HDTV: Assessing an Innovation at Three Points in Time

HDTV: Assessing an Innovation at Three Points in Time

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When color television reached the mass market, many broadcasters dreamed of another goal—to improve the television picture so that it would rival that of motion pictures. The Japanese started work on such a project in the late 1960s, and through the coordinated effort of the government and all of the country's consumer electronics firms, the Japanese had put together a high-definition television (HDTV) satellite system of great ingenuity by the mid 1980s. Rather than embrace the Japanese system, the rest of the world recoiled, concerned that the Japanese would come to dominate another market in the consumer electronics industry. The Europeans set up a state-subsidized research program to create its own HDTV system and in the United States, there were calls to do the same.

The story of HDTV in the United States, therefore, began in 1988 as an attempt to assess the threat posed by a new technology and to determine a course of action in response to that threat. Another crucial development occurred in November of 1998, when the HDTV era in United States began, after the HDTV standards had been determined. As with many a technological launch, little was clear about the course HDTV would follow to adoption. There seemed to be massive hurdles to overcome and nay-sayers who believed that HDTV would not succeed. Finally in 2006, HDTV seemed ready to burst into the mass market. Nonetheless, manufacturers still faced important questions about what kinds of HDTV displays to build and how to appeal to mass market consumers.

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