Interactive Television Evolution

Interactive Television Evolution

Alcina Prata (Polytechnic Institute of Setúbal (IPS), Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-014-1.ch102


Television was a brilliant invention because it is capable of transporting us anywhere (Perera, 2002). Since its first production, in 1928, it never stopped spreading. In fact, while the Internet European penetration rate rounds 40-60% the TV penetration rate rounds 95-99% (Bates, 2003), which means that almost every home has, at least, one TV set. However, the TV paradigm which has traditionally occupied the largest share of consumer leisure time is now changing. In fact, and as a result of the so-called “digital revolution,” TV is now undergoing a process of technological evolution. The traditional TV sets and programs (which are typically passive programs) are being replaced by digital TV sets, which allow a long list of new interactive services and programs, concretely, interactive television (iTV). There is no doubt that iTV, which can be defined as a TV system that allows the viewer to interact with an application that is simultaneously delivered, via a digital network, in addition with the traditional TV signal (Perera, 2002) will replace the traditional TV viewing habits. In spite of being a recent phenomenon in terms of use, in the last 20 years, many research groups have worked in iTV development. Their progress over time is going to be addressed in the next section. However, due to the enormous quantity of telecommunications or cable trials launched it was impossible to present them all. Thus, only the more significant are referred.
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Itv Evolution

The first iTV program was broadcasted in the United States by CBS and was first transmitted on Saturday, October 10th, 1953. It was a black and white first program of a children’s series called Winky Dink and You, in which a cartoon character named Winky Dink went on dangerous adventures (Lu, 2005). During the show, children would place a sheet of plastic over the TV screen and draw a bridge or a rope in order to save Winky Dink from danger. At the end of the show, children would also be able to trace letters at the bottom of the screen in order to read the secret messages broadcasted. It was a success that lasted 4 years (Jaaskelainen, 2000; Lu, 2005).

In 1957, the first wireless remote control, proposed by Dr. Robert Adler, from Zenith, and known as “Zenith Space Command,” started being commercialized (Lu, 2005; Zenith, 2006).

From the 1960s milestones of interactivity, the following three are the most important. First, the AT&T Company’s demonstration of a picture telephone at the New York World Fair in 1964 (Jaaskelainen, 2000; Rowe, 2004). Second, the “interactive movie,” Lanterna Magica, which was produced in Czechoslovakia and shown to the public in the Czech Pavilion at the 1967 World Expo in Montreal, Canada (Jaaskelainen, 2000; Laurel, 1991). Third, the realization, by Marshall McLuhan, that television was a “cool participant medium” and thus interactivity should be pursuit (McLuhan, 1964). In the late sixties, Lester Wunderman launched a television advertisement which included a free telephone number. It was the first time that telephone was used as a return channel for iTV (Jaaskelainen, 2000).

In 1972, Cable Television expanded with all its potential providing more than 75 channels, allowing the use of set-top boxes (STB), and making the remote control viewers’ best friend (Lu, 2005). Three years later, with the launch of Home Box Office (HBO), a premium cable television network, the satellite distribution became viable. On December 13, 1975, HBO became the first TV network to broadcast its signals via satellite when it showed the boxing match “Thrilla in Manila” (HBO, 2006).

In 1977, Warner Amex Company launched its cable iTV service via a famous trial/system called QUBE (Jaaskelainen, 2000). However, because the benefits were not enough to justify the enormous equipment cost, the system was dropped (Laurel, 1991; Lu, 2005).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS): DBS or direct-to-home signals is the term used to refer to the satellite television broadcasts specific to home reception. It covers analogue and digital television and radio reception, and is often extended to other services provided by modern iTV systems, as for instance, video-on-demand (VOD) and interactive features.

Video-on-Demand (VOD): VOD systems allow users to select and watch video content over a network as part of an interactive television system. These systems allow two viewing modes: streaming the video content and viewing it while is being downloaded or, downloading it completely to a set-top box, and, after that, start viewing it.

Set-Top Box (STB): Describes a device that is connected to a television and an external source of signal with the goal of transforming the signal into content to be displayed on the screen.

Digital Television (DTV): DTV is a telecommunication system which allows broadcasting and receiving moving pictures and sound by means of digital signals (in contrast to the analogue signals from the analogue TV: the traditional TV system).

Enhanced TV (ETV): Frequently is seen as synonymous with interactive TV. However, it is used in particular to reference two-screen (TV + PC) services which are also known as coactive TV. Usually, ETV services users have the TV set and the computer in the same room, and use their Web browser in order to navigate through a particular Web site that is synchronized to the live program being broadcasted.

TTY Terminal: A TTY terminal device is a character device that performs input and output on a character-by-character basis. The communication between terminal devices and the programs that read and write to them is controlled by the TTY interface. Examples of TTY devices are Modems, ASCII terminals, and system consoles -LFT.

Multiple System Operator (MSO): An MSO is an operator of multiple cable television systems. In the U.S., a cable system is a facility which serves a single community or a distinct governmental entity, each one with its own franchise agreement with the cable company. Thus, any cable company that serves multiple communities is an MSO.

TiVo: Is a U.S. popular brand of digital video recorder (DVR). It is a consumer video device which allows users to capture television programming to internal hard disk storage for later viewing.

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