Why did it take the U.S. so long?


I was over in Japan about 20 years ago and they already had high-def tv. Why has it taken it this long in the United States?
Probably resistance from the broadcasting/television manufacturing industries would be my first guess. Let's face it, upgrading technology that still works reasonably well doesn't appeal to lots of people, and I think that might have been at least part of why HD TV was so slow to take off in the U.S.

Also, there is some "Not made here first" resentment here as well. I once heard someone make a comment that basically said "So what if the Japanese have hi def TVs. It's their country, not mine!"

Jason Fritz

Staff member
Although Japan has had HDTV for for a decade or so, their actual digital television transition isn't until July 24, 2011. Seems hard to believe?!?

The main cause for the slow transition has been due to not establishing rules for its DTV transition. Some reports have said that Japan would study other country's and their move to digital tv before making standards for their own transition.

Here's an clip from Wiki on it:
In 1969, the Japanese state broadcaster NHK first developed consumer high-definition television with a 5:3 aspect ratio, a slightly wider screen format than the usual 4:3 standard.[3] However, the system was not launched publicly until late in the 1990s.

In 1981, the first HDTV demonstration in the United States was held. It had the same 5:3 aspect ratio as the Japanese system.[4] Upon visiting a demonstration of the Japanese Multiple sub-nyquist sampling Encoding system (MUSE) HDTV system in Washington, US-President Ronald Reagan was most impressed and officially declared it "a matter of national interest" to introduce HDTV to the USA. Several systems were proposed as the new standard for the USA, including the Japanese MUSE system, but all were rejected by the FCC because of their higher bandwidth requirement.


Wow. So the Japanese actually developed HDTV when I was six years old, but launched it only fairly recently? Why the long gestation period, though?


I think its due to resistance to change. These broadcasters have grown used to having their gear paid off and they will have to take loans out to get the new high tech expensive HDTV transmission towers and broadcasting equipment. What is interesting is that shows have always been filmed in 16:9 format so I jsut wonder why they stated TV out with 4:3?


I can't believe we're actually going to have better technology than Japan for once. It can't be true, I bet they'll have much less problems with their transition than we will with ours...


I don't understand what you mean by "shows" having always been filmed 16:9. If you mean TV shows, no, they weren't always shot in a 16:9 widescreen format. They were done in the squarish format that predominated from the late 1940s till the early 1990s or so.

If you mean feature (theatrical) films, they were not always shot in 16:9 or any widescreen format either. The whole elongated rectangular image business came about in 1953 and '54 when the big studios, namely 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. invented various formats to compete with TV, which was leeching off audiences like crazy once prices of sets came down. I don't remember which came first, Warner's Cinerama or Fox's CinemaScope, but I do know the latter was around in '54. (Indeed, if you have heard the 20th Century Fox Fanfare - it's played at the start of Star Wars and lots of other Fox studio releases) the last half is called CinemaScope Extension and it was composed by Alfred Newman.) The widescreen format was deliberately made to not be compatible with television screens of the time and thus created a need to resort to pan-and-scan re-edits of widescreen movies so they could be aired on TV (and, later, stored on videotape and sold as "fullscreen" videos).


I guess we might had some technical problems with changing to a HDTV. I think so but i am not sure may be the reason can be the resistance to change to such a high technology over night.


Japan may have had HD in 1990, but it was analog and, IIRC, MUSE took up the space of five standard television channels. I also recall it was satellite delivered only.

Meanwhile it took the first half of the 90s to come up with an HD system that worked within the space of a single 6MHz channel. When this happened the transition from NTSC to digital (ATSC VSB) was assured. Otherwise it wouldn't have worked for OTA and definitely not for cable.


Moderator of DTV Latino
as far as i know ATSC was in process of develop since 1985 or 1987 but maybe was for better that take so long for launch hd on there the japánesses get surpassed by the brazileans when they created a own system using as base the japanesse original system.