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Analog TV Still Finds Uses

Updated on March 2, 2014

Compared with digital TV, analog TV uses fewer radio frequency spectrum that must be shared with cellphones and other mobile gadgets

My television set is still analog. I have wanted to avail of a digital gadget that connects it to a local cable service. But I consider it a leak of financial resources to invest on a cable service that has upped its fees due mainly to lack of competition in our place. I am enjoying a streaming show on my computer via the internet anyway.

Why is analog television a dead technology?

“As a technology, however, (analog) television is dead.... The life and death of a technology does not depend on its pervasiveness or its popularity. It depends on its prospects. How it fits with the directions of complementary technologies and how much improvement it offers. How fast it is advancing in comparison with potential substitutes. By those standards, television is as dead as the vacuum tube.... ” (Gilder, G. Microcosm. 1989:308; parenthetical mine).

Why still analog?

“TV had to be analog because broadcast signals use scarce resources of the radio frequency spectrum (for copper cables) and digital video takes between seven and ten time more spectrum space than analog. With scores of channels of high-quality digital television, there would be no room left in the spectrum for cellular phones or CB radios or any other mobile technologies” (same source as above).

Part of analog TV’s survival mechanism is embellishment with digital enhancements.

“... In an age when computer will be responsive to voice, tough, joysticks, keyboards, mice, and other devises, television is inherently passive, a couch potato medium. To get minimal effects of control – windowing, zooming, and other manipulations – the analog signals must be digitized. Otherwise analog television is mostly a take-it-or-leave-it system” (Gilder, G. Microcosm. 1989:309).

The analog codes and digital enhancements of television is called high-definition television (HDTV). It offers a large screen that is almost film-like in clarity. Some influential observers (but no savy of semiconductors) called it the “most important inventions of the twentieth century.”

“This is the way politicians always talk in the presence of influential constituents and petitioners. Dead technologies are easy to describe and dramatize...They employ lots of worthy people and influential lobbyists....” (same source as above).

A review of analog

“Analog computers use continuous physical magnitudes to represent quantitative information.”

Analog computing is for use to solve a single or a few problems. That is why it is easy to design and make an analog computer. It can take in and solve a problem in real time. A crucial disadvantage of analog computer is lack of accuracy. It can handle “a few decimal places but fewer in complex mechanisms—and general-purpose devices are expensive and not easily programmed.”

A review of digital

“...Digital computers represent information in discrete form, generally as sequences of 0s and 1s (binary digits, or bits)....The first devices used switches operated by electromagnets (relays)” (Encyclopedia Britannica 2009).

Analog TV hangs on

The switchover to digital TV had been accomplished says Constant Walker. However, analog TV is still useful, besides it is cheap. More importantly it is not hazardous.

Compare analog TV to the hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) chamber that is used to deliver pure oxygen to a patient under increasing pressure which may reach as much as that one gets when diving 30 ft down a body of water. This is a large chamber (8ft long 3ft in diameter) where the patient gets in then sealed that is now seldom used in treatment of illness;sometimes in combination with infusion chelation therapy to treat heart disease. HBO forces oxygen to get through to colonies of clostridium bacteria in moist gangrene. This is a life-threatening disease caused by anaerobic bacteria (Clostridium perfrigens, C. novyi, C. septicum). Oxygen kills anaerobic bacteria. There are only a few HBO machines in the world today; about 400 units in Russia and 200 units in the United States (Cranton, E., MD and A. Brecher. Bypassing Bypass. 1984:152).

Or compare analog TV with angiography (X-ray picture is taken by machine, a radiologist interprets the film). Angiogram is a ticket to coronary bypass surgery or angioplasty as it is used to pinpoint location of plaque in the artery. It is not as accurate as it is reputed to be. A report of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in 1979 "revealed that inaccurate assessments of arteriograms are commonplace and that when experienced radiologists evaluated the same angiogram, they have conflicting opinions almost half the time" (Cranton, E., MD and A. Brecher. Bypassing Bypass. 1984:140). The angiogram is now being replaced by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and PET (positron emission tomography) scan. PET is more accurate in pinpointing plaque in arteries. It also measures the amount of blood flowing in the artery (Ornish, D., MD. Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease.1996)..

One usefulness of analog TV is that it demonstrates an obsolete technology, nay, a "dead technology" as Gilder puts it. It can serve as a model in assessing the obsolescence of machines and technologies not only in electronics but also in medicine.


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