| When the first dish satellite TV dishes were available in the 1970s, they were large chunks of satellite equipment that you had to fit into your backyard - too big to put on the roof - rather like a particularly bad piece of inscrutable modern sculpture. |
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Today, satellite equipment consists of neat little 18" dishes that you can attach to your wall, and although they are not exactly unnoticeable, they are hardly the eyesore that they were.
Digital TV impact So what changed? Well, several things. The satellite dish is a way of taking a fairly wide beam, and concentrating it onto a single small point. The dish "collects" the signal, and then focuses it onto the point in the middle of the dish which then carries it to the satellite TV via cable.
Today's satellites are much more advanced, and they are able to beam a more concentrated signal to the dish. This means that the dish does not have to be so large to collect the whole signal.
MPEG However, there is another development that has contributed to this miniaturization, and that is the signal itself. In the 1970s, the signal was a full-sized analog depiction of the picture and the sound.
Today, with the advent of digital satellite TV, the signal is coded to make it more compact, and this means that the signal "width" is less - therefore the dish can be smaller. At the moment, the industry is coding to a standard called MPEG2 - used on your DVDs.
And the future? Well, almost certainly satellite equipment will become even smaller. Apart from any development in the satellite technology, MPEG4 standards have been accepted, and MPEG7 standards are in discussion - these new standards will give a more compact signal and some new features for TV as well.