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Tech Talk

Television: slowly forging into the future

10/1/2014

The best thing about technology is it has virtually no ceiling. As great as your smartphone or laptop is right now, in five years it will look like a dinosaur. The annual evolution of computer technology has practically become a celebrated ritual at this point. However, that revelry quickly morphs into angst when the same expectations of progress are moved from computing tech to entertainment technology, i.e., your televisions.

For almost 40 years, the television sat in our living rooms with very low expectations: turn on, project a color image, and if possible, have a remote. Then somewhere around the turn of the century, the term “High Definition” crept into the average TV viewer’s lexicon.

From that moment on, the TV has become a point of contention in living rooms across the country. Nevermind HD, suddenly everyone had to have a flat panel TV, connected to the Internet, with a DVR and multiple HDMI hook-ups. These aren’t luxuries — they’ve become necessities. At the moment, TV luxury means 3D television, a technology that may never truly become ingrained in the average home entertainment system. The real spectre of TV progress is “4K,” the next step in image resolution.

Fully realized, HD resolution means projecting an image 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels tall, or 20 inches x 11.25 inches. HD images are beautiful, but why stop there when a 4K image is 42.66 inches x 22.5 inches? An image that size means no more stretching an HD broadcast to fill your 42-inch TV; simply project the native 4K image. That makes sense, and if you’re really excited, you can drop a few grand and pick up a 4K TV today.

The problem is that TV technology has evolved faster than the broadcast industry. Producing and broadcasting 4K video requires more processing and transmission power than our current entertainment infrastructure can handle. So go ahead and cash in your savings on a 4K TV, but don’t expect to enjoy its full glory for a while. It might be a decade (that’s 10 generations of iPhone advancement) before it receives its first 4K broadcast. CV

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Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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