When Hollywood contemplates the future of entertainment technology, the optimists see a world of profit and delight. But skeptics see an expensive future that is difficult to make a reality.
James A. Chiddix, senior vice president for engineering and technology for American Television and Communications Corp., the nation's second-largest cable operator, notes that it took 40 years to bring cable to more than 90 percent of American households.
The technology that is nearest at hand is used in Quantum, the 150-channel cable-television system that Mr. Chiddix is promoting. American Television, a Time Warner unit, has already wired about 2,500 homes in Queens, N.Y., to Quantum.
Using fiber-optic transmission lines and
digital compression, which squeezes numerous signals onto a single channel, the Quantum system is able to provide much more programming.
The technology could be used for a variety of pay-per-view methods. Movies like "Terminator 2" or "Beauty and the Beast," for example, could be shown every half hour or so, Mr. Chiddix said. "People will pay more money for more channels," he said.
On the other hand, Stanley S. Hubbard, president of Hubbard Broadcasting Inc. in St. Paul, argues that viewers who wanted more television channels should be especially enthusiastic about direct-broadcast satellite, a technology that his company and Hughes Aircraft are promoting.
In December 1993, a powerful Hubbard/Hughes satellite is scheduled to be put into orbit.