Saturday, November 20, 2021

AND THROUGH THE WIRE I SEE YOUR FACE [320]

In 2020, I bought a new television. My previous LCD TV, bought in 2011, was becoming clunky and slow in comparison for what I can now get for two-thirds the cost, in addition to a higher-quality LED screen. Connected to it is an Apple TV box, a Blu-ray player, and a secondary DVD player that allows me, living in Europe, to watch region 1 DVDs from the United States, a cheaper option than buying a Blu-ray player that covered this requirement.

 

However, I still expected to connect the DVD player via SCART, the only option available on it. What I had not banked on was the almost wholesale dropping of SCART connections from audio-visual (AV) equipment since I last had to buy a television. 

 

Known as Péritel in its originating country of France, and first appearing in 1977, SCART is the acronym of an organisation of manufacturers that created a shared AV connector standard, and the name of the connector itself. The intention of creating a shared standard was to simplify the connecting of different AV devices, whether they were analogue or digital, and to avoid incorrect connections. To that end, twenty-one pins were supplied to carry composite, RGB, S-Video and YPbPr component video signals, and analogue, optical or digital audio signals – your devices would then choose the best connection to make. SCART connectors also carry the control signals that allow, for example, a DVD player to be “woken up” from standby mode when your TV switches to its connection, and you could daisy-chain devices together.

 

This is something I did not realise until much later, because I did not know: for a long time, SCART leads were often the only connectors available to televisions in the UK apart from that needed for an aerial, and while we may be used to HDMI offering similar ease of use, HDMI is for transmitting digital audio and visual data, and not the analogue signals from older devices – there have been HD televisions and laser-disc players that used an analogue component signal of 720 or 1080 lines, but this was used mainly in Japan, where a version of SCART also gained traction, and was extremely expensive.

 

Where did this leave me, with my region 1 DVD player? There is a spare HDMI connector available on my TV, but the requirement to turn the analogue signal from the DVD player into a digital one that can be accepted by HDMI means that the cost of a converter was higher than I wanted to spend, while also requiring a power source to assist in processing the signal from analogue to digital. You can use the VGA connector that is now often included to turn your TV into a computer monitor, but while that will carry a component visual signal to the TV, it won’t carry the sound. 

 

In the end, I had to buy an adaptor to break out the composite signals from the scart lead to use the red, white and yellow AV connectors at the back of the TV. For the record, while SCART has not been a requirement on French TVs since 2015, which is perhaps what led to it being dropped elsewhere, the inferior composite signal and connectors created by RCA in the 1950s have apparently proved too ubiquitous on TVs worldwide to kill off.

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