High definition is coming of age in 2008.

For decades, Australia’s TV system has served us well. It brought us all manner of sport and movies and news in a watchable format on our modestly sized TVs. From the 1980s, we could even time shift our viewing using a VCR.

But the old system is no longer good enough. Over the past few years the prices of TVs have fallen immensely, and the TVs have grown in size. The biggest TVs used to be 66 cm (26 inches). Now a 107 cm (42 inch) plasma can be purchased for a couple of thousand dollars, or even less. Even 127 cm (50 inch) TVs are becoming increasingly popular, as are front projectors that deliver as big a picture as can fit into your room.

As our TVs have become bigger, our broadcast TV system has not kept up. What looked fine on a 66 cm screen looks soft and fuzzy on a 107 cm LCD or plasma, and even more so with bigger displays. DVD has helped a bit, as has digital TV. But even they don’t cut it with any display of 127 cm or bigger.

Remember, even though DVD looks a lot better than VHS and regular broadcast TV, it is still what we call ‘standard definition’ (SD for short). It is not high definition (HD). Later we will get into more detail about precisely what standard definition and high definition are.