If you've ever looked at the (American) local public television schedule, you've probably seen something listed late at night called "Digital TV: A Cringley Crash Course". My local PBS station plays it pretty much everyday between the hours of 2am and 5am, so the other day I decided to record it and watch it during a more reasonable hour.
Filmed in 1998, it's a half-hour introduction to HDTV and though many aspects of it are deliciously quaint (like the price and size of HDTVs mentioned), I was pleasantly surprised at how much this future-forward introductory show got right. Here are the highlights and lowlights of the show, with ten years of hindsight:
Predictions it got right
- A nice history of aspect ratios is explained and TVs of the future would all be 16:9.
- I was surprised that this show actually describes resolution up to 1080p as the high end. Given the limitations of 1998 technology, I figured they would discuss 480p and maybe 720p at most.
- High resolution video will be delivered on fiber optic lines (as a new FiOS TV customer, I would say this is spot-on).
- The show predicted most people would have HDTV sometime in the 2000s and talked about the 2006 digital TV switch (which was pushed to February 2009) which looks like it will finally happen.
Predictions it got wrong
- All during the 1990s, everyone seemed to predict interactive TV was just around the corner. This section of the Cringley Crash Course site explains what was predicted on this show: shows would include all sorts of helpful metadata about what you were viewing. They even showed a demo during a cooking segment (with Julia Child!) where the full recipe was shown in an optional window, and any ingredient could be drilled down for more info. This has never happened and I don't know if it ever will (I'd rather use my laptop to look at google/wikipedia instead of my TV).
Overall, the show still holds up pretty well, giving an introduction to what HDTV means and for the most part accurately predicts what the TV world will be like in the 2000s.