Milestones:The High Definition Television System, 1964-1989

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High Definition Television System, 1964-1989


NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) developed high-definition television (HDTV), a high-resolution and wide-screen television system designed to convey a strong sense of reality to viewers. Research began in 1964, ranging from psychophysical experiments to system development. In 1989, the world's first HDTV broadcast via satellite opened a new era in broadcasting. Since 1989, HDTV has spread throughout the world.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the Milestone Plaque Sites

35.6356483, 139.6157232 1-10-11 Kinuta, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 157-8510, Japan

Details of the physical location of the plaque

The new milestone plaque will be installed next to the “First Direct Broadcast Satellite Service” plaque awarded in 2011, which is located outside the building of NHK Science and Technology Research Laboratories. The location will be suitable as every visitor to the laboratories will be able to see the milestone plaques.

How the intended plaque site is protected/secured

The plaque will be permanently embedded in a block of marble placed near the entrance of the building of the laboratories. The NHK STRL is guarded by security personnel at the gate of the laboratories’ property and at the entrance of the building. A security camera monitors the plaque and the entrance at all times and the gate is securely locked during the evening. The plaque site is open to the public and visitors will be able to walk by the plaque which will be on open display.

Historical significance of the work

Conventional color television technologies such as NTSC systems had been pretty well developed by 1964 when the Tokyo Olympic Games was held. At that time, NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) was envisioning the next generation of television systems because the picture quality of color television was inferior to that of 35mm film images such as movies or photos. Since NHK aspired to realize a high quality television system to keep pace with the advancement of human life in the future, the organization began research and development (R&D) on high-definition television (HDTV) in 1964. The R&D started with psychophysical experiments and surveys on what makes images attractive to people, with the aim of determining the types of properties high quality television systems should have. NHK discovered the importance of wide-screen and high-resolution television systems. As a result, a provisional HDTV standard was determined of 1125 scanning lines, 60 Hz field rate, and 2:1 interlace with 5:3 aspect ratio (wide screen TV) as a target specification of HDTV. The development of displays, cameras, and VTR systems began on the basis of the provisional standard. Almost all the initial equipment was developed by 1982 and HDTV became able to work as a system. To demonstrate its excellent picture quality, the first HDTV program “Images for Hi-Vision” was produced in 1982. “Hi-Vision” is the nickname given to HDTV. In 1983, NHK developed a bandwidth reduction technology for HDTV transmission. The1984 Los Angeles Olympics was the first-ever major event to be partly covered by HDTV. Finally, the world’s first HDTV broadcasting trials began via broadcasting satellite in June 1989. Besides broadcasting, HDTV was utilized in various applications such as recording brain surgery in 1987, electric cinemas in 1988, and archiving and exhibiting in a museum in 1989.

The historical significance of HDTV can be summarized as follows.

- HDTV was the first to demonstrate the importance of wide-screen and high-resolution television.

- It achieved an extremely high level of picture quality that people all over the world found very attractive.

- It gave and is still giving great impetus to the development of video technologies.

- Its emergence enabled television technology to be used in many ways besides broadcasting, including movie production, medical imaging, museum applications, and so on.

During the 1990s, the benefits of HDTV came to be recognized widely throughout the world. By 2000, the ITU-R (ITU Radio-communication Sector) had established a single worldwide HDTV standard on the basis of NHK's R&D. HDTV broadcasting began in many countries that had been inspired by HDTV broadcasting in Japan. Today, HDTV has progressed to digital broadcasting and has spread widely throughout the world. HDTV cameras and displays have become household items. Many people enjoy using HDTV cameras to take personal videos. HDTV has also been utilized in such fields as computer imaging, education, and science. HDTV contributes greatly to people’s life and aids in the promotion of consumer electronics and the information industry.

Features that set this work apart from similar achievements

During the HDTV development stage, a number of studies were performed to improve the quality of conventional television such as the NTSC system. In the mid-1980s, EDTV (Enhanced Definition Television) systems were proposed in Japan. In Europe, the MAC/packet system and PALplus system were developed in the 1980s and 1990s, respectively. However, they could not achieve picture quality comparable to that of HDTV due to restrictions on compatibility with conventional television standards. In contrast, HDTV achieved an extremely high level of picture quality that people all over the world found very attractive.

Worldwide interest in HDTV increased as NHK continued to make progress in R&D on it. In a 1986-1995 European project, an HDTV system of 1250 scanning lines with a 50 Hz field rate was developed by taking compatibility with PAL and SECAM into consideration. The specifications of the 1125/60 HDTV and those of the 1250/50 HDTV were unified in the HDTV standard of the ITU-R.

It is quite noteworthy that NHK was first to discover the importance of wide-screen and high-resolution television systems. The organization followed up by conducting total R&D on HDTV from psychophysical experiments to developing almost all of the equipment and finally started the world’s first HDTV broadcasting in 1989. Although the transmission system was changed to digital encoding from analog one, the HDTV technologies developed by NHK has never been changed in the current digital broadcasting services. These accomplishments are the major points that distinguish NHK’s achievements from those of other organizations.

Significant references


[A1] Advanced Television System Research Group, “The Present State of High Definition Television,” NHK Labs. Note, No.192, Dec. 1975. (See appendix 2)

[A2] T. Fujio, “Future Broadcasting and High-Definition Television,” NHK Technical Monograph, pp. 5-13, 1982. (See appendix 3)

[A3] T. Fujio, “High-Definition Television Systems,” Proceedings of The IEEE, Vol.73, No.4, pp.646-655, 1985.

B)Psychophysical Analysis & Picture Quality

[B1] T. Hatada, H. Sakata, and H. Kusaka, “Psychophysical Analysis of the “Sensation of Reality” Induced by a Visual Wide-Field Display,” SMPTE J., Vol. 89, pp. 560-569, August 1980.

[B2] T. Mitsuhashi, “A Study of the Relationship between Scanning Specifications and Picture Quality,” NHK Lab. Note, No.256, October 1980.

[B3] I. Yuyama, “II Fundamental Requirements for High-Definition Television Systems, II-1 Large-Screen Effects,” NHK Tech. Monograph, No. 32, pp. 14-20, June 1982.

C) Signal Standard

[C1] T. Fujio, “High Definition Television Systems - Desirable Standards, Signal Forms, and Transmission-Systems,” IEEE Transactions on Communications, Vol.29, No.12, pp.1882-1891, 1981.

D) Equipment & Transmission

[D1] T. Kubo, “Development of High-Definition TV Displays,” IEEE Transactions on Broadcasting, Vol. 28, No. 2, pp. 39-46, 1982.

[D2] M. Kanazawa, T. Mitsuhashi, M. Sasaki, S. Tsujihara, H. Ohmae and Y. Umegaki," A 50-inch Diagonal Rear-Projection Short Depth Display for High Definition Television,” Proc. of the 6th International Display Research Conference [Japan Display '86], pp.424-427,1986.

[D3] Y. Isozaki, “The 2-inch return-Beam Saticon: A High-Resolution Camera Tube,” SMPTE J., Vol.87, No.8, pp.489-493, 1978.

[D4] J. Kumada, “III-2 Color Cameras,” NHK Tech. Monograph, No. 32, pp. 14-20, 1982.

[D5] F. Okano and J. Kumada, “HDTV hand-held camera using a 2/3-inch SATICON,” NHK Lab. Note, No. 339, November 1986.

[D6] H. Abe, A. Nagura, H. Katayama, et al. “Magnetic Recording of a High-Definition Television Signal,” SMPTE J., Vol. 90, No. 3, pp.192-195, 1981.

[D7] H. Shibaya, H. Katayama, K. Enami, K. Kamijou, T. Yoshida, H. Abe, H. Kasahara, K. Yaguchi, K. Abe, J. Ishida, Y. Ninomiya and Y. Ohtsuka, “Development of a VTR for the High-Definition TV.,” SMPTE J., April 1982, 91:(4) 403,1982.

[D8] J. Ishida, T. Nishizawa and K. Kubota, “High Definition Television Broadcasting By Satellite,“ IEEE Transactions on Broadcasting, Vol. 28, No. 4, pp.165-171, 1982.

[D9] Y. Ninomiya, Y. Ohtsuka, Y. Izumi, S. Gohshi, and Y. Iwadate, “An HDTV Broadcasting System Utilizing a Bandwidth Compression Technique - MUSE,” IEEE Transactions on Broadcasting, Vol.33, No.4, pp.130-160, 1987.

[D10] K. Kubota, Y. Iwadate, K. Seo, and M. Matsumoto, “International Transmission of HDTV Signals,” SMPTE J., Vol.99, No.2, pp.145-150, 1990.

[D11] T. Ishida, K. Hayashi, T. Taneda, T. Motoki, and Y. Sugiura,”A 70-mm Film Laser Telecine for High-Definition Television,” SMPTE J., June 1983, 92:(6) 629-635,1983

[D12] Y. Sugiura, Y. Nojiri, and K. Okada, “HDTV Laser-Beam Recording on 35mm Color Film and its Application to Electro-Cinematography ”, SMPTE J., Vol.93, No.7, pp.642-651, 1984.

E) International standards

[E1] CCIR, Doc. 11/31-E, “Proposal for a new Study Programme – High definition Television”, 17 March 1972, Japan.

[E2] Rec. ITU-R BT.709-4, “Parameter values for the HDTV standard for production and international programme exchange”, 2000.

Supporting materials

Appendix 1: Chronological development of HDTV (Main results of R&D are described in chronological order with some pictures.)

Appendix 2: [A1] Advanced Television System Research Group, “The Present State of High Definition Television,” NHK Labs. Note, No.192, Dec. 1975.

Appendix 3: [A2] T. Fujio, “Future Broadcasting and High-Definition Television,” NHK Technical Monograph, pp. 5-13, 1982.


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