done to prepare for this book and Tayer notates his research meticulously. In fact the last 25% of the book is filled with annotation, glossary, and index. And kudos to the publisher for making the notes on my digital copy of the book, easy to access.
At times, the book reads a little like a technical manual, but given the nature of the topic, one has to expect there will be a fair amount of discussion about things like bandwidth, compression, bit-rate, and so forth. I am not a Luddite, but I’m far from being highly knowledgeable about the technical side of our modern technology. Marc Tayer writes about this in a very straight-forward, practical manner, and yet it doesn’t get bogged down in technical lingo and it is very easy to read.
We take our technology for granted, but when we stop to think about it, we have to realize that there was a time when the science behind our technology was only theory. For instance,
… consider that a pure “uncompressed” digitized HDTV signal would take up to 50 cable channels, a total of 300 MHz of bandwidth. That is a completely impractical proposition since it amounts to a third or a half of the entire bandwidth of a cable system. Squeezing one or two digital HDTV channels into a single 6 MHz channel, while preserving stellar video quality, was a feat deemed impossible at the time.
While this work was cutting edge … leading the cutting edge … at the time, we know that we are in a very fast-moving world and the changes in technology are rapid, and almost as interesting as the history of the development of this industry is Tayor’s report on the future and where we’re headed. This isn’t just supposition, but a report on what he knows is currently being developed. Of course this means that this book (or this portion of this book, at least) will be obsolete in ten years.
I was completely captivated and I highly recommend this book.
Looking for a good book? Televisionaries: Inside the Chaos and Innovation of the Digital Revolution by Marc Tayor does a remarkable job of sharing with the reader how our current television technology was developed, and where it’s likely to go.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Televisionaries: Inside the Chaos and Innovation of the Digital Revolution
author: Marc Tayor
publisher: MediaTech Publishing
paperback, 470 pages