Local News

HDTV Launches Nationally with Shuttle Liftoff

Posted October 28, 1998

— The space shuttle Discovery was not the only big launch Thursday afternoon.High Definition Televisionmade its official national debut, with coverage of the lift-off.

WRAL-HD, the first commercial station to broadcast an HDTV signal, along with Harris Corporation and theNHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation, transmitted a 70-minute live telecast covering the Glenn launch from Kennedy Space Center.

The program was broadcasted by more than 15 stations around the country in a High Definition format, making it one of the first live public HDTV viewing opportunities in the U.S. Viewers were impressed.

"Comparing it to the other TVs that are actually here in the showroom, it's just an incredible difference" launch viewer Greg Harvey said.

"People watch programs and not technology, and so we thought this would be a good kickoff for High Definition Television," says Capitol Broadcasting's John Greene. "This is the best event you could tie it to I think. And all the stations are coming together about this time of year, the first HDTV stations, so this was a viable program, a big news event, to kick off this technology."

In the Triangle, the public had the opportunity to witness the historic space launch at both NOW! Audio Video locations in Raleigh and Durham. The program was transmitted from WRAL-HD, channel 32, and received on the new HDTV television sets arriving this month to retail stores.

During the program, WRAL-TV'sDavid Crabtreepresented HDTV interviews with Senator John Glenn, Commander Curt Brown and CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite. Mary Alice Williams, formerly of CNN and NBC, and Pete Conrad, an Apollo astronaut who walked on the moon in 1969, anchored the program.

The clarity of HDTV perhaps came through one particular set, the first Sony HDTV receiver in the country. HDTV ready sets go on sale next month.

The least expensive HD TV sets are rear projection models beginning at about $4,000. A decoder will also be required which costs a couple of thousand dollars. Prices are expected to drop significantly as sales and competition increase.

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