Close on the heels of the Japanese introduction of regular high-definition television broadcasting, a group of American engineers has demonstrated a superior system. The General Instruments Corp. team, led by Korean-born MIT graduate Woo Paik, has delivered the first installment on a system promised a year ago, just as many observers were writing off American hopes of catching up in the race to develop the television system for the next century.
To be sure, there is much still to be done. General Instruments, a maker of cable TV and satellite transmission equipment trying to protect its customer base, has not yet brought out a marketable product. But its late entry into the high-definition TV wars pushed other, more well-established competitors in the direction it wanted to go, toward digital transmission, and its video compression techniques will help preserve precious real estate in the broadcast spectrum.
Such success ensures that the costly analog system inaugurated in Japan, with its heavy use of the broadcast spectrum and its $30,000 TV sets, will be a milestone leading nowhere. Digital is clearly the way to go, even if another company triumphs.