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Re: British TV License (was America the Worst For Cell Rates

Mark Crispin (MRC@CAC.Washington.EDU)
Mon, 31 Jan 2005 23:50:45 -0800

On Tue, 1 Feb 2005, David Clayton wrote:

> I think the original point many have been to say that a lot of PAL TV
> sets these days seem to have in-built NTSC capability, and I would
> imagine that a lot sold in NTSC markets also have PAL.

Perhaps the term "a lot" means something different in Australia than
it does in North America. In North America, the implication of "a
lot" means "many", "a significant percentage or number."

That is not the case with PAL televisions in North America. Almost no
televisions sold in North America and Japan have PAL. TVs sold in
North America with PAL capable are grey market imports, not consumer

Nor is there any demand for it. DVDs and video tapes are much cheaper
in North America than elsewhere in the world. For similar reasons,
there is little interest in region 2 (or region-free) DVD players in
the US, even though there is quite a bit of interest in region 1 (or
region-free) DVD players in Europe and Japan.

The technical advantage that PAL once enjoyed over NTSC vanished in
the 1980s with the advent of modern electronics instead of the
one-tube wonders of the 1960s that led to the "never twice same color"
epithet. These days, the phase alteration in PAL is complete
unnecessary and comes at a steep cost in not being able to render
green accurately.

Put another way; PAL is a very clever way of overcoming the
limitations of cheap vacuum-tube based color processing, albeit at a
cost. NTSC requires better electronics to do well; but that's been
the rule for about 25 years now.

Arguably, European TV systems are "better" than system M by having 100
more scan lines; but that too comes at a hefty cost; a 50Hz refresh
rate that is noticably flickery. People who live in Europe for
extended periods of time may no notice it; but Americans (and
Europeans who had extended stays in North America do. PAL's
flickering gives us headaches. In South America, there is PAL-M which
uses PAL color on system M; this was probably a good idea in the 1960s
but these days all it does it clearly shows how inferior PAL color is
to NTSC.

For those of you who argue about the pedestal, note that most NTSC
countries dispensed with the pedestal. The US still has it, in the
unlikely event that someone still uses an ancient TV from the 1950s
that needs it (actually, inertia is more like it).

Even people who find themselves with PAL videos find it to be a
preferable option to have the video professionally converted to NTSC
rather than buy a PAL VCR and TV to play it.

Note, by the way, that most PAL/NTSC TVs do not have tuners suitable
for use in North America. Rather, their NTSC mode is designed to be
used with a PAL/NTSC VCR which heterodynes NTSC color at the PAL
frequency. Thus, they are not true NTSC TVs.

All of this is pretty much academic, since analog TV is on its way out
in favor of digital. These days, the NTSC vs. PAL debate has been
supplanted by 8-VSB vs. COFDM -- rather silly since the modulation has
no impact on image quality (unlike, say, 720p vs. 1080i).

-- Mark --
Science does not emerge from voting, party politics, or public debate.
Si vis pacem, para bellum.

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