The HDTV Archive Project

Documenting the global effort to create, develop & implement high definition television


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Email the Author: Philip J Cianci

© 2011 Philip J. Cianci

About The HDTV Archive Project

Often times those in the eye of a hurricane have no idea how the storm affects the surrounding environment. Phil Cianci was among those at the center of the HDTV storm that understood the impact the tempest would have. In the late 1980's he began to photograph everyday activity at Philips Laboratory in Briarcliff Manor, NY. The photos became the basis for creative experiments; using oil paint and multiple mediums applied to various surfaces, including surplus printed circuit boards, images were created that chronicled daily activity in big time R & D, particularly HDTV. In time he began to write paragraphs and short stories, describing interesting an noteworthy events.

As the effort to develop the next generation of television intensified, so did Phil's creative output. Scenes and sentences covering not only Philips Labs, but activity at Sarnoff research Institute in Princeton, NJ and at the Advanced Television Technology Center in Alexandria, VA were created. Along the way, he encountered NY Times reporter Joel Brinkley, who had taken on the task of writing a book about the American effort to establish a new television transmission standard. Following a brief conversation/interview, he decided it was his mission to write an eye-witness account, and memorialize what it was like to participate in the engineering effort. A digital television standard was adopted in 1996 and with John Glenn's return to space aboard Endeavour in October 1998, HDTV was on the air-waves coast to coast. Meanwhile, Mr. Cianci continued to record his observations in words and images...

Not content to leave his HDTV history paintings in storage, he hit pay dirt with a promotional mailing that included Sarnoff Research Institute. The flyer, addressed to Jim Carnes, passed to Glenn Reitmeier and then to Dr. Alex Magoun, Curator of the David Sarnoff Library. This subsequently led to the purchase of a number of HDTV history paintings for the Library and for Alex's personal collection. A short time later, while on a quest for an institution to donate some of his HDTV memorabilia to, Mr. Cianci contacted Dr. Magoun and was referred to Dr. Bernard Finn, then curator of the Smithsonian Institution's Electricity Collections. Dr. Finn was interested in acquiring the materials and they met in Alexandria, Virginia a short while later. The rest of this tale is best told in Dr. Finn's Forward.

As fate would have it, Mr. Cianci joined the engineering effort at ESPN in 2003 during construction of the all-HD Digital Center. This was arguably the largest HD production center in existence then, and possibly still holds this "title." In 2006, an attempt was made to publish an HDTV techno-history. Focal Press passed on the proposal, but Mr. Cianci did author two books for them. In the first book, an entire chapter was told "A Compressed History of HDTV." Undeterred, work on a manuscript continued as the first iteration of the HDTV Archive Project went live on the WWW. Deciding that a work of this nature would benefit from publication by an established company, rather than be self-published, a series of Author's Inquiries in early 2009 led to acceptance of Mr. Cianci's proposal by McFarland & Company. With this vote of validity, Author Queries were graciously run by the IEEE, SMPTE and the SBE.

The mission of the HDTV project does not end with the publication of this book. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn social media websites have pages are dedicated to the HDTV Archive and HDTV Art as well as the book. Discussions are just beginning and my hope is that a new volume of first person accounts will be gathered to add to those already acquired and resident at the Smithsonian and eventually at other libraries and museums. And one day, hopefully not too far in the future, the Digital HDTV Grand Alliance prototype system will find its way to a suitable final resting place, open to the public, where ours stories will tell of the conversion from analog to digital television, the convergence of TV's and PC's and the emergence of the Media Multiverse.

For additional info or to contribute to the project, email Philip J Cianci

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