Copyright Michael Karbo, Denmark, Europe.


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    Chapter 29. Other digital equipment

    New digital products are being introduced all of the time. One of the ĒtrendsĒ is digital radio and television. Itís coming slowly but itís coming.

    There are also a number of other products, which in each its own way integrate audio and image in digital / analog forms. Unfortunately, it is rather difficult for us users to choose between all the new recorders and players in the different formats. Letís look at a few interesting devices.

    Digital video and TV

    When radio and television is digitized, then all the transmitters have to be replaced. This requires new standards, which have been approved in Europe. The next step is that all users will have to replace their existing analog receivers and this can take years.

    The advantage of digital television is that you can send images in a much better quality (higher resolution) than those we are used to now.

    In Europe, the digital radio system is called DAB (Digital Audio Broadcast). It is being introduced but can already today be received in most of the country. And there are a lot channels to choose between. The quality is better that what we are used to from FM, there is, for example, no noise in the transmissions. Text and images can also be sent in the data packages. We will probably see a lot of DAB car radios from now on. The advantage being that the system changes from one transmitter to another, without us being able to hear it.

    Figure 212. Digital DAB radio, which also has normal radio and CD players built in.

    In USA digital radios are already a big success. The signals are sent by satellite, and for $10 a month you can receive 99 advertisement free channels.

    Hard disk based video recorders

    Now that videos can be digitized, then it is, obviously, a good idea to produce hard disk based players. They can be found but for some reason or another they havenít become popular in Europe yet.

    Figure 213. A TiVo box.

    The system, in fact, is quite simple. You have a box, containing a hard disk and an MPEG encoder, etc. The box is connected to the television, so it can receive the analog video signals. These signals are MPEG encoded while the program is running and are stored on a hard disk, which, for example, has enough space for 80 hours of recording. The box can also record and play at the same time. So you can answer the phone in the middle of a program and after a five minutesí chat get back to watching the program, where you left off.

    A hard disk recorder is much more flexible, fast and easy to operate than a traditional VHS recorder.

    DVD hard disk recorder

    A related device is a DVD recorder with a built-in hard disk with, for example, 16 GB. This can enable you to record one program from the television at the same times as you watch another one. The video track is encoded Ēon the flyĒ with MPEG-2, and many hours of recording can be stored on the hard disk.

    Figure 214. DVD player with a built-in hard disk.

    D-VHS

    VHS is the well-known tape system for analog video recordings, which originally was developed by the Japanese company JVC.

    JVC is prepared to introduce a successor for VHS, which is to say, the D-VHS. This new tape is designed to record television and video programs in the highest quality (e.g. high resolution television, HDTV).

    A tape has enough space for 50 gigabytes of data, which is equal to 4 hours of recording in the highest quality (so-called 1080i HDtv). If you use an LS3 compression, which is equal to an MPEG-2, then you can have 24 hours of recording on one tape. This makes the system very suitable for electronic filing of video recordings and film, etc.

    The new D-VHS tape recorders are compatible with the existing VHS tapes, so they can still be played in the same video machine. New tapes are only required for digital recordings.

    The drawback with tape recorders is that you have to wind back and forth between the recordings. You cannot just jump freely between them as you can with a DVD. At the same time a tape is a relatively vulnerable product with a limited life span.

    Figure 215. With a D-VHS you can record seven hours of digital video on one tape.

    It is impossible to predict whether or not D-VHS will become a new bestseller. The system is smart because you can re-use your old VHS tapes. But it will soon have competition from the latest kinds of writable DVD disks with capacities of about 30 GB.

    Computer in the living room

    It would, in fact, be very practical with a computer, which is constantly connected to the television and stereo system.† Most of us, however, arenít interested in having a big noisy computer in the middle of the living room. Which is why small cabinets suitable for living rooms can be found. The models from the company Shuttle are very popular. They are compact boxes (measuring 20 x 30 x 18 cm), which can be fitted up with a fast processor (Pen≠tium 4). If you add a lot a RAM and a big hard disk, then you have the basis for a good multimedia machine, which can supply, for example, mp3s to a hi-fi system.

    Figure 216. Small XPC-boxes from Shuttle can easily be put on the same shelves as a stereo system.
    With a TV/grabber card (like the one described on page 3) your computer can function as a hard disk recorder. With a TV-out plug the images can be transferred to the television and the whole lot can be controlled by a wireless keyboard and a mouse from the coffee table ...

    Palmbutler

    The last product I am going to show you is the Danish designed Palmbutler. This is a very special and unique device. The idea is, that you can conduct analog audio and image signals from a computer to a stereo system and a television. What is really smart is that the signals can be sent via an aerial signal.

    When Palmbutler is connected, you get a new channel on your radio where you can, for example, listen to mp3s directly from your hard disk. And if you want to watch a video film or look at digital photographs, then they will be on a new channel on the television. Itís a good idea and it should work quite satisfactorily.

    Figure 217. The Palmbutler transfers audio and images from a computer to an existing radio or television.


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