Government mandating digital television

In 1973, the engineering department of the Public Broadcasting System started the project under contract to the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW).

Although closed captioning service was still an experimental technology, programs with “open” captions aired on PBS.

Today, closed captioning features prominently in public environments and public events, accompanies classroom lectures and web content, and even aids ESL students in learning English.

Many everyday home consumers appreciate the widespread availability of captioning, its quality, and its convenience.

The Bureau wanted to use a portion of the network television signal to send precise time information nationwide, digitally encoding this data in a part of the television signal that didn’t carry picture information.

Although the Bureau’s project failed, it inspired a breakthrough idea: might it be possible to send captions encoded in the television signal instead?

Households that acquired the first generation of closed caption decoders enjoyed a front-row seat to a new world.

The closed-captioned television service caused an overnight sensation.

Suddenly, everyone who had been shut out from the world of broadcast media could enjoy television programs along with hearing people.

That’s where the National Captioning Institute comes in.

Before NCI, captioning on television was the exception, not the rule.

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At the First National Conference on Television for the Hearing Impaired in 1971, two possible technologies for captioning television programs debuted.

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