By Nicholas Negroponte

In vigorous, mordantly witty prose, Negroponte decodes the mysteries--and debunks the hype--surrounding bandwidth, multimedia, digital fact, and the net, and explains why such touted strategies because the fax and the CD-ROM tend to move the way in which of the BetaMax. "Succinct and readable. . . . when you be afflicted by electronic anxiousness . . . here's a booklet that lays all of it out for you."--Newsday.

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This is particularly true given that the solutions so far proposed for HDTV may not even result in enough noticeable image improvement, compared with the studio-quality television available today (which you probably have never seen and might not guess how good it is). HDTV at the current level of HD is just silly B E I N G THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST In 1990 we were presented with the likely outcome of Japan, Europe, and the United States going in totally different directions regarding advanced television.

And the United States, which had virtually no television industry at all, saw HDTV as the great opportunity for re-entry into consumer electronics (which shortsighted companies like Westinghouse, RCA, and Ampex had earlier just given away). When America took up the challenge of improving television technology, digital compression was at too early a stage of development to be the obvious course of action. Also, the protagonists, TV equipment manufacturers, were just the wrong players. Unlike young digital companies such as Apple and Sun Microsystems, television technology companies were old-age homes for analog thought.

This means that most TV is really like downloading to a computer. The bits are transferred at a rate that has no bearing on how they will be viewed. More important, once in the machine, there is no need D I G I T A L 49 to view them in the order they were sent. All of a sudden TV becomes a random access medium, more like a book or newspaper, browsable and changeable, no longer dependent on time or day, or the time required for delivery. Once we stop thinking of TVs future as only high definition and begin to build it in its most general form, bit radiation, TV becomes a totally different medium.

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