Log in

No account? Create an account
delirium happy

Just keep on trying till you run out of cake

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
delirium happy
I hate technology sometimes. I got a new DVD player this weekend, to replace my old dead one. Naturally, this necessitated wrestling with tangled cables down the back of the unit my TV lives in, with appropriate levels of cursing. Equally naturally, even after getting it all set up, it still didn't work. Or rather, it only partially worked. I was getting a picture through, but no sound.

While I'm no expert on audiovisual technologies, this said to me "faulty wiring somewhere". Even with that as a starting point, it still took me almost two further days before I managed to kick up the motivation to actually find the fault.

See, my set-up is like this: I have an aerial socket in the wall, with a wire which comes out of it into the back of my digital TV decoder box. A scart lead then comes out of this and into my TV allowing me to watch digital TV. Simultaneously, an aerial lead heads out of the back of the digibox, heading for the TV, which will allow me to watch analogue TV. However, on the way there, it joins up with another lead coming from my PS1. These leads then join up in a funky little gizmo, which then goes into the TV. Meanwhile, I then have two more devices, a Wii and a DVD player, which have scart leads, but I only have two scart sockets on the TV, and one of them is already occupied. As such, I need to have another little box which can accept two scart inputs, select from them, and then send one of them up to the TV.

Now, call me old fashioned, but I tend to be of the belief that one should not require a doctorate in advanced topology in order to understand the wirings of one's TV. After a fair bit of trial and error, it transpired that the scart lead out of the back of the scart selector box going up to the TV wasn't quite plugged in fully. Given the number of wires involved, and that none of them are particularly easily accessible, I'm not surprised that I lacked the motivation to hunt this out for a while.

This brings two thoughts to mind:

Firstly, I'm wondering if Microsoft and Sony weren't right with their ideas behind the X-box 360 and the PS3. I mocked the idea of the integrated home entertainment centre when I first heard it, on the grounds that, hey, I already have a DVD player you dunce. Why would I want to pay extra for a console to make sure that it could do a bunch of stuff that was already done better by existing specialised equipment? I'm not so sure though. I'm wondering if it wouldn't be worth it just to get rid of a few of the sodding wires.

Secondly, I want to know why we still need wires for this in the first place? Why has nobody made a nice wireless system for transmitting audiovisual signals to monitors and TVs? How awesome would it be if you could buy a new DVD player, sit it down next to your TV, and it would just work, without having to fiddle with wires? I'm sure I can't possibly be the only person who's ever had this idea, and I also can't think of any technical reason why it shouldn't be possible. So how come nobody has done it yet?

  • 1
The problem here isn't the wires. Wires are good. They're reliable, high-bandwidth (the main issue with your wireless monitor idea, AIUI, apart from the inherent problems in starting off a new standard), zero-configuration (yes I know, but compare and contrast the configuration of ethernet vs wifi, or RS232 serial vs bluetooth), and largely self-documenting, or at least easily documentable with a roll of masking tape and a biro.

The problem in this case is pretty much down to the SCART connector. Which, as you may know, was invented by the French as a system for interconnecting AV equipment so awful that manufacturers would only build devices with the things if required to by law. They then legislated for all new TVs sold in France to have a SCART socket, thereby providing a nice cushy deal to their own TV manufacturers.

Apart from the truely awful physical design (the default state of a SCART plug being 'about to fall out'), the standard completely failed to include a DDC-like data channel to enable devices to communicate in meaningful ways ("I'm playing, and this is in widescreen" is about all you get, and many devices don't even bother with that). Which leaves integration of the connected devices as an excercise for the reader. To make matters worse, SCART is bi-directional. Except for some cables, which aren't, and some sockets, which aren't. This makes for a lot of confusion as you can no longer see what's connected to where and, with cheap cables, a healthy dose of crosstalk.

Hence the current situation where to watch $channel, you have to go through the "Turn the TV on, select AV2. Pick up the VCR remote, make sure it's switched off. Make sure the SCART switch box is set to input 1 (no remote for that, sorry, you'll have to get up again). Now pick up the DVB box remote and select your channel. No the volume buttons on there don't do anything, you'll need the amplifier remote for that..." procedure that's going to make someone a profitable business selling 5-channel integrated DVB-tuners-and-PAL-modulators boxes come the great british analogue switchoff in 2012.


In a rare moment of sanity, the leftpondians and enlightened asians (except of course for those busy undercutting the French TV industry) took one look at this state of affairs and went "Sod that", preferring to stick to individual RCA phono and S-video connectors. These also suck, but in much less confusing ways.

Of course, I've completely failed to mention HDTV and digital (often multi-channel surround) audio. Add a liberal sprinkling of component video (not to be confused with RGB video), HDMI, VGA, DVI (of which there are multiple different breeds), SPDIF, TOSLink and whatever else I've forgotten to the above tangle, ensure completely arbitrary behaviour by the devices of different manfacturers, and see how far the reader gets sorting that mess out.

And that's before DRM gets involved.

So yeah. The great thing about standards...

(MythTV's occasional database wobblies suddenly don't look all that terrible...)

bandwidth, standards and interworking are the simple answers.

If you take 10 companies and tell them to work on a new wireless interconnect standard then half of them will do it down the line the other half will add additional features that will give them a competitive advantage - none will be 100% compatible with the others.

No bandwidth has been allocated for this, and do we really want a load of cheap DVD players indiscrimantely broadcasting at microwave frequencies?

oh yes and cost.. A DVD chipset is very cheap these days. The laser and disc mechanism is astoundingly cheap. A DVD manufacturer is really a case designer and integrator. They might differentiate on remote control - otherwise....

I get round all this wiring nightmare by not possessing a television set any more. I don't miss it. Sometimes in hotel rooms I put it on, but I listen to the radio or music mostly; it's far less intrusive.


I forgot to say - the DVD player components are SO cheap.. that adding quite a complex radio system on to get rid of some very cheap wires would be cost prohibitive until it became ubiquitous - which it won't until everyone does it.. catch 22.

  • 1