Old Technologies take time to die

Projection screen in a home theater, displaying an HD-TV image.
Projection screen in a home theater, displaying an HD-TV image
Photo Credit: Wiki

Why does it take so long to get rid of ancient technology? We should have adopted HD-TV years ago. It might surprise you to learn that NHK (the Japan Broadcasting Corporation) was the first to develop High-Definition television and unveiled it in 1969! It became mainstream in the 1990s and by 2000 the entire NHK network moved to digital broadcasting.

The United States held off because mama FCC was worried that most Americans would not have the money to buy an HD-TV. That's like having the Department of Agriculture outlaw steaks because of fears that not everyone can afford to eat steak. Thanks to the FCC's stonewalling, as of last month only 30% of American households own at least one HDTV. But it gets worse, only 44% of that 30% who own an HDTV can actually receive any HDTV programming (1)!

Had we had a Federal Trade Commission (another worthless government agency) in the beginning of the last century I have no doubt we would have held back on the sale and manufacture of automobiles for fear that people who had bicycles would not be able to afford a car!

For anyone who watches any fair amount of HDTV, it's almost impossible to view regular TV anymore, that is how terrible the quality of the primitive resolution most people are stuck with. The FCC, through its arrogance and stupidity has consigned millions of Americans to remain in the dark ages. Read the Cato Institutes's The HDTV Transition: What Went Wrong?: "A lot of things are to blame but ultimately it comes down to a federal industrial policy that substitutes bureaucratic mandates for the wisdom of markets and the desires of consumers."

Sadly, it looks like it will take decades for everyone to convert over. Meanwhile the Japanese are developing Ultra High Definition Video which is 16 times sharper than HDTV! While on a regular TV a face in the crowd of a football game looks blurry; on HDTV you can clearly see the fellow's nose; on UHDV you will be able to see the pimple on his nose. So while the Japanese will be viewing movies with unimaginable beauty and clarity, we will still be watching the video equivalent of Daguerreotypes.

Con EDYou might have read this recent headline in the New York Post:


The utility has won state permission to switch off its direct current service, which Thomas Edison powered up in Manhattan 125 years ago yesterday. It now provides DC power to just five customers in Manhattan.

The Public Service Commission order is the last gasp of a century-old war between Edison, a direct-current proponent, and Nikola Tesla, who invented alternating current.

I won't bother giving you the link to the Post article since it will rot in a few weeks anyway. How stupid can some American News outlets be? They should keep the link alive and have it point to an archived article, but I digress.

Well, it only took a century to finally persuade people to go AC. Since 1994 when I started in telecommunications we used only D.C. and continue to do so. We have 8,000 amp AC service which we convert to DC on premises using our own rectifiers. We had toyed with the idea of getting Direct Current from Con Ed but decided that the utility was too unreliable to depend on them always having DC power. We use DC because the motors and power supplies on our computers last longer with DC.

Eight years ago Con Ed had as many as 5,000 DC customers, many in the garment district and buildings that had old elevators in mid-Manhattan. In 1999, Con Ed started urging its DC customers to convert with incentives and progressively higher rates. For Con Edison, the benefits are enormous, not needing to run the old system.

Although New York City has had DC power since 1898, Con Edison has been trying to cut the service over 70 years ago. Actually Con Ed hasn't generated DC power in ages, instead relying on its own rectifiers buried in the streets to convert AC to DC power.

Which brings me to the subject of Mexican trucks. In my previous post Mexican Trucks a good thing I had some commenters wringing their hands about American truckers losing their jobs. I would like to point out at one time there was concern that electric lights would put candlestick makers out of business, that cars would put buggy whip manufacturers out of business, that telephones would put foot messengers out of business, that airplanes would put the railways out of business and TV would kill the movie business. Fortunately, at the time, we didn't let the threat of lost jobs stand in the way of progress, so that we now still have candle-stick makers, buggy whip manufacturers, messengers, railways, and Hollywood. To the extent that we stop worrying about jobs lost, to that extent we prosper as a nation.

We have more people working in more businesses than ever before. We are the most productive and prosperous peoples on the planet. Yes there are some from Saudi Arabia that live better than us, but despite all the oil wealth the majority of Saudis are unemployed and their average income is below our poverty level. So don't worry about Mexicans driving all the way from Nogales to San Francisco. The money saved by stopping the silly and costly process of offloading to American truckers will make products cheaper, provide greater profits for corporations that will now be able to hire more Americans to process those products and result in even more American trucking getting done.

Instead of truckers losing out, truckers will gain. Despite all the tears about Nafta and the loss of manufacturing jobs we have a vibrant economy. I couldn't care less if we lost all manufacturing jobs. Who made the rule that manufacturing is important? At one time the majority of Americans worked on farms. Now almost none do (2). How'd that work out for us? Pretty good, I'd say.



Wiki, High-definition television


EPA, Demographics

Less than 1% of US workers list farming as an occupation.

### End of my article ###

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