Oregon PBS, Microsoft Sign Data-Transmission Deal
The VBI is the time between video fields in which beam current to the picture tube is turned off. Techniques for using this time to transmit data were first discussed in engineering journals more than 20 years ago. Norpak Corporation of Kanata, Ontario, Canada claims credit for most of the developmental work that went into the North American Basic Teletext Specification, which is an "open standard" for data transmission using the VBI. Data embedded in the VBI are transparent to ordinary television receivers and undetectable without special decoding devices, and they do not affect picture quality.
The system being deployed in Oregon is intended to help that state's public broadcasting service "develop educational television programs and new forms of enhanced data services," according to the news release. OPB is among the first broadcasters in the nation to participate in this trial, which will provide additional information to enhance the learning value of such shows as Oregon Field Guide, a popular nature program.
OPB president and CEO Maynard Orme says, "Our relationship with Microsoft offers OPB an excellent opportunity to take advantage of new advances in technology to give our viewers even more enriching forms of programming." Computer users with broadcast-enabled Windows 98 or a WebTV Plus converter box with a software upgrade (available later this year) will be able to enjoy the service.
One of the most forward-thinking networks in the US, Oregon Public Broadcasting has a "working relationship with companies such as Sharp Electronics, Harris Corp., Dielectric, Intel, and Tektronix to explore how new technology can enhance its educational mission." OPB was among the first broadcasters in the nation to install and operate a high-definition digital transmitter, which runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is also a charter member of the Digital Broadcasting Alliance.
In a related development, a group of twelve broadcasters and cable programmers have agreed to test Microsoft's VBI/Windows 98 technology. The twelve companies include Cox Broadcasting, Capitol Broadcasting, CityTV, E.W. Scripps Co., Guthy-Parker, KCTS-PBS, MuchMusic, New England Cable News, The Paramount Stations Group, Sinclair, and WFLA-TV. Mark Rubinstein, general manager of Chum Television, which operates CityTV and MuchMusic, says, "We have a reputation for using the latest technologies to make the most interactive TV imaginable. With Microsoft's support, our VBI trials will keep us on the cutting edge." Planting its seeds in fertile soil, Microsoft has provided each of the broadcasters in the trials all the needed hardware and software.