Saturday, January 7, 2012


It was late last night when, after our shifts, I asked Alain whether he had any special plans for the weekend. He told me he was working at the television station this weekend. He explained that because weekends are quieter, it allowed him to work on more time-consuming projects. This weekend, he planned to get the new HD television cameras ready to go.

I asked when our station would be making the jump to high definition. He admitted the switch was supposed to have already happened, but there had been problems with preparations to the net pipe.

I admitted that for the life of me, I would probably never understand the concept of digitization; how “ones” and “zeroes” come out of a cable in the wall and produce such incredible high definition pictures on our televisions. For that matter, I admitted, I can’t understand how “ones” and “zeroes” are transformed into the 5783 songs currently stored in my iPod.

Evidently, Alain, who heads our technical department, never shies away from a challenge! He began to try to explain how digitization worked. He explained how sounds were sampled and how digitization was like taking a thousand cross-sections per second of a picture, or sound, and how, once transmitted through fibre optics, the corresponding “ones” and “zeroes” were re-assembled at the other end, to reproduce the same sound, or pictures.

It was midnight when, still thick as a brick, I confessed I was no closer to grasping the concept, although I wholeheartedly appreciate Alain's patience and passion!

When I worked as a feature reporter on the station's morning show several years ago, I scheduled a visit to the local cable company, Videotron, in the hopes their experts could make me, viewers and my son, understand how digitization and the transmission of digital cable signals worked. It was actually Tristan who asked me how cable television worked and I had no clue how to explain the inexplicable! I remember the morning at Videotron as being immensely interesting, but it allowed no further comprehension on my part.

When, a couple of years ago, I was writing scripts for the television show, “Deconstructed”, I researched and documented the functioning of mp3 players. It involved the convergence of new technologies in acoustics, optics, electronics, electrostatics and magnetism. While compressing and squishing songs into mp3 files results in a certain loss of sound quality, that loss is nothing the analog hearing of most human beings can detect and represents a reasonable trade-off for a unit with such incredible portability. A printed circuit handles tasks demanded of the mp3 player and also decodes compressed music files, converting digital signals into analog ones before amplifying them. The printed circuit is made up of integrated circuits or microprocessors, composed of thousands of electric micro-circuits that, with the help of transistors, influence each other. Sequences of "ones" and "zeroes" are transformed into assignments for the player, including the retrieval of a song from the flash memory and the confirmation message that appears on the player's screen. One second of uncompressed stereo music amounts to 1,411,200 bits. The average song is four minutes long, which, on a CD, represents about 40 megabytes of storage space. Compressed into an MP3 file, the same song only uses 4 megabytes. 

All of that right there, unfortunately, for me; pure gobbledygook.

No comments:

Post a Comment