Milestone-Proposal:The High Definition Television System, 1964-1989

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Docket #:2014-11

This Proposal has been approved, and is now a Milestone

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation?

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s fields of interest? (e.g. “the theory and practice of electrical, electronics, communications and computer engineering, as well as computer science, the allied branches of engineering and the related arts and sciences” – from the IEEE Constitution) Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an Electrical Engineering Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

High Definition Television System, 1964-1989

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) developed high-definition television (HDTV), a high-resolution and wide-screen television system designed to convey a strong sense of reality to viewers. Research began in 1964, ranging from psychophysical experiments to system development. In 1989, the world's first HDTV broadcast via satellite opened a new era in broadcasting. Since 1989, HDTV has spread throughout the world.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

IEEE Tokyo Section

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: IEEE Tokyo Section Treasurer
Senior Officer Name: Senior officer name masked to public

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: IEEE Tokyo Section Secretary
Senior Officer Name: Senior officer name masked to public

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: IEEE Tokyo Section Chair
IEEE Section Chair name: Section chair name masked to public

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Proposer's name masked to public
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

1-10-11 Kinuta, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 157-8510, Japan

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. The intended site of the milestone plaque is NHK Science and Technology Research Laboratories (STRL), where the HDTV system was conceived and developed.

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

The new milestone plaque will be installed next to the “First Direct Broadcast Satellite Service” plaque awarded in 2011, which is located outside the building of NHK Science and Technology Research Laboratories. The location will be suitable as every visitor to the laboratories will be able to see the milestone plaques.

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

The plaque will be permanently embedded in a block of marble placed near the entrance of the building of the laboratories. The NHK STRL is guarded by security personnel at the gate of the laboratories’ property and at the entrance of the building. A security camera monitors the plaque and the entrance at all times and the gate is securely locked during the evening. The plaque site is open to the public and visitors will be able to walk by the plaque which will be on open display.

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation)

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)?

Conventional color television technologies such as NTSC systems had been pretty well developed by 1964 when the Tokyo Olympic Games was held. At that time, NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) was envisioning the next generation of television systems because the picture quality of color television was inferior to that of 35mm film images such as movies or photos. Since NHK aspired to realize a high quality television system to keep pace with the advancement of human life in the future, the organization began research and development (R&D) on high-definition television (HDTV) in 1964. The R&D started with psychophysical experiments and surveys on what makes images attractive to people, with the aim of determining the types of properties high quality television systems should have. NHK discovered the importance of wide-screen and high-resolution television systems. As a result, a provisional HDTV standard was determined of 1125 scanning lines, 60 Hz field rate, and 2:1 interlace with 5:3 aspect ratio (wide screen TV) as a target specification of HDTV. The development of displays, cameras, and VTR systems began on the basis of the provisional standard. Almost all the initial equipment was developed by 1982 and HDTV became able to work as a system. To demonstrate its excellent picture quality, the first HDTV program “Images for Hi-Vision” was produced in 1982. “Hi-Vision” is the nickname given to HDTV. In 1983, NHK developed a bandwidth reduction technology for HDTV transmission. The1984 Los Angeles Olympics was the first-ever major event to be partly covered by HDTV. Finally, the world’s first HDTV broadcasting trials began via broadcasting satellite in June 1989. Besides broadcasting, HDTV was utilized in various applications such as recording brain surgery in 1987, electric cinemas in 1988, and archiving and exhibiting in a museum in 1989.

The historical significance of HDTV can be summarized as follows.

- HDTV was the first to demonstrate the importance of wide-screen and high-resolution television.

- It achieved an extremely high level of picture quality that people all over the world found very attractive.

- It gave and is still giving great impetus to the development of video technologies.

- Its emergence enabled television technology to be used in many ways besides broadcasting, including movie production, medical imaging, museum applications, and so on.

During the 1990s, the benefits of HDTV came to be recognized widely throughout the world. By 2000, the ITU-R (ITU Radio-communication Sector) had established a single worldwide HDTV standard on the basis of NHK's R&D. HDTV broadcasting began in many countries that had been inspired by HDTV broadcasting in Japan. Today, HDTV has progressed to digital broadcasting and has spread widely throughout the world. HDTV cameras and displays have become household items. Many people enjoy using HDTV cameras to take personal videos. HDTV has also been utilized in such fields as computer imaging, education, and science. HDTV contributes greatly to people’s life and aids in the promotion of consumer electronics and the information industry.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

NHK began research on HDTV intended for the next-generation broadcasting in 1964.  The organization determined a provisional HDTV standard of 1125 scanning lines on the basis of fundamental research on the human visual system. Since HDTV has more than five times as many pixels as conventional TV, it requires high-speed processing and large storage and transmission capacity. To overcome these technical problems, NHK strove to develop HDTV equipment needed for broadcasting, such as cameras, VTR units, display systems, and transmitters [A3]. To facilitate the spread of HDTV, it was also important to establish a technical standard commonly used throughout the world. The following passages describe the major obstacles NHK needed to overcome.

I) Psychophysical experiments

HDTV can be characterized mainly by its use of a wide screen and the high resolution it provides. Both characteristics were developed on the basis of psychophysical experiment results. A series of experiments on the effects of wide screens was conducted to evaluate the sensation of reality the screens induced [B1]. In the experiments, the subjectively induced tilt angles of observers’ physical balance were measured by presenting a tilted image pattern projected on a hemispherical concave screen. As for the high resolution, at the beginning stages of research there was no equipment with the required level of resolution for the experiments. Accordingly, a high resolution picture simulator was developed for those experiments [A1]. To determine an optimum number of scanning lines, a black and white camera and cathode ray tube (CRT), which could be operated with an arbitrary number of scanning lines from 525 to 2125, were developed [B2]. Experiment results obtained using the camera and CRT revealed the details of picture quality vs. viewing distance with parameters of scanning lines and interlace or non-interlace. Consequently, it was determined HDTV should have more than 1000 scanning lines. Taking the requirements of the human visual system into consideration, researchers also found from the experiments that the preferable viewing distance was three times the picture height and that an aspect ratio of 5:3 was desirable [B3]. As a result, a provisional HDTV standard was determined [C1].

II) Display

NHK developed several types of color CRTs, including a 22-inch CRT in 1973 and a 30-inch CRT in 1978 [D1]. However, it was not easy to develop a high-resolution and wide-screen display. Thus in 1975, three 26-inch CRTs were optically combined by means of a half-mirror to achieve the high-resolution and wide-screen display. A 40-inch CRT was developed with the cooperation of Japanese manufacturers. However, it was very heavy and not practical for home use. Thus NHK developed a 50-inch rear projection display with a short projection length in 1986 [D2]. The organization also developed a large projection display. A 400-inch-screen HDTV display was developed combining CRT projectors to be used in the International Exposition at Tsukuba in 1985.

III) Camera

An RGB three-tube color camera was produced on a trial basis using a VIDICON tube in 1973. This was the first camera with 1125 scanning lines that had been developed as a signal source for picture quality evaluation tests. To improve its resolution, a three-tube color camera using the Return Beam SATICON (RBS) tube was developed [D3]. However, the RBS tube was not suitable for shooting moving objects because of capacitive lag. Thus, the Diode-gun Impregnated-cathode SATICON (DIS) tube was developed and applied to an HDTV camera in 1980 [D4]. The signal bandwidth defined by the provisional HDTV standard is 30 MHz, but video circuits are required to have a 60 MHz band in order to guarantee the frequency characteristic in the band. This requirement was not easy to achieve in those days. Especially in cameras, a pre-amplifier was required to have low noise and a wide band. Overcoming these obstacles, the DIS camera provided both high resolution and high moving picture quality. In 1986, a hand-held camera was developed that was small enough to be rested on the shoulder [D5].

IV) Magnetic recording system

Recording systems are an indispensable tool in broadcasting. In a preliminary investigation on magnetic recording, a magnetic disk recording system was experimentally developed to study magnetic heads, magnetic tape, frequency modulation, and so on [D6]. On the basis of experiments, an HDTV videotape recorder (VTR) was prototyped. In order to record wide-band signals of HDTV, relative speed between a recording head and recording tape was increased. As the result, the tape consumption of the prototype VTR became four times that of conventional VTR [D7]. The HDTV VTR was set up in a van type truck and travelled around Japan together with an HDTV camera to capture outdoor scenes.

V) Transmission system

Demand to transmit HDTV programs via a conventional broadcasting satellite then emerged. At first, a YC-separate transmission system and a time compressed integration system were considered as means to meet this demand [D8]. However, the bandwidth for both systems was wider than that of a broadcasting satellite and both used a large receiving antenna. This suggested the need to develop a bandwidth compression technique. Accordingly, in 1983 NHK developed the MUSE (Multiple Sub-Nyquist Sampling Encoding) system for compressing and transmitting HDTV signals [D9]. It utilized sub-sampling and motion compensation technology to compress data to a quarter of its original size. The MUSE system was able to transmit HDTV programs over a single channel of a 12 GHz-band broadcasting satellite with 27 MHz or 24 MHz bandwidth. At the 1988 Seoul Olympics, experimental broadcasting was carried out by using the INTELSAT-V, BS-2B, and CS-3 satellites for 17 consecutive days [D10], enabling viewers in Japan to enjoy the coverage at 81 receiving sites for public viewing. The world’s first HDTV broadcasting began via broadcasting satellite in June 1989.

VI) International standardization

One political obstacle that needed to be overcome was HDTV standardization. The aim of NHK was to establish a single worldwide HDTV standard, because the multiple standards of conventional television (NTSC, PAL, SECAM, etc.) had caused us much inconvenience in the area of international program exchanges. In March 1972, the Japanese Government proposed a study program on HDTV to the CCIR (Consultative Committee on International Radio) [E1]. At that time NHK, as the organization that had originally proposed the study program, was making significant contributions to the standardization activities. It also demonstrated the feasibility and quality of HDTV at various opportunities to promote its standardization. The single worldwide standard was finally established by the ITU-R (ITU Radio communication Sector) in 2000 [E2]. Today, the global circulation of HDTV contents produced in a common format enables people all over the world to enjoy a wide variety of HDTV programs easily.

VII) Electric cinema, museum and medical imaging

HDTV attracted a great deal of attention in the movie industry. The director Francis Ford Coppola was particularly interested in HDTV and provided his masterpiece film, “Apocalypse Now”, in support of NHK’s R&D. To promote electric filmmaking, NHK developed a Telecine system in 1984 [D11] and a film recorder in 1983 [D12], which were able to make bi-directional conversion between film and HDTV by utilizing laser beam technology. Thereafter, many electric cinemas were produced such as “Departure” in 1988, which was the first electric movie produced by NHK, and “Dreams” directed by Akira Kurosawa in 1989. Converting film movies to HDTV by Telecine made the movies become useful HDTV contents. HDTV has been utilized in various applications besides broadcasting, one of the most popular of which is in museums. For example, the Museum of Fine Arts of Gifu prefecture in Japan first introduced an HDTV system in 1989. With this system museum visitors were able to appreciate HDTV contents of fine arts and to search interactively for their image and additional information. HDTV was also useful in medical imaging and was applied for recording of a brain operation in 1987. 

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

During the HDTV development stage, a number of studies were performed to improve the quality of conventional television such as the NTSC system. In the mid-1980s, EDTV (Enhanced Definition Television) systems were proposed in Japan. In Europe, the MAC/packet system and PALplus system were developed in the 1980s and 1990s, respectively. However, they could not achieve picture quality comparable to that of HDTV due to restrictions on compatibility with conventional television standards. In contrast, HDTV achieved an extremely high level of picture quality that people all over the world found very attractive.

Worldwide interest in HDTV increased as NHK continued to make progress in R&D on it. In a 1986-1995 European project, an HDTV system of 1250 scanning lines with a 50 Hz field rate was developed by taking compatibility with PAL and SECAM into consideration. The specifications of the 1125/60 HDTV and those of the 1250/50 HDTV were unified in the HDTV standard of the ITU-R.

It is quite noteworthy that NHK was first to discover the importance of wide-screen and high-resolution television systems. The organization followed up by conducting total R&D on HDTV from psychophysical experiments to developing almost all of the equipment and finally started the world’s first HDTV broadcasting in 1989. Although the transmission system was changed to digital encoding from analog one, the HDTV technologies developed by NHK has never been changed in the current digital broadcasting services. These accomplishments are the major points that distinguish NHK’s achievements from those of other organizations.

References to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or citations to pages in scholarly books. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article.


[A1] Advanced Television System Research Group, “The Present State of High Definition Television,” NHK Labs. Note, No.192, Dec. 1975. (See appendix 2)

[A2] T. Fujio, “Future Broadcasting and High-Definition Television,” NHK Technical Monograph, pp. 5-13, 1982. (See appendix 3)

[A3] T. Fujio, “High-Definition Television Systems,” Proceedings of The IEEE, Vol.73, No.4, pp.646-655, 1985.

B)Psychophysical Analysis & Picture Quality

[B1] T. Hatada, H. Sakata, and H. Kusaka, “Psychophysical Analysis of the “Sensation of Reality” Induced by a Visual Wide-Field Display,” SMPTE J., Vol. 89, pp. 560-569, August 1980.

[B2] T. Mitsuhashi, “A Study of the Relationship between Scanning Specifications and Picture Quality,” NHK Lab. Note, No.256, October 1980.

[B3] I. Yuyama, “II Fundamental Requirements for High-Definition Television Systems, II-1 Large-Screen Effects,” NHK Tech. Monograph, No. 32, pp. 14-20, June 1982.

C) Signal Standard

[C1] T. Fujio, “High Definition Television Systems - Desirable Standards, Signal Forms, and Transmission-Systems,” IEEE Transactions on Communications, Vol.29, No.12, pp.1882-1891, 1981.

D) Equipment & Transmission

[D1] T. Kubo, “Development of High-Definition TV Displays,” IEEE Transactions on Broadcasting, Vol. 28, No. 2, pp. 39-46, 1982.

[D2] M. Kanazawa, T. Mitsuhashi, M. Sasaki, S. Tsujihara, H. Ohmae and Y. Umegaki," A 50-inch Diagonal Rear-Projection Short Depth Display for High Definition Television,” Proc. of the 6th International Display Research Conference [Japan Display '86], pp.424-427,1986.

[D3] Y. Isozaki, “The 2-inch return-Beam Saticon: A High-Resolution Camera Tube,” SMPTE J., Vol.87, No.8, pp.489-493, 1978.

[D4] J. Kumada, “III-2 Color Cameras,” NHK Tech. Monograph, No. 32, pp. 14-20, 1982.

[D5] F. Okano and J. Kumada, “HDTV hand-held camera using a 2/3-inch SATICON,” NHK Lab. Note, No. 339, November 1986.

[D6] H. Abe, A. Nagura, H. Katayama, et al. “Magnetic Recording of a High-Definition Television Signal,” SMPTE J., Vol. 90, No. 3, pp.192-195, 1981.

[D7] H. Shibaya, H. Katayama, K. Enami, K. Kamijou, T. Yoshida, H. Abe, H. Kasahara, K. Yaguchi, K. Abe, J. Ishida, Y. Ninomiya and Y. Ohtsuka, “Development of a VTR for the High-Definition TV.,” SMPTE J., April 1982, 91:(4) 403,1982.

[D8] J. Ishida, T. Nishizawa and K. Kubota, “High Definition Television Broadcasting By Satellite,“ IEEE Transactions on Broadcasting, Vol. 28, No. 4, pp.165-171, 1982.

[D9] Y. Ninomiya, Y. Ohtsuka, Y. Izumi, S. Gohshi, and Y. Iwadate, “An HDTV Broadcasting System Utilizing a Bandwidth Compression Technique - MUSE,” IEEE Transactions on Broadcasting, Vol.33, No.4, pp.130-160, 1987.

[D10] K. Kubota, Y. Iwadate, K. Seo, and M. Matsumoto, “International Transmission of HDTV Signals,” SMPTE J., Vol.99, No.2, pp.145-150, 1990.

[D11] T. Ishida, K. Hayashi, T. Taneda, T. Motoki, and Y. Sugiura,”A 70-mm Film Laser Telecine for High-Definition Television,” SMPTE J., June 1983, 92:(6) 629-635,1983

[D12] Y. Sugiura, Y. Nojiri, and K. Okada, “HDTV Laser-Beam Recording on 35mm Color Film and its Application to Electro-Cinematography ”, SMPTE J., Vol.93, No.7, pp.642-651, 1984.

E) International standards

[E1] CCIR, Doc. 11/31-E, “Proposal for a new Study Programme – High definition Television”, 17 March 1972, Japan.

[E2] Rec. ITU-R BT.709-4, “Parameter values for the HDTV standard for production and international programme exchange”, 2000.

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

Appendix 1: Chronological development of HDTV (Main results of R&D are described in chronological order with some pictures.)

Appendix 2: [A1] Advanced Television System Research Group, “The Present State of High Definition Television,” NHK Labs. Note, No.192, Dec. 1975.

Appendix 3: [A2] T. Fujio, “Future Broadcasting and High-Definition Television,” NHK Technical Monograph, pp. 5-13, 1982.

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator"

Appendix 1.pdf
Appendix 2.pdf
Appendix 3.pdf