Still Watching Square TV?
It's Time to Widen Your View

By Stuart Calcote
21 June 2010

Although the United States officially switched to digital television (DTV) more than a year ago, and even though most stations are broadcasting a good portion of their programs in HDTV, the majority of American households are still watching a square TV. OK, it's really not square, but it's pretty close to it. "Square TV" is the term I began calling the old NTSC system after I began producing programs in wide-screen HDTV for the Japan Broadcasting Corporation way back in 1994 -- but that's another story.

The old NTSC standard, and the current standard definition television (SDTV), has an aspect ratio of 4:3 (pronounced "four-by-three"). This means that the shape of the screen is four units wide and three units high. It's boxy, limiting and down right unnatural. It might as well be square! On the other hand, the wide-screen HDTV display is 16:9 -- meaning it's sixteen units wide and nine units high -- providing a more natural field of vision and one that's way more enjoyable. It's very close to the experience you have in a movie theater.

Yes, I know, you've been enjoying square TV all of your life and it's suited you just fine; and even though programs are being broadcast in HDTV, you haven't seen much of a difference on your old set with a converter box. And I know that some of you aren't even aware that there was a switch to DTV because you get your programs on cable and the programs still look just the same now as they did before June 13, 2009, the day the DTV switch occurred. Maybe some of you are old enough (like me) to remember when TV programs switched from black-and-white to color. If you weren't the first on the block to get a color set, you didn't see any difference -- the programs you were watching were still black-and-white. But I bet you saw the difference when you got your first color set, right?

Well, it's time to widen your view and get the HD set you've been hearing about. And it's not just the wide aspect ratio that's better. The biggest difference, and the greatest appeal of HDTV is its clarity. Contrary to what you've been thinking, it's not going to cost you the farm. Relatively speaking, HDTV sets are cheaper now than color sets were when you bought your first color TV. Well, yes, there are some really expensive ones out there, like the Plazmatron Power Elite 960Hz Rapid Refresh 90-inch MagnaScreen (a joke); but you can get a nice upgrade to decent HDTV for less than $500 -- in some cases as low as a couple hundred dollars. And if you are getting your programming off the air, it's entirely free! Oh, you haven't heard? All HDTV programs from the major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, PBS, etc) are free. No fees, no monthly bills. Free. All you need is an HDTV set and a digital antenna.

So, square your debts, be square in your relationships, but don't be a square by watching square TV!

Related Article: The Square TV Viewer's HDTV Buying Guide

Founder of HD Pictures, Stuart Calcote is a 29-time Emmy Award winning producer/director of international television programs and one of the first in the world to produce programs in HDTV. Visit for more information about Stuart Calcote.

© 2010 Stuart Calcote. All rights reserved.

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