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TECHNOLOGY WATCH : Back in the Race

Might American ingenuity be on the verge of a big comeback in consumer electronics ?

Let’s hope so. Zenith Electronics Corp., the lone U.S. company manufacturing televisions, and AT&T; have developed an all-digital transmission system for HDTV--better known as high-definition television. Their system is the third digital entry in the race to develop a U.S. standard for HDTV, the hot new home electronic innovation of the future.

Digital television, which uses computer language to transform signals into video pictures, now is likely to become the U.S. standard for advanced HDTV. If so, it could put the United States back into the consumer electronics business and take the edge off the big lead held by Japanese companies, which already are selling HDTV sets. The Japanese system has been rejected in the United States because it is incompatible with existing TV broadcasts.

The Federal Communications Commission, which would like to choose a U.S. company if possible, will select a U.S. standard for HDTV by 1993. Zenith and AT&T; had been considered a front- running team even with its previous part-digital system.

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Other entries include General Instruments, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Japan Broadcasting System with its modified Japanese system and a consortium that includes Thomson of France, Philips of the Netherlands, the David Sarnoff Research Laboratory and NBC.

Let’s hope a U.S. firm can win the race.


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