Germany’s PAL and Other TV Standards
Until recently, the world was divided into three main television standards, but the advent of digital TV (DTV) has only made things worse!
- NTSC (now digital ATSC), used in North and Central America, Mexico, and Japan
- PAL (Phase Alternating Lines), a German-invented system used in the UK and most of Europe, Africa, Australia, and South America – now the digital DVB standard.
- SECAM, used in France (its inventor), eastern Europe, and Russia
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220 volts LCD TVs - PAL NTSC LCD TV
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The price the US paid for being first was that the other systems, developed later, could learn from and improve on NTSC — which some wags call “Never (Twice) The Same Color.” Although the NTSC color standard was inconsistent and technologically inferior to PAL and SECAM (except for a faster frame-per-second rate), many technical developments improved the NTSC picture over the years. The NTSC TV standard also came to be used in Canada, Mexico, Japan and in parts of Central America.
During the analog television age, the world had three main TV standards (with various subdivisions), none of which were compatible with each other. This affected DVD and video as well as television. Many people hoped that the advent of digital television would bring fewer differences, but that was not to be.
Instead of the former three analog TV standards (NTSC, PAL, SECAM), the world now has at least four different digital TV standards: ATSC (North America), DMB (China), DVB (Europe, Asia, Australia), and ISDB (Japan, South America). Although Germany, some other European countries, and the USA have already gone completely digital, most of the world’s TV viewers still watch analog TV or a mix of analog and digital. The target date for turning off all analog TV broadcasts around the globe varies from 2010 to 2020.
Digital TV in Germany: DVB
Beginning in 2003 (in greater Berlin), Germany phased in digital-only over-the-air television (DVB-T) region by region. Terrestrial TV in Germany has been all-digital since the end of 2008, but more than 90 percent of German households still get their TV via cable or satellite. No matter how they receive their TV, most Germans still have the same old standard 576-line PAL picture, whether it’s digital or not. HDTV broadcasts (720p) only began in Germany with the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
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PAL to NTSC converters allow use of USA NTSC TVs in overseas PAL countries
In order to watch terrestrial, cable, or sat TV in Germany, you need a flat-screen TV with a digital (DVB) tuner or a converter box for older tube-type TVs. But your American TV set, even a newer ATSC digital one, won’t work in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, or anywhere else in Europe. The new DVB television standard in use throughout Europe is not compatible with the new ATSC standard used in the US and Canada. For more about watching TV in Germany, see the next page.
HDTV in Germany
Although Germany took the lead in broadcasting over-the-air digital TV, that brought German viewers few real benefits — and no high-definition (HD) programming at all. (HDTV in Germany is limited and currently only available via satellite or cable.) Germany’s DVB-T (terrestrial) is broadcast in a wide-screen (16:9) format for some programming (PALplus), but at the standard PAL resolution of 576i. For more about HDTV in Germany, see our HDTV page.
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- ARD - Das Erste - Germany’s “First Progamme” (TV)
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