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Digital TV debuts with '101 Dalmatians'

Graphic November 1, 1998
Web posted at: 8:38 p.m. EST (0138 GMT)

From Correspondent Marsha Walton

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Some are hailing digital TV as a development as revolutionary as when black-and-white television turned color.

Perhaps it's only fitting that the black-and-white dogs of "101 Dalmatians" are helping introduce viewers to the concept, as ABC broadcasts the Disney classic in digital format Sunday night.

For now, very few shows will be shown in digital format.

To get the full effect, programs must be shot on digital cameras, broadcast in digital format and viewed on a digital television set. Currently, a digital television set costs $5,000 to $7,000 and few people own one.

CNN's Marsha Walton reports on the new technology of high definition television
Real 28K 56K
Windows Media 28K 56K

"It's truly a classic case of the chicken and the egg," said Gene Faulkner, engineering director of WSB-TV in Atlanta. "Producers don't want to produce this very expensive programming until there's a sufficient number of viewers, and viewers don't want to buy the TVs until the programming is there."

Digital TV offers more than just a higher quality picture, including everything from e-mail to video-conferencing.

"The idea is to try to take some of the technologies that have come out of the computer world, and the Internet world, but to make it very usable," said Bill Wall of Scientific Atlanta.

Digital TV also offers e-mail and video-conference functions  

A set top box provides a transition for digital television, by boosting the quality of a regular television set, although not to the standard of a full digital system. About 50,000 set top boxes are now on the market.

The set top box can also be used to order specific movies or to perform other computer-like functions.

"It's going to be all about convenience, and how we use these new technologies and these new services to enhance our lives," said Ken Morse of PowerTV in Atlanta.

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