Newsletter Issue #912: The 4K TV Revolution: Full Stop!

May 22nd, 2017

You may not recall this, but HDTV was actually demonstrated in the U.S. in the late 1980s. After the standard became official, it took a while for broadcast stations to begin to adopt the technology. The first was WRAL-TV, a CBS affiliate in Raleigh, North Carolina, which began transmitting digital HD on July 23, 1996. But it took until November, 1998 for HDTV sets to go on sale.

It must have seemed strange for a TV station to be offering a technology that benefited nobody, except manufacturers and professionals, for 28 months. Over the next decade, TV sets offering 720p and, later, 1080i and 1080p resolution, blanketed the country. They got cheaper and cheaper until you could buy a decent set with a huge flat screen for only a few hundred dollars. But the original HD sets were CRT and they were very expensive.

Once HDTV was ever-present in people’s homes, and many people had more than one set with high-definition capability, manufacturers had to find ways to persuade you to buy new sets. But a well-designed TV can easily survive for eight or 10 years before requiring major repairs, meaning a long replacement cycle. A standard definition CRT set that I bought around 1994 lasted 20 years before it was put out to pasture.

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