back to article TVs are now tablet computers without a touchscreen

A few weeks back I turned on my television to find out it had stopped receiving two of the free-to-air channels I watched most often. All of the other channels still resolved with perfect, digital clarity, so I couldn’t work out why these two channels - out of four in packaged in a multichannel broadcast signal - failed to …

  1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Chromecast

    My solution to this dilemma has been to slap a chromecast into the TV and then watch/cast on a tablet - see, my TV now has a touchscreen! It's not perfect and the resolution of the old plasma TV is still the same but the difference is minor unless I put my glasses on - and most of the time I don't.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Chromecast

      Chromecast is no solution.

      1) Privacy

      2) Needs Broadband

      3) Needs additional HW.

      A setbox is more sensible.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: Chromecast

        Any number of cheap knock-off Chromecast-like things will also do it.

        But privacy isn't really an issue if - like mine - the Chromecast is only powered when the HDMI is selected, and is properly - like any client should be - restricted in what it can do (i.e. it can't see any of my local network). And, pretty much, I use it for showing Google Play movies on the screen.

        If you're that paranoid, just use DLNA.

        Needs broadband is ridiculous in this day and age. We're talking about streaming video, if you don't have broadband, your choices are severely limited anyhow.

        Needs additional hardware - yes. That you can replace for £20 a throw rather than £2000.

        For reference, I have a Chromecast, a VM box, a Blu-Ray player which can play DLNA, a Android-based satellite box that can do DVB-S for Freesat / Italian satellite. The TV, however, is as dumb as they come with only SCART and HDMI and an RF interface for analogue/Freeview that's not even plugged in.

        TVs are display devices. Buying a TV because it runs the app you want or accesses the content you want is stupid, because someday it will stop working like the article. Buy a TV that has a port on it you can put video and audio down, put all your "content" on cheap, replaceable, throwaway boxes that you can upgrade and replace as suits the situation, that don't all need to talk to each other, and that you can add new ones of whenever you like. Even that Android will be out-of-date and unsupported in a couple of years, and then it's just a health hazard sitting on your local network.

        Last time I counted, including games consoles, etc. I had about 10 ways to view BBC iPlayer on my TV. Everything from an app on a smartphone pushed over a Samsung proprietary link, to Chromecast from a browser, to the Blu-Ray/Wii having access to it built-in. When one goes "wrong", who cares when you have so many other ways to access, or so many other services to do the same. And my entire setup - with all those boxes and necessary cabling - doesn't come to half what that guy paid for his TV. Probably not even a quarter. And I've had the same setup for nearly 10 years now, and just added to it piecemeal (it is in fact the second Chromecast as the new ones do 5GHz Wifi, which the old ones didn't).

        And I bet an Android-based Smart TV is much more privacy-infringing than a ChromeCast, if that's what you're worried about. You have absolutely no clue what that's doing with its data. At least a ChromeCast that you only use for watching ChromeCasted things you have a chance of isolating and seeing what it's doing.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          your screen is just a screen

          your screen is just a screen

          Everything else should be done outside it ,

          via set top box - cheaper to replace

          or PC - easy to upgrade HW or SW

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Chromecast

          "if you don't have broadband, your choices are severely limited anyhow."

          Bollox. Terrestrial signals have an uncanny knack of getting to most places in the UK, even in rural areas - if it's a bit dodgy, a taller, more powerful aerial/mast will normally sort the problems. Broadband on the other hand (despite government claims to the contrary) is and will continue to be patchy in rural areas. My family in rural Wales still struggle to get about 2Mbit/s and are not likely to see that any time soon.

          Broadcast television is available to pretty much all, even remote hermits. Stick FreeSat broadcast into the mix and you have high bandwidth broadcast to 100% of the UK without even trying.

          1. GingerOne

            Re: Chromecast

            "Bollox. Terrestrial signals have an uncanny knack of getting to most places in the UK, even in rural areas" And when the signal changes you may find yourself needing to upgrade your TV! The point the posters before were making is that with braodband and cheaper hardware any old TV will be able to display everything, regardless of format.

            1. katrinab Silver badge

              Re: Chromecast

              Or upgrade a £50 set-top box. HDMI is likely to be around for a while.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Chromecast

              "The point the posters before were making is that with braodband and cheaper hardware any old TV will be able to display everything,"

              And the people who can't get BB fast enough to stream a decent picture reliably can carry on with what they've got and if necessary, get a set top box with whatever the new standards are. No new TV required. Just like a few years ago when digital terrestrial started and the vast majority did not have TVs with Freeview built in.

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Chromecast

            Terrestrial signals have an uncanny knack of getting to most places in the UK, even in rural areas

            Unless, like me, you live somewhere where there is a dirty great lump of hill beteen you and the nearest transmitter, and a big ridge between you and the next nearest.

            Even with a good masthead amp, even SD terrestrial broadcasts are just about unusable.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Chromecast

              "Unless, like me, you live somewhere where there is a dirty great lump of hill beteen you and the nearest transmitter, and a big ridge between you and the next nearest."

              True, hence "most places" :-) The difference being that you can potentially erect a massively tall mast to try and compensate, or equally use the FreeSat transmissions instead. I also find that most places that don't get decent TV reception don't get great broadband either.

              Broadcast signals aren't perfect, but they're a darn sight more reliable than broadband communications.

        3. Alan_Peery

          Needs broadband is ridiculous in this day and age.

          For most people, yes. But for the frugal or the very income-limited, there is a huge role for over the air reception. Hopefully with a PVR, as the benefits of time-shifting and advert avoidance are huge.

          >my entire setup - with all those boxes and necessary cabling - doesn't come to

          >half what that guy paid for his TV. Probably not even a quarter. And I've

          > had the same setup for nearly 10 years now,

          Did you add the cost of your network into the above computation?

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Needs broadband is ridiculous in this day and age.

            "But for the frugal or the very income-limited, there is a huge role for over the air reception."

            And for those who simply don't see the point in sending their money to large, mostly US, corporations.

      2. joed

        Re: Chromecast

        Privacy is out the window anyway with any new smart tv (and even new broadcast dtv standards include the feedback loop via existing Internet connection, and obviously no backwards compatibility). And lets don't mention security (or lack of it) in all these IoTs.

        I'd say a good ole PC (or whatever you already have that can connect via HDMI) is the way to go. The more control over it the better. And 4k is overrated. Most cable channels look like s..t and are nowhere near 1080p - slapping 4k sticker won't help.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh you optimist

    So you presume that for the next 10 years that TV is going to get patched and updated?

    Find me a 5 year old, let alone 10 year old Android phone that is still fully supported and I'll tell you it's a very rare beast indeed.

    If even if a miracle happens and it gets updated for the next 10 years, it will become so completely slow and unusable, you'll simple just give,.

    I would say your obsolescence has gone from 10 years down to 5 max now..

    1. 45RPM Silver badge

      Re: Oh you optimist

      Hear hear. The IoT revolution is either a revolution of insecurity or a revolution of obsolescence. Or both. And even if (and this is a big if), manufacturers decide to keep patching for years (or decades, in the case of white goods - my fridge, hob and oven are all starting their third decade) life is far too short to spend my spare time installing updates on the TV, vacuum cleaner, car, microwave, light bulbs etc.

      Fuck that. Count me out.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Oh you optimist

      I would look for a 40"-50" "dumb screen" (a monitor...) to be connected to a "media player" device I could update and upgrade separately. And which cold run an OS not controlled by the appliance maker - which is obsoleted as soon as the TV is packaged.

      Those who got the fist wave of "Smart"TVs already found there's no longer an app to play their contents - and updates - if available - were removing them, not adding new ones...

      1. Shrek

        Re: Oh you optimist

        Basically this, I'd be very happy for manufacturers to produce 'dumb' TVs where (a bit like hi-fi separates) you add the bits you need. I know that's not for everyone, but my temporary(ish) Sony Android TV very rarely ends up being used for its smart features, and a 'dumb' but a high-quality screen would be my preference.

        Personally, I'd be happy to ditch smart features and pay about the same - assuming, of course, you are paying for a better quality image.

        1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: Oh you optimist

          I'd be very happy for manufacturers to produce 'dumb' TVs

          It's one of the curious paradoxes of a market economy that smart TVs are probably cheaper than comparable dumb monitors, because more people want to buy them. Fortunately, there's nothing to stop you treating your smart TV as dumb and connecting a PC, PVR or STB to it.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Oh you optimist

            "there's nothing to stop you treating your smart TV as dumb"

            Providing it stays dumb and doesn't try to hang onto any unsecured wifi it manages to find.

          2. Power Pentode

            Re: Oh you optimist

            Precisely. I was without a TV for some time (in 2014) while waiting for large 4k sets to come down to a reasonable price level. One day I was shopping for socks at a Target department store and noticed a strikingly nice picture on a TV in their electronics section. It was a 55" mid-range model Samsung and I played with it for a few minutes and bought it that day after checking its specs on my phone.

            It has never been connected to the internet, so all of its apps (Netflix, Youtube player, etc.) can happily rot for all I care. It's connected to an old laptop, my cable box, and a blu-ray player. So I have a dumb smart TV.

            Yes, it is joined to my wifi network and blocked at the router to keep it from becoming too friendly with any open networks in the neighbourhood.

      2. arthoss

        Re: Oh you optimist

        Dell has them 40-50 inches dumb screens.

      3. Alan W. Rateliff, II

        Re: Oh you optimist

        I am happily ignorant to change with a new 1080p projector to give me any size screen I want, a $40 OTA DVR with HDMI output, and an Intel NUC. All-in cost under $1,000, including the going-out-of-business sale HDMI switching receiver.

        DVDs and BluRays play on the NUC but most are already ripped to the NAS (with the exception of some ornery ones which refuse to be ripped.)

    3. Uffish

      Re: Oh you optimist

      When people say 'Oh dear, I have to buy a new expensive TV' and promptly buy one, it will be noticed by manufacturers. No use complaining and wishing you hadn't, it's too late now, you have been borged into the consumer society and the consumer society is designed to make you consume, and you have, and you will.

    4. druck Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Oh you optimist

      Even if the manufacturer never issues another firmware update, I’m probably good into the future, because it runs apps which will be updated.
      Riiight, but in the real world...

      My Humax box has just told me it's going to delete the YouTube app because YouTube is switching to https and they can't be arsed to update the app.

  3. Charles 9 Silver badge

    The road ends eventually.

    Before you talk about upgrade paths, consider the previous generation of Smart TVs that had their own OS's and app stores. You would think these would also allow for upgrade paths. The thing is, like most other things, they eventually get abandoned. You can't expect Android to be supported to eternity, and indeed Google seems intent on an eventual path away from it with Andromeda. What happens when the app you need to watch your shows is dead-ended? Even worse, even if the app is updated, will your television carry the brute force needed to handle newer, tighter codecs? Take my TV. It'll never have the oomph to do HEVC. At the time it was made, AVC was state of the art. HEVC wasn't even a concept at the time. As a New Yorker would say, "Fugedaboudit!"

    Just like with computers, it's a decision between "wait until something better comes along" and "pick your spot and take the plunge". It pretty much comes with the technology territory and is for the moment unavoidable.

    1. Michael Strorm

      Re: The road ends eventually.

      "will your television carry the brute force needed to handle newer, tighter codecs?"

      That's *exactly* what I suspected when I read the synopsis, and had confirmed when the author mentioned that his old TV wasn't able to support the new MPEG-4 channels. Was he under the impression that it would have been able to support MPEG-4 with a purely software-based upgrade? Not bloody likely. The MPEG-2 likely used hardware decoding that probably wouldn't have been doable in software itself, so there isn't a cat's chance in hell the more demanding MPEG-4 could have been supported the same way.

      This principle- as you make clear- applies equally to newer codecs.

      And even if it was possible, that assumes that all these apps would work with the obsolete version of Android built into his "smart" TV that- experience already makes clear- will never be upgraded because there's no money in that for the manufacturers.

      So, yeah. Nothing's changed. Smart TVs were- and are- a crap concept for that reason, and it still makes sense to rely on external units for upgradeability, not the display itself.

    2. Annihilator
      Thumb Up

      Re: The road ends eventually.

      " will your television carry the brute force needed to handle newer, tighter codecs? "

      Spot on. I remember the first HD DVB-T2 trials in London where participants were sent new receiver boxes, back in 2006/2007. The channel "BBC HD" was broadcast from Crystal Palace.

      I wasn't a participant, but it was perfectly possible to capture the raw data signal on a PC capture card, it just couldn't natively decode the exotic new MPEG-4 data stream. I managed to get the signal to decode, but couldn't manage it on my reasonably well-specced PC in real-time, it probably transcoded at around 10fps. My current TV is older than this trial, so definitely wouldn't be able to handle MPEG-4 with a mere firmware upgrade.

      Similarly, when DVD first launched, PCs at the time needed an MPEG-2 add-on card as the required decoding wasn't possible in software-only due to the limits on CPUs grunt at the time.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: The road ends eventually.

        "Similarly, when DVD first launched, PCs at the time needed an MPEG-2 add-on card as the required decoding wasn't possible in software-only due to the limits on CPUs grunt at the time."

        And they weren't cheap, either. Anyone remember the RealMAGICs and Jazz VGA piggyback cards? I ended up getting one (used) because I learned firsthand that a 300MHz CPU (no cheapie for the late 90's) was a bit on the underpowered side. It took the P3 generation to make it doable in software, just as it took the P1 generation to be able to do MPEG-1 VideoCDs in software.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Meh

    I upgraded my "dumb" TV...

    ....to a Smart TV by slapping a £10 NowTV box on it and never paying for NowTV.

    Job Done.

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: I upgraded my "dumb" TV...

      @Lost_all_faith that's much the best idea - because now you can replace that 10 quid box whenever you get the urge and keep your pricey (if slightly more mature) telly as long as you like. The idea that display, processing, networking and everything has to be in one black-and-chrome box is merely a chimera my duster-wielding better-half wants to chase.

      1. gv

        Re: I upgraded my "dumb" TV...

        I agree. The TV is just the display hardware. The "smart" should be your media centre computer which you can upgrade on a schedule that suits you.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: I upgraded my "dumb" TV...

          >The "smart" should be your media centre computer which you can upgrade on a schedule that suits you.

          But don't base it on an MS platform - remember Windows Media Center...

          Surely by now there is a maintained Linux Media Center distribution?

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: I upgraded my "dumb" TV...

            "Surely by now there is a maintained Linux Media Center distribution?"

            Kodi.

            1. eldakka Silver badge

              Re: I upgraded my "dumb" TV...

              LibreELEC - Just enough OS for KODI, on a WeTek Play 2.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: I upgraded my "dumb" TV...

                WeTek?

                A curse shall be upon those whose websites require Javascript to display anything meaningful at all and the name of the curse shall be NoScipt and their websites shall go unread for ever.

          2. Flakk Silver badge

            Re: I upgraded my "dumb" TV...

            Depends on your requirements. If you're looking for a relatively inexpensive media box with apps and a 4K Blu-Ray player, the Xbox One S isn't a terrible option.

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: I upgraded my "dumb" TV...

              If you're looking for a relatively inexpensive media box with apps and a 4K Blu-Ray player, the Xbox One S isn't a terrible option.

              Agree, with caveats.

              When I upgraded from SCART to HDMI connected equipment, I decided that the new Xbox One would serve as a DVD/BluRay player and so both retire the (non-HD) Video/DVD player and keep both the box and controller count down.

              It has worked quite well, just that like all jack-of-all-trades tools, things aren't quite as simple as the old dedicated box approach (the other half still hasn't worked out how to drive the thing). I live with the compromise because the Xbox does support a wide range of media app's from iPlayer through to Amazon video (and finally ITV Hub) and for those who have problems my son will willingly do the necessary in return for being allowed to play CoD.

  5. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Your new TV wouldn't have fixed the 'new broadcast codec' problem

    Android TV and the broadcast TV decoder have little to do with each other. If tomorrow HEVC were to become the standard all channels went black because your $1500 MPEG-2/4 TV couldn't decode it, you wouldn't be able to download an Android HEVC app for free to fix the TV decoder. That's $1500 of new shiny HEVC TV that you could be buying.

    And talking about the "smart" side of a smart TV, many can read codecs from USB that they can't from DLNA and vice-versa.

    With Samsung's software quality, are we surprised? They did TVs which reduced a 4K picture to 1080p, let Tizen play around with it, then upscaled it to 4K again. Why? Because Tizen couldn't cope with 4K then.

  6. Baldrickk Silver badge

    This is what most people I know with Rasberry Pi's bought them for - well, the first one at least.

    And because it's not a closed system, it can be updated with ease.

    /me wonders if 'custom' firmware would allow the old tv in the article to support the 'new' codecs.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Probably not. Need additional oomph in the chips to be able to handle HEVC (that's the tradeoff; tighter encoding results in higher demands at the other end). Basically, if your TV was built before HEVC was formalized, don't count on it to be able to handle it reliably if at all. It's a hard problem of technology: they can only build for what they can see, and trying to future proof is like trying to predict the weather: fair chance of missing.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "It's a hard problem of technology: they can only build for what they can see, and trying to future proof is like trying to predict the weather: fair chance of missing."

        Building in a faster processor and more memory than currently needed would be a good start but it would cut out a new sale a few years down the line.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          My point. You STILL would miss, as most video decoding these days is done on the graphics unit rather than the central unit. Plus by raising your price, you allow the competition to undercut you, so you basically can't win.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "You STILL would miss, as most video decoding these days is done on the graphics unit rather than the central unit."

            Quite. Which is why all the work is done on a separate box sitting on a shelf under the TV.

        2. Simon Harris Silver badge

          "Cut out a new sale a few years down the line..."

          and reduce your margins on the current range. I can't imagine TV manufacturers overspeccing their hardware with more expensive components just in case something new comes along in a few years.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "This is what most people I know with Rasberry Pi's bought them for"

      Just checked. RS have a VESA adapter which will take a Pi mounting box and an HDD.

      Hmm. Interesting... Nice project to work on with grandson-apprentice.

  7. djstardust

    Samsung. Eurgh .....

    I paid £1800 in 2014 for a top of the range Samsung "smart" TV.

    All the literature banged on about how it was the future, integrated services, quad core processor blah blah.

    It used to get regular updates for a couple of months then it stopped. The only updates we get now are to remove services. Now TV isn't even supported on it as it's too old. Really ????????

    The menus are a confusing mess and it's literally impossible to find anything. No coherence at all.

    Next time I'm getting a hi-sense panel and a plug in box.

    Yet again I fell for all the Samsung marketing bullshit but never again. Thing is the 1080 picture quality is very good and the 3D support is fantastic. I just wish Samsung would stick to making good core products without all the crap attached to them.

    1. Haku

      Re: Samsung. Eurgh .....

      I bought my Sony 'smart' tv less than 2 years ago with a 6 year warranty from Richer Sounds, I expect it'll be quite obselete by the time the warranty ends, but I very rarely use its 'smart' capability anyway because I use external hardware for the source of the stuff'n'junk I consume.

    2. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Samsung. Eurgh .....

      My Samsung "Smart TV" bought in 2012 had it's "SmartHub" update itself the other day - it infuriatingly popped up on the screen to tell me...

      The scenarios described in the article are why I use a Chromecast. In addition trying to navigate the Samsung software using a remote control is a PITA.

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: Samsung. Eurgh .....

        I won an LG Smart TV 5 years ago. Plex, Netflix and iPlayer still work absolutely fine. Still trying to win a UHD TV though.

    3. Def Silver badge

      Re: Samsung. Eurgh .....

      I promised myself a long time ago (shortly after I made the same promise about Sony) that I would never buy a Samsung product ever again. They're nothing more than shovellers of shit for the stupid and gullible.

  8. jake Silver badge

    Don't worry.

    Marketing will still figure out how to make the Great Unwashed think they need a new telly every couple years. It's the only way to keep the market growing.

    Me, I'll stick to my 32" Sony Trinitron from 1988. I only watch the news or baseball anyway ... and that rarely. Both are better on the radio.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't worry.

      At least treat yourself to a 32" dumb flatscreen.

      CRT take up too much space and consume too much electricity.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Don't worry. dumb flatscreen.

        Na - used to have trinitron and the flatscreens dont seem to be anywhere near as good. I'd keep the sony until it stops being better which could be a few years yet.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Don't worry. dumb flatscreen.

          Correct, Tom. It also doubles as a heater for one of the cats in the winter.

        2. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Don't worry. dumb flatscreen.

          Flat screens caught up with Trinitron about 5 years ago.

          At the time it was W series, not sure which ones are better now

          My last 32" Trinitron had plenty of firmware updates, it was a first generation IDTV.

          One was to handle BBC playing musical services, changing the service numbers so BBC Knowleage ended up on BBC2 and News24 on BBC 1 or similar.

          Another to swap over the audio channels.

          Final one to enable CAM usage.

        3. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Don't worry. dumb flatscreen.

          Good LCD panels are now better, took a while but Sony managed it about 5 years or so ago.

          I tested loads of TVs, eventually a W series managed it.

    2. Rafael #872397
      Joke

      Re: Both are better on the radio.

      Oh yeah? I still read about news & baseball games next day on newspapers.

      Seriously, though, I've got an Android-powered box that can also store a hard disk on it and plugged on my dumb TV. Since that box uses a specific Android build I can't expect much about upgrades, but I can always buy another, newer box.

  9. John H Woods Silver badge

    There's only one standard a modern TV needs to support ... HDMI

    I agree that the trend is, as you say, towards being a tablet with no touch screen. But it's an utterly regrettable trend, as noted by most of the posts above. TVs are for displaying pictures; I wouldn't even trust one to provide audio ... internal speakers on my TVs and projectors stay muted unless i need to do troubleshooting. YMMV but I don't even have a use for multiple HDMI inputs as I prefer to manage source selection on other hardware, and I lack the cognitive power to cope with picture-in-picture, etc.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Ah, but which VERSION of HDMI? Ask the early 4K TV adopters what they thought when they learned the HDMI spec was updated for 4K HDCP support and their TVs don't support it. Ugh...

  10. James Ashton
    FAIL

    Hardware Acceleration Required

    Updating the software won't help. Decoding H.264 in software for even Full HD content, much less 4K, will be beyond the ability of any Android CPU. Going up to H.265 (HEVC) will be worse. Unless the graphics chip can provide hardware acceleration for a new codec (not going to happen) then you can forget decoding on that system. The sad reality is that forwards compatibility isn't worth attempting.

    The move to increase the bit-depth (per channel) to 10 in the 4K H.265 standard is another example of why forwards compatibility won't work. Even if the processing unit could decode the video, there would be no way to display the 10-bit colour-depth on an old 8-bit display.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Hardware Acceleration Required

      Yes you can. You just can't show the full gamut. It's like trying to watch a 4K video on a 1080p screen. You can do it, just not at its full quality.

      1. Warm Braw Silver badge

        Re: Hardware Acceleration Required

        >You just can't show the full gamut

        And how do you to propose to convert the incoming 10-bit stream into one the hardware decoder can understand - in real time? An app isn't going to cut it.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: Hardware Acceleration Required

          "And how do you to propose to convert the incoming 10-bit stream into one the hardware decoder can understand"

          pixel = (10_bit_value >> 2)

          or similar (as long as the YUV conversion to RGB doesn't take any longer than before)

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Hardware Acceleration Required

            It depends on the chip, I think. If the 10-bit bitstream is not that different from an 8-bit one, the decoder can still decode it, then pare down the 10-bit results into 8-bit ones. But this isn't a question with a universal answer.

          2. Warm Braw Silver badge

            Re: Hardware Acceleration Required

            pixel = (10_bit_value >> 2)

            Yes, but the pixel data is only available once the bitstream has been decoded. The (false) premise of the article is that you can somehow get around the limitations of outmoded video acceleration hardware by doing the video decoding in software instead. You can't - if that were possible the TV manufacture would not have gone to the unnecessary expense of including a dedicated hardware decoder.

            It's true that you could likely make small changes to the decoder firmware to accommodate HDR bitstreams at the same resolution, but the article is claiming an app can get around a manufacturer's unwillingness to do that, which is simply false. Actually, it's worse - the article is apparently suggesting that an app could potentially recode MPEG-4 to MPEG-2 in real time...

        2. Michael Strorm

          Re: Hardware Acceleration Required

          "And how do you to propose to convert the incoming 10-bit stream into one the hardware decoder can understand - in real time?"

          The OP raised the issue of displaying 10-bit brightness on an older display as a distinct and separate issue from decoding; Charles09 was responding to that specifically. *In itself* that issue isn't a show-stopper and is solveable via gamut mapping.

          (There's no reason a device capable of decoding wouldn't be able to gamut map a 10-bit output to 8-bit. It would make sense to have that as an end-stage of the decoder- which would have to be hardware-based anyway- but on its own you could (I guess) theoretically do the mapping in software. Not that this was the point being made anyway.)

    2. Matt_payne666

      Re: Hardware Acceleration Required

      Most modern android SOCs can handle 8bit HVEC and my Galaxy S7 can decode 10bit HVEC without breaking a sweat...

      Which was a surprise as my Haswell i7 media centre with ATI7750 was having none of it! 100% CPU and a very poor quality slideshow! a new Nvidia 1050 has fixed that 10bit HVEC at 2% cpu.

      Oh - smart TV? my smart Plasma has never done anything more than display the output from the AV amp since day one... the TV in my mind is just a dumb display

  11. Pete 2 Silver badge

    All I want is the screen

    The display of a "TV" is the biggest and most expensive part. I want this to be the dumbest, too. I don't want it to be dependent on the whims or mistakes (or cynical marketing) of some distant third party. I don't want to have to upgrade it, or replace it, merely because someone, somewhere, flipped a bit in a protocol and made it obsolete.

    I want the smarts to be in a separate box.A little £50 add-on that can be changed every couple of years if necessary, to keep up with the tech, That also helps in since it stops my costly display from containing more parts (or points of failure) than necessary. So that a badly soldered SMD that only deals with networking, or the remote control, doesn't mean having to toss the whole shebang.

    With pricey kit, dumb is good.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: All I want is the screen

      Totally agree. A TV should just be the screen. You want something more ? Buy a piece of kit to attach to it and you're done.

      It is ridiculous to imagine that an enormous screen is obsolete in any way. In fact, it should be ridiculous to have to ditch a TV screen for anything else than pure hardware failure.

      Now, I've heard that the reason for all this integration that is busting our collective nuts and will do so for the foreseeable future is that Joe Public doesn't like to have to choose, he wants everything in the box. Funny that cars have lists of options and TVs cannot, but fine then, put all the external kit in the box with the screen, just don't solder it to the frame and force me to dump the screen when one piece gets out of whack.

      What should be done is the screen should have a plug-in board at the rear. Kit to attach could be modules that slot in at any available point on the board. Kit that fails gets its module taken out, to be or not replaced when the owner chooses to do so. When Joe Public comes to buy a new TV, all available modules are attached. If/when a module fails, Joe Public can replace it when he wants.

      Sure, the screen itself will one day become obsolete, but come on. We had 4/3 TVs for decades before that fancy Widescreen came along. Now we have HDTV screens and you want me to think that they're going to change in 5 years ? Nope. The failure of 3D is a good indicator that we'll have HDTV screens in 2050 yet. And even if everything has 3D support by that time, HDTV will still be the standard for non-3D broadcasts (which will exist until we have holographic TV at least).

      So get cracking on modular frames. Then I'm ready to bet that we'll find out that Joe Public is quite happy with the idea of buying a frame and choosing the modules he wants - especially when he can add more any time.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: All I want is the screen

        "So get cracking on modular frames."

        You forget about Planned Obsolescence. Unless you can compel them by law, no manufacturer will ever want to support the screens for more than the bare minimum. Captive markets, after all.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: All I want is the screen

        >So get cracking on modular frames.

        We already have them:

        Ports: HDMI etc.

        Vesa mount.

        I can attach a pizzabox computer to the Vesa mount and link it to the screen via the HDMI or other similar port.

        The only modification that is necessary is a mount for the Infrared/bluetooth/wifi receiver - so these can 'see' round the screen.

        1. eldakka Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: All I want is the screen

          @Roland6:

          The only modification that is necessary is a mount for the Infrared/bluetooth/wifi receiver - so these can 'see' round the screen.
          I don't know if a blob of blu-tac on the top bezel could really be called a "modification" :)

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: All I want is the screen

            @eldakka - I've moved on from blu-tac and use removable velcro sticky pads.

    2. Timbo

      Re: All I want is the screen

      "The display of a "TV" is the biggest and most expensive part. I want this to be the dumbest, too. I don't want it to be dependent on the whims or mistakes (or cynical marketing) of some distant third party. I don't want to have to upgrade it, or replace it, merely because someone, somewhere, flipped a bit in a protocol and made it obsolete. I want the smarts to be in a separate box."

      Quite a few years ago, Sony did a modular TV - it was called ProFeel.

      They did 2 sizes of TriniTron CRT (in UK at least): 20" and 27".

      The extra's included a separate TV tuner, a Teletext unit, that plugged into that and two speakers that were attached to the sides of the TV cabinet, so you have stereo TV sound (if the broadcaster offered it).

      https://www.sony.net/Fun/design/history/product/1980/kx-27hf1.html

      Looks like the best way forwards to "future proof" yourself, is indeed to follow the modular path - I did and I have a nice 32" Sammy monitor, with HDMI, DVI and VGA inputs, and I can then invest in a KODI box (or Freeview, Freesat, Roku, Now TV or even Sky or Virgin) and I can get whatever TV service I like. The Sammy has it's own (not so good) built in speakers, but I can always pipe the sound through the hi-fi if I want. Job done.

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: All I want is the screen

      They exist, just look under 'Monitors' rather than 'TVs'. You'll probably have to provide your own speakers, but even a £20 set will probably out-perform most TVs integrated speakers.

      You might struggle to find a nice one that's bigger than 34" though.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: All I want is the screen

        "They exist, just look under 'Monitors' rather than 'TVs'."

        Not quite. TVs stick to the standard resolutions while monitors tend to cater to users who need resolution more than anything. Beyond say 23 inches you go beyond 1080p resolution which tends to be overkill for most. Depending on the brand, monitors around the 30 inch range are 4K resolution. And I don't think they make monitors in home theater size. And let's not get started on the prices, as these tend to be classed as professional equipment.

  12. Keef

    'unused bit of the video signal'

    Colour information did not lurk in unused bits of the video signal.

    The colour information was slapped right on top of the B&W signal.

    The colour sub-carrier was carefully chosen so that the overlay wasn't too much of a problem for backwards compatibility, but chrominance-luminance and luminance-chominance crosstalk were side effects of the shared space.

    Yes, the colour bust for synchronising sub carrier in the receiver was squeezed in to the horizontal blanking, but the colour information was in active picture.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: 'unused bit of the video signal'

      "the colour information was in active picture."

      yeah old-style color broadcasting, compatible with B&W on both ends. single side band, with various bandwidths of the broadcast channel dedicated to specific signals: luma, chroma, and audio [later I think they added SAP and some other stuff]

      Chroma was phase modulated 3.something MHz above the carrier in the USA as I recall. The bandwidth of the luminance signal was kept below 2.something Mhz, and the color bandwidth to about 500khz (I think that's right), leaving a little bit of room to prevent interference. And it was single side band. And the audio signal was 4.5Mhz above the carrier so it was already being done for B&W only broadcasts. Color just stole a bit more bandwidth from the B&W signal, which nobody really noticed.

      Color burst during horizontal would 'ring' the crystal, which stayed in phase long enough for a single horizontal sweep. Then it was used to phase demodulate and generate the RBG signals for the 3 color guns (fed by the control grid, usually), with the B&W signal on the 3 cathodes. A better method could have been devised, but doing it this way kept the parts count low.

      it really was some pretty good tech back in the day, combining AM and FM and phase modulation and SSB like that.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: 'unused bit of the video signal'

        Specifically, NTSC used 3.579545 MHz as the color subcarrier frequency. PAL used 4.433618 MHz. SECAM used a different system altogether that had its own tradeoffs (instead of both channels at once, it goes one at a time, improving horizontal color resolution at the cost of vertical resolution).

        None of the systems were perfect, which is why derivise backronyms were made up ("Never Twice the Same Color", "Picture Always Lousy", and "Sans Experience Contre les AMericans"/"System Essentially Contrary to American Method")

  13. batfastad

    Smart

    My parents Samsung smart TV has been gradually downgraded over the last 2 years and my old Now TV box has been auto-updated to the point that input lag is about 10s. This is something that had always put me off having all this functionality in a single device... do one thing and do it well.

    Thankfully I still have an Android TV box which handles "smart TV" functionality... for now. Though it's still only a matter of time until the apps require updates to continue working and further down the line those apps will no longer be available for my version of Android. That will either be a night following guides on xda developers unlock bootloaders, flash recovery and roms etc, or charity shop/bin and buy new.

    Manufacturers need to take more responsibility for their devices to ensure a longer functional life and reduce waste, even if it comes at the expense of new shiny things.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Smart

      I currently use a smart device with 8 core CPGPU running a variant of FreeBSD.

      Millions sold and support will be there for at least another 5 years.

      Games consoles are great smart devices.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Smart

        But terrible media centers. You usually have to fiddle with them to find the videos you want, and their codec support can be hit or miss. I speak from experience. It's not like they support something like Kodi where everything's well-organized.

  14. MJI Silver badge

    My TV is a bit thick

    And I prefer that, pre Android TVs, uses Linux, no apps. But can view piccies via USB.

    Smart is provided by a device which will be constantly updated and supported.

    Plays Blu Rays.

    Provides streaming (I Player Amazon ect).

    Even does games (The robot animal one was fun).

    And a web browser.

    But it cost me quite a bit

  15. Haku
    Unhappy

    "Firmware upgradeable."

    Yeah I've seen that little advertising gimmick printed on the box of some products I've bought, implying that the product is somehow 'future proof', but with some of them I'd be lucky to get even 2 or 3 firmware upgrades after purchase before the product is abandoned by the manufacturer because they've got a whole new range of 'shiny' they want to sell you and firmware upgrades to products they've already sold you doesn't make them any more money.

  16. Davegoody

    Just use the telly as a screen.....

    I have a 2015 Spec 65" Samsung 4K telly. Picture is great (really great), Audio is handled by my Home Cinema, and input is via HDMI2 from SkyQ, and also a Mac Mini. Hardly ever use the SMART features, other than AMAZON PRIME and Plex Client, and when this is no longer supported the Mac does this anyway.

    Future proofing is relatively simple, and by the time I upgrade, will be time for an 85" telly ! Just got to get that one past the wifey first....

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: Just use the telly as a screen.....

      "Future proofing is relatively simple, and by the time I upgrade, will be time for an 85" telly ! Just got to get that one past the wifey first...."

      Our 40" broke. I rigged up an ancient SD projector, just onto a white wall. When the 40" was fixed, SWIMBO declared it was too small to be of much use (I was just glad that it was the TV's turn for such criticism) and it became my 2nd monitor. We now have a titchy 24" TV for news / breakfast etc and a screen wall for proper evening TV: No dusting; projector is inconspicuous and maintenance free on ceiling; 120" TV effectively "just not there" when projector is off.

      Proj had about 8 hours on the lamp and was 350 quid from Richer Sounds with a 12 month warranty. Even I could mount it on the ceiling and DIY is most certainly not my forte. Worth considering, especially in this context --- projectors are dumb, but very good at displaying pictures!

      ----

      PS: Labrador apparently cannot even see the TV, even though it is 10' across: big enough for Tyrion Lannister to be actual size when he is full frame. Collie-x weirdo can not only see TV but gets annoyed when it is on pause because nothing is happening; and if Brian from Family Guy comes on she runs round the house rounding up everyone to come and see the talking dog. Just something you may want to consider if you have a dog that wants to put its nose and/or paws on your big screen :-)

  17. peterm3

    I think the answer is to buy relatively cheap tellies. My Sony 42" I bought 2.5 years ago for £500 should work for 5 years. It doesn't do H.265 which is a pain as Germany just switched over to that last month. My telly can do DVB-T2 but not with H.265 aka HEVC.

    The quality of the LCD technology does improve over time too, its not just the electronics which change.

    Buy shares in electronics companies too. Perhaps enough so that the dividends cover the cost of buying a new telly every 5 years!

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      DVB-T2 is H264, H265 is only used for > HD resolution.

      Germany's handling of DVB-T -> DVB-T2 was as badly handled as the transition to digital only, with the added "fun" of having to buy a CAM for € 80 if you want to be able to watch the non-public channels. This is only likely to increase cord-cutting.

      Looking forward to whatever replaces the RPi having H265 / WebP v10 support in silicon.

  18. DropBear Silver badge

    Your TV is exactly as future proof as it needs to be by having HDMI / SCART / RCA / whatever AV inputs - yes it would be nice if one could simply upgrade just the tuner bit indefinitely by swapping something out (as long as VPUs are a thing, this is NOT going to be a software update) but in the era of $25 upgrades to a new HDMI stick or Orange Pi that supports $New_Thing this is a complete non-issue.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Until they update the HDMI spec, that is...

      1. Timbo

        "Until they update the HDMI spec, that is..."

        Except that HDMI uses a handshaking protocol, so that a HDMI v1.1 device can "see" (or be seen from) a HDMI v2.x (or later). Sure you might not get receive the latest whizz-bang, shiny-shiny picture or sound, but it will work - it'll just be working on the "best" common specification, between the two devices.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          But the handshake can also BREAK or be REJECTED. Think of the early 4K screens after the HDMI spec was updated for protected 4K content.

          1. David Paul Morgan
            Unhappy

            my hdmi chain 'broke' sort-of

            my fairly old panasonic hdtv is basically plugged only into the sony sound bar.

            It has three hdmi inputs: humax freesat, PS3/blueray & 2xhdmi chromecast/multi-region-DVD (which PS does not do).

            However, do NOT try and play back a 3-D film in the PS3 as it doesn't come up on the TV.

            The sound-bar correctly handshakes with the PS3 and says "3-D? OK"

            however, the TV is old enough to not know about 3-D hdmi, so you get sound but no picture.

            ho hum.

  19. Steve Graham

    Not so smart

    My television set is an old 'Bush' model (cheap). A few years ago, it started to crash occasionally, possibly because of something in the BBC data (if I delete all BBC channels, it hardly ever crashes).

    What happens is that the picture disappears, to be replaced with the message "Service is not running." A hint to its software architecture I suppose. I discovered that if you switched to USB media mode and back, everything would be normal. So the set knows how to restart its decoder service. It just doesn't bother to.

    There's an option in the menus to upgrade the firmware -- even to look for an upgrade in the broadcast stream -- but none has ever been available, of course.

    Yes, I use it with an external satellite/terrestrial decoder.

  20. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "designing for backward compatibility was a basic goal of analog television broadcasters, one that has clearly been abandoned in the transition to digital."

    I don't suppose the set manufacturers were happy about that. The new business model is much better. Sell a smart set that can report back whatever they want to the mother ships with vague offers of updates. Forget about the updates; save money and speed up the replacement cycle at the same time.

    A dumb TV and a cheap and/or updateable smart box feeding it is much better - for viewers..

    1. Tom Paine Silver badge

      Extreme response

      I gave up on TV around 15 years ago, after first getting broadband. Takes no effort at all. The few new programmes worth watching, I can get_iplayer or youtube-dl. After all this time, the amount of time, energy and money people put into watching TV (or playing games, to some extent) looks rather surreal from an outsider's PoV. Admittedly I'm considerably more alienated from society than I would have been ("Did you catch --- " "No.") but I'm not entirely convinced that's a Bad Thing...

      * This Country is /brilliant/ ... http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04qv4jc

      1. Esme

        Re: Extreme response

        Thumbs up from me, Tom. My TV is a cheap second-hand 19in flat panel one that I bought merely because I needed something for my Raspberry Pi to be able to output to. It handles Freeview, so a cheap indoor arial and I have TV - just as entertaining (or not) as TV ever is. No internet connection needed. If the signals change such that it can't work as a TV, and if I feel the need for a TV, I'll just buy a TV tuner USB dongle and use it with one of my (also cheap and second hand, aside from my RPi) computers. Otherwise, I'll just drop the TV licence and save myself some money. The internet tends to keep me adequately entertained... :-}

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "I don't suppose the set manufacturers were happy about that. The new business model is much better."

      They couldn't use today's model yesterday because televisions were much more expensive relatively speaking, even for mid-range products and were seen more as longer-term investments into keep up with the world, since back then there weren't that many channels to choose from and stuff like cable television was in its infancy. We're talking the days when "Cable-Ready Remote Control Color TV" was a selling point.

  21. tiggity Silver badge

    qulaity

    "Viewers always want the best picture and sound quality"

    Some do, in lots of cases it's not that crucial.

    I have a TV with a small (20") screen with no external speakers / amplifier setup.

    On that size screen with the inbuilt speakers then best possible sound & picture not really an issue as hardware very much a limiting factor.

    It's a totally non smart TV, but that's irrelevant as mainly watch stuff recorded on the PVR (no need to see ads if not watching real time!)

    Probably watch more TV content on PC monitor than on TV - as that also links to PVR (via ethernet) and lets me watch content and is bigger than the TV screen.

    For me a TV is just a dumb display - I'll have the smarts in other boxen thanks

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: qulaity

      You can add to that that most viewers wouldn't know good picture or sound quality if it hit them in the face, which is why you can hardly tweak the settings any more. This is nicely satirised in Small Soldiers with the neighbour obsessing over the image quality and sound from his TV with his wife largely oblivious.

      The quality of the codec is far more important than the resolution: MPEG has blocky artefacts, MPEG 2 can't cope with colour gradients, etc. As for sound: any free-standing speakers pointing at the listener will be better than anything built-in.

      1. Vic

        Re: qulaity

        MPEG has blocky artefacts

        All Digital TV has blocky artefacts. It's a lossy encoder system based on a block structure.

        MPEG 2 can't cope with colour gradients

        Yes it can.

        All these issues are simply down to the trade-off between bandwidth and quality - different encoders get a different trade-off, usually at the cost of processing power. If your display is poor, that usually means that someone's wound the Q up to deal with a smaller bit budget...

        Vic.

  22. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    "...manufacturers of televisions....stubbornly persist..."

    A more analysis might reveal that the newer codecs require additional processing power to decode. Even if the software updates were available, it's a safe assumption that the stale hardware will typically prove to be inadequate to run it.

    We've seen this before in the field of military Software Defined Radios (SDR), where some claimed that that SDRs could be software upgraded and were thus future-proof. In fact, the only software updates were to fix software bugs, and the hardware design has gone through 6 or 7 major generations, a quicker turn over than the 35 year old legacy pure hardware radios that just sit there and work.

    Yes. Many advantages to software based gadgets, just not anything related to being future-proof. Opposite in fact. They'll be recycled before you know it. Best to bolt them in with wingnuts, as you'll be taking them out again shortly.

  23. Mage Silver badge
    Unhappy

    MPEG-2 format into the newer, smarter and more efficient MPEG-4 format.

    MPEG4?

    Ireland only ever deployed MPEG4, since about 2007 (Tests) and full ASO in 2012. On DVB-T, not DVBT2, and for SD.

    Of course EVIL retailers sold UK incompatible TV models, claiming acceptable because 82% of Ireland uses Pay TV, which is either cable box or a satellite box.

    In 2006 there was experimentation of the idea of using the PCMCIA style slot for CAMs to add codecs. Any models produced (up to maybe 2010) ran too hot and could only do SD even on HD sets. An external DVB-T setbox was cheaper.

    A worse problem than Codecs is RF Modulation. With a TV stick the codec is SW on the tablet or PC (and many are poor at HD). The DVB-T sticks can't ever do DVB-T2, so they work for SD & HD in Ireland (MPEG4) but don't work at all in UK, where all MPEG4 is on DVB-T.

    Another issue with laptops and tablets etc is that they are all essentially USA/Japanese 60 fps. All European, Chinese, Russian, Australian and African TV is 25 or 50, so the frame rate has to be converted, making horizontal motion smear, especially if the source is interlaced (most common).

  24. Tom Paine Silver badge

    This is all fine and dandy, but apart from the obvious security issues with hanging networked computers without keyboards or touchscreens on the walls of people's living rooms there's a major unintended consequence. TV is rapidly becoming the domain of the under 50s. A retired friend asked me to help set up his spiffy new 4K telly a few months ago which uses some sort of internet-connected BT box to download artifiact-riddled content. Although the manufacturer clearly tried to make it as user-friendly as possible I still had to google around a bit to figure out wtf all the buttons and menu options were supposed to mean.

    And whatever happened to being able to record a programme onto something you could watch forever, or lend to family / friends, or whatever?

    (Bring back the Light Programme, I say... )

    1. Jay 2
      Meh

      I agree. Just got a new Sony 43" 4K over the weekend, and I find its user interface less than good. Took me while to hunt down where the main settings were (brightness, contrast, colour etc). In fact as it's a "smart" TV running Android then it needed loads of questions answering when I first switched it on before it got anywhere near to doing what a TV should do.

      More of an annoyance is that Sony seemingly no longer provide proper full manuals either in dead tree form or via PDF. You're now expected to go to some website (which you can print off, which looks shite) to figure out all the advanced features. And more annoyingly some of them are stunningly generic and don't explicitally mention the model of TV.

      That aside I do quite like it. I wasn't intending to use its smart features (as I have SkyHD, Amazon Fire TV, PS4 to do that sort of thing and stream from NAS), but was fairly impressed with the fact it'll run Kodi and VLC as well as BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon Video etc.

      The catch is now that I have a 4K TV, a 4K source and 4K friendly HDMI cables, they all talk to a receiver which isn't 4K. So that will have to be replaced...

  25. Mage Silver badge
    Flame

    Future Codecs

    Often HD codec support is via GPU. Almost no cheap CPU can manage HD with more advanced codecs.

    Ultimately you get codecs that can't be implemented on older HW, (Phone, Tablet, Laptop etc). To an extent a PC with a graphics card can be updated, but usually x2 to x3 price of a new setbox with a dedicated ASIC / FPGA/GPU (or combo) for the new codec and standard.

    Also digital is also now often used to reduce cost, not improve quality. DAB+ trials used slightly lower quality DAB and much lower than FM, by running at 64K stereo. HD is now often 1440 x 1080 instead of 1920 x 1080 and at lower quality than at launch. Most SD is now lower quality than PAL, with 544 x 576 common rather than 704 x 576 or 720 x 576.

    You can get older DVDs that were properly mastered from film by scanning at 4K and then antialising. These can be better quality than some upscaling.

    Tablets or Chromecast isn't the solution. While I'm ranting can I point out that apart from privacy issues the GUI standards of Android TV are an abomination?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "That’s not something I’d seen before. In the era of analog television, new signals piggybacked on existing signals."

    405 vs 625 line transmission?

    1. ADRM

      405 vs 625 line transmission?

      The 2 systems were completely different and when the UK converted to 625 lines and colour in the mid and late 60's to the full roll out to all regions in the early 70's a new transmission network was built. The UHF transmitters had smaller range than the VHF ones. For many happy years viewers in Cambridge were proud to be in the London region with dual stacked Ch9 aerials and a Ch1 aerial (huge) pointed at Croydon and Crystal Palace. Some upstart Anglia TV came along on Ch11 (poor reception) in 1959 and later in 1965 on Ch6 from Sandy Heath about 20 miles away but most stayed on London. When colour TV took off in 1971 in Cambridge viewers had to switch to Sandy Heath as London could only be received in colour on a proprietary British Relay cable TV system. Ch23 the ITV London signal was picked up in Arbury Cambridge with 8 high gain aerials at 180 ft. Still suffered from co channel interference from local Anglia on Ch24 and they fitted a specially made filter which just about made the picture from London desirable. So dual standard sets which had UHF 625 and VHF 405 lines on were around until the late 60's. I spent many "happy" hours as a junior bench engineer removing system switches and hard wiring them to 625 lines and setting the tuners to UHF only. This made the sets much more reliable. Also spent "many happy hours" sawing down ITV Ch8 Litchfield, Ch9 Croydon, Ch11 Mendlesham and BBC Ch1, London, Ch2 Cambridge, Ch10 Willington Bedford, Ch5 Peterborough aerials and swinging the odd UHF aerial around from Belmont to Sandy Heath. This was because everyone needed a new aerial when colour TV came out to the masses. I preferred my time on the bench to helping the aerial rigger and TV installer as some of those older metal aerials and poles were very heavy indeed. I was an apprentice TV Engineer from 1975 to 1979 based in Huntingdon and Cambridge and a field engineer from 1979 to 1990 when I got a bench engineer job in Peterborough.

  27. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Poorly researched article

    that basically describes the transition from DVB-T to DVB-T2 in Australia. It seems broadcasters were remiss in informing customers that DVB-T was going to be dropped.

    Regarding forward-compatibility: you cannot backfit hardware acceleration. Newer codecs take advantage of faster hardware to squeeze more data into less bandwidth. However, rather than buying a new TV every time you can normally pickup a new set top box / DVR at a fraction of the cost. Manufacturers have committed to the HDMI connection for the next two generations (4K + 8K). But it's also worth noting that TVs have become much cheaper compared to earnings since LCD panels were introduced, as long as you don't go for the latest and greatest: €600 will currently buy you a good 55" HD screen; I picked up my own 46" HD Philips for the same five years ago. I don't know what the author spunked $ 1500 on.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a television is a tablet computer without a touchscreen

    for you

    For me a television is a television. Even a "3D", internet-on, just enter your wifi password and I'll f.. you all the ways you fear and more you can't even imagine Samsung - is still a dumb television set. At least in my tinfoil hat home, where I hold the magic wand, aka remote. So it will play an mp4 from a usb stick, but it will NEVER go online.

    But hey, speaking of 99.9999999% of the population, yeah, future-proofing makes sense, right. Just go online and you'll see ;)

  29. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Analogue TV

    " In the era of analog television, new signals piggybacked on existing signals."

    It was a long time ago so I can't remember; was UK 405-line analogue forward compatible with 625-line, or did that require a new TV to be purchased?

    I think we all accept that nothing will be infinitely forward compatible; hardware often doesn't have the grunt for even the next generation. I remember when Elonex introduced a PC which had the CPU on an ISA card so it could be upgraded. No need to guess how that worked out.

    What annoys me most is when manufacturers won't make things backwards compatible, not because they can't but because they won't or don't care; apps which need the latest OS for no good reason seem to be the worst offenders.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Analogue TV

      NICAM was bolted onto PAL quite well.

      With NICAM we suddenly got stereo sound TV

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Analogue TV

        Interesting story that. It was around the same time that Multichannel TV Sound (MTS) was added to the NTSC standard, achieving the same feat in the States and other NTSC-using countries.

  30. gskr

    I've got a 50" Panasonic Plasma TV (TX-P50GT50) that cost £800 in 2013, and is still under warranty (just)

    Fully intend to keep it for years to come assuming it keeps going, and no reason it won't.

    As a late Panasonic plasma it does a fantastic picture, 3D, and the netflix and iPlayer apps still work fine. Updates stopped pretty much straight after I bought it, but its still doing its job so who cares.

    I just want a great screen - got a chromecast and PS3 for supplying other smart content, and those are easily replaced.

    Hate the idea of Android TV. That will be slow to start up, and will stop getting updated within a year, and then be vulnerable to the latest android exploits.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about the car?

    The big worry is that cars are rapidly embedding the same unmaintainable android or iphone junk. This is the manufacturer's answer to the fact that cars last 2 too long nowadays. Soon we will all be forced to thow away our cars every couple of years because the software is never updated. No wonder 2 or 3 year leases are so popular now.

  32. jonfr

    Germany has moved to HEVC/H.265

    Germany has already moved to HEVC/H.265 and that leaves my television out in the cold as it can't receive that signal at all. The best my television can do is H.264 codec. The only signals I now get over antenna are the Danish ones that continue to use H.264 codec. I don't think that's going to change any time soon.

    I'll get me a external receiver to get the signal. I'm going to have it a double type that can handle both DVB-S2 and DVB-T2 (its from Technisat).

  33. Neil Alexander

    Been pretty happy with my Apple TV 4 connected to an otherwise dumb television. It's simple to control, very usable, non-intrusive and Smart TV manufacturers really ought to learn a thing or two from it.

  34. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Yes, I'm aware that a flatscreen TV is a tablet because the last pre-Xmas El Reg TV comparison fluff piece had the author frothing over idiotic digital computer specs and four- and five-starring each set on that basis before finishing with an offhand remark that the TV performance of each subject was dubious in some way.

    This same thinking is how we end up with smart phones that can render a movie in 4k HD and play it with dolby 15.314159 surround-sound but can't let me hear a person calling from half a mile away in any intelligible way.

  35. The Eee 701 Paddock

    Dumb display + smart devices

    I may as well be the umpteenth voice to add to the scepticism regarding "smart TVs". In 2010, we bought a "dumb" (by today's standards) 42" telly, and around the same time, a Sony Blu-ray player which also did double-duty as a networked video-streamer (BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, etc.).

    You can guess what happened: gradually, the networked services fell away as their APIs/interfaces were end-of-lifed (e.g. the Sony BR used the iPlayer "big screen" interface, which Auntie killed off in 2013). By 2015, none of the network services we wanted were usable on the Sony, so we got a Roku Streaming Stick to handle those (and add Netflix, Viki and others). It's since been replaced by a Roku 2 (the Stick migrating to the kitchen telly) and a "hockey-puck" Chromecast - the BR player now only shows BR and DVD discs, and that not very often.

    TL;DR - I'd far rather have a "dumb display", with content delivered by connected low(er)-cost devices that can be replaced easily, than a "smart TV" that will effectively be reduced to a "dumb" one within a few years when the manufacturer thinks it's time we bought a new one. Of course, that assumes we GET a choice in the matter...

    (In passing: interesting to read about MPEG-2 being gradually phased out for terrestrial TV. I wonder how that might affect the services we get, and when our increasingly-aged telly may start losing channels. I understand Roku devices don't support MPEG-2 either (which is why they can't show content directly from network TV tuners like the HDHomeRun), so overall, this looks like an issue to keep an eye on.)

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Dumb display + smart devices

      In 2008 I bought a Sony Blu Ray playing device.

      The online features still work on it.

      Got the replacement model in November 2013, that does every online thing but ITV, but that is no issue.

      1. The Eee 701 Paddock

        Re: Dumb display + smart devices

        Sorry, I should've been a bit more specific - the three online services that we specifically used on the BR player, ended up not usable for us.

        We lost BBC iPlayer (as I mentioned) because the Sony used the "big screen" version, which Auntie discontinued in 2013 because "no-one was using it" (and Sony never updated the firmware to give us iPlayer back). The YouTube "channel" disappeared when Google changed the API (around 2014-5, IIRC), and the Amazon Video channel might still work, but we stopped that service when we moved to Netflix (and I don't think Sony ever added the latter).

        There may well be online services on the Sony BDP-S370 which still work, but as they're not the ones we use, the general thrust of my point stands: online service providers change their services, and manufacturers generally don't support them indefinitely. With that in mind, I'd rather have a "dumb display" and have the content delivered by affordable "smart" devices which can be replaced as needed, rather than a £PRICEY smart telly which gets dumbified after a few years.

        Still, the Sony continues to give good service as a BR/DVD player, and we get the VoD services from our Roku 2. All came out in the wash...

  36. Jove Bronze badge

    405 to 625 migration did not happen?

    Those old "High Def" sets were not much use either after the 405 line signal was turned off - so what's new?

  37. J J Carter Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Android TV?

    Oh dear, now TVs will be going straight to landfill

  38. J J Carter Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Hubba! Hubba!

    Pr0n in HEVC?

    Paris as she would never do smut.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Hubba! Hubba!

      HEVC would be handy for low-bandwidth streams that can still show some quality, but high-def porn requires proper camera techniques because that level of detail can start creating Too Much Information problems (basically, do we really need to see the dirty at that level of detail?).

  39. DougS Silver badge
    Mushroom

    What kind of idiot buys a new TV because his old one can't do MPEG4?

    You buy an OTA set top box that can do MPEG4 at 95% less than what you paid for the new TV. Surprised that someone hired to write for the Reg is so utterly clueless when it comes to tech!

  40. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Yay!!!!

    3 pages of comments about TV and not a single smug git telling us all how they don't have a TV, never watch TV and it's all shite anyway!

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Yay!!!!

      Oh, c'mon, John ... don't I at least get an hono(u)rable mention?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Yay!!!!

        No, because you use it to watch "fake news" and rich people hitting their balls! :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yay!!!!

      3 pages of comments about TV and not a single smug git telling us all how they don't have a TV, never watch TV and it's all shite anyway!

      I have an old B&W television, I just don't have a computer (or use the internet for that matter)....

  41. bep

    Yet another comment

    telling this chap that he shouldn't be writing for a tech site. I'm in Australia too and I also updated my TV fairly recently after the old one died after ten years. Like all the other posters with at least half a brain I got the dumbest TV I could find and connect it to a set-top box and my computer (by a cable). Smart TVs are for dumb people.

  42. Kaltern

    If only there was a way to simply use a PC to receive all the channels from your chosen provider, over the Internet, in 4K HDR quality, and only requiring a steady 8Mb connection. And then if it were only possible to output this to an existing screen, preferably 4k HDR compatible. And, if only it was also possible to record/pause/schedule programming like you can do on those Sky box things.

    (I often wonder how interesting it would be to couple a (legal) IPTV service with cloud storage. And then my optimism dies. It works with Plex... I just wonder why something like this doesn't exist. Afterall, it works well for Netflix, Amazon etc.. Imagine Sky getting in on the action.. although with their ideology, we'd be stuck with 15fps 720p streams with stereo sound, and that's yer lot. A bit.. no, EXACTLY like Sky Q on tablets right now.. (oh how that winds me up no end))

    Edit: I see I'm a bit behind the times. (http://www.digitaltveurope.net/653081/sky-moves-beyond-the-dish-with-iptv-plans/)

  43. Jim-234

    Enjoy your Slow Buggy Spy TV, I'll stick with a good old fashioned Dumb TV

    Quite a number of years ago, I purchased a very nice Sharp standard Flatscreen TV.

    It still works very well and will continue to do so for many years to come.

    Here are just a few advantages the standard TV has over the new "Smart TVs"

    Press power on from a cold start & it's ready almost instantly... no waiting for the OS to boot

    Doesn't spy on me so somebody else can sell my personal information for extra dirty cash

    Can't be hacked by whatever spy agency to watch me since well it wouldn't work

    Can't get infected by ransomware or malicious applications

    Can't get hacked over WiFi or the internet

    The menu is simple & very fast for the limited things it needs to do

    Is not always trying to "upgrade" itself when I want it to do what I want

    No stinking software "licence agreements" BS

    Seems to actually have a better picture display than most of the sub $1k SmartTVs I see on display.

    Eventually a 4K TV would be nice, but considering actual 4K content is a DRM infested nightmare even if you actually have the bandwidth from your crappy US monopoly based supplier (which I don't). replacing it is not high on my agenda.

    I have it hooked up to various computing devices which feed it the signals I want the way I want from the sources I want and all works very well.

  44. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    Monitor

    I don't want my TV to be a tablet, I want it to be a **MONITOR**. Then I can plug in and/or change whatever back-end device I need/want in order to watch content. For that matter, since we got rid of cable-TV, the tuner on it does nothing now anyway (not that the internal tuner was useful once Crapcast got rid of Clear QAM). Looking up what digital TV stations we should be able to get at the house, we can get all of ZERO DTV stations (I counted them. Twice.)

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