Electronic Design


Whither Or Whether DTV?
Right now, most of the public doesn't realize that Congress has mandated that their TV sets become obsolete so that it can make money by reselling the current TV spectrum. The electronics industry is going along in the hopes of profitable new products \["OFDM Links Two Controversies," Dec. 6, 1999, p. 22\]. It worked for cellular phones, didn't it?

Has anyone considered that the public really doesn't give a damn about DTV (or even HDTV), and will just be forced by economics to accept the standard analog cable fare? Over-the-air broadcasting will promptly die. Freed of competition, cable rates will keep going up and up. More and more cable-carried shows will migrate to the pay-TV category. And more and more of the public will tune out. Private companies, not the public, will own the means of communication.

The question of whether there should be DTV has not been truly answered. And the electronics industry et al. are debating "whither DTV."
M. Elcan

Try This Approach Instead
Just a few points regarding your comments on COFDM: The ATSC decision to use 8-VSB pre-dates 1995, whence it was chosen by the "Grand Alliance" members, chief among these is/was Zenith, or more correctly LG. Both are now trading via Chapter 11 provisions. Zenith holds the patent and associated IPRs to the 8-VSB system, which perhaps explains the choice.

Anyone assessing COFDM for use as a "consumer" technology in 1995 would have come to the same decision as the ATSC/FCC. It didn't exist, it required a dedicated RISC CPU to demodulate it of the complexity of a 586, and there was no agreed specification.

Today, due to the industry-led, non-governmental, non-subsidised, non-aligned, patent-pooled, truly global commercial body called the DVB (www.dvb.org), COFDM consumer silicon exists. It is shipped by Motorola Inc., VLSI Inc., Oak Technology Inc., and LSI Logic Inc. (Notice the Inc.'s.) This still astounds me, as the specification was only ratified in May 1997.

This COFDM silicon works "out of the box" with 6 or 7 or 8 MHz of allocated bandwidth and 2000 carriers (2k) or 8k. It has four guard intervals, four constellation types, and five FEC settings as options. The Oak Technology Inc. (www.oaktech.com) product OTI-7000, released in May 1999, can auto-detect any one of the above variants and output an MPEG-2 transport stream in approximately 350 ms.

The original COFDM patent was filed by a U.S. citizen. All DVB members are required to contribute IPR to a common pool which is managed for their well-being. Manufacturers, I believe, currently pay a little under U.S. $1 per DVB set-top box or integrated digital TV (IDTV) as a result of this sensible approach.

Sinclair Broadcasting Group has had the guts to flag a "We can do better." They believe, as do I, that U.S. companies and U.S. citizens will be better served by a modulation technology which is inherently robust. You invented it, you make it, you ship it...why not use it ?
Ian Wheeler
Array Communications Ltd. (U.K.)

Gadgets Drive Us To Distraction
I think that the subject of responsible engineering is especially important today, since the marketeers and sales people seem to be only interested in making the irresponsible buck ("Engineers Can Communicate!," Dec. 17, 1999, p. 22).

One area that I refer to is all of the gadgets that are going into automobiles of the 21st century. A TV show recently gave a preview of some of these. They included the wireless viewphone mounted on the steering wheel with a postage-stamp viewing area. Another was the wireless fax machine, Internet access, and otherwise full-blown computer capability to allow the occupants of the car to type, scroll, double click, right click, close, open, etc. With all of these distractions, who is paying attention to traffic and sensible driving?

Just before Christmas, near my home northwest of Philadelphia, a youngster who was the innocent passenger in a car was killed when an irresponsible driver missed his stop sign and ran into the car, where the child was properly seated. The driver was talking on his wireless phone when the incident happened. His excuse was that he was distracted. How will anyone not be distracted in these cars of the future? If no one else pays attention to the weapons being installed in cars, it is up to the practical and responsible engineer to somehow make these additions safe to the drivers and all others around them.

The obvious safety measure is to lock out all of these devices when the car is moving. This could and should be made foolproof. The driver has no business doing anything but driving and paying attention to the road. He/she must be made aware of the fact that he/she is propelling a 2- or more ton missile at top speed when things are going normally.

Before we let the automobile manufacturers put more distracting gadgets into the cars that we will ooh and aah over and simply must have, the engineers on these projects must be the ones to do it responsibly.
Timothy Hulick

Notice Anything Different?
I haven't read the Jan. 10, 2000 issue of your magazine yet, but the cover caught my eye immediately. Nice title font. Nice overall. I'm not sure what is the right word...Flashy? Cool? Fun?

It looks like the kind of magazine that I would read for enjoyment, not just for work. Good job!
Juhani Paloniemi

I do not like, I am not impressed with, the new cover of Electronic Design. The previous cover was much easier and faster to read/glance over.
Robert Montgomery

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