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Some Brute TV Tech Specs for those of you that have wanderedoff: the PAL vs NTSC FAQ. (Revised on 06/24/98)



So what's this PAL-thing then ?

The videoworld is ruined by a plethora of non-compatible Television/VideoStandards. As always the yankees wanted their own system and named it NTSC,after The National Television Standards (or System) Commitee(of the Electronics Industries Association) (or Never The Same Color Twice). It's alsoused in Canada, Mexico and Japan. The system has a variant, NTSC 4.43.

Most West-European and Latin countries carry the PAL-standard, which stands forPhase Alternating Lines (or Phase Alternation by Lines oreven Picture Always Lousy- which is bull of course). This also used to be split up inPAL-A and PAL-B (with the UK having PAL-A).The Sound Modulation of these systemsis not the same. If you play a PAL-B tape on a PAL-A (UK) video you won't getsound. There still is N-PAL (used in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) and M-PAL(used in Brazil) which is almost exactly the same as NTSC. Australia also hasPAL.

Yet France, Poland, Russia and some other East-European countries have SECAM(Sèquentiel Coleur Á Mèmoire /Sequential Color and Memory) and some other MESECAM (... -used where SECAM isused, and in Greece). The difference between these is only the Colour SignalFrequency. For the games of the Atari 2600 VCS there is no difference at all withthe PAL versions (i.e. no separate SECAM games were produced)

The difference between all these confusing systems lies in the Frames perSecond Rate (FPS), Colour Signal, Field Frequence and the Horizontal (Scan) Lines. NTSCuses 30 FPS and 525 lines, PAL 25 FPS and 625 lines (PAL-A has 25 FPS and 405 lines),and SECAM 25 FPS and 819 lines, plus uses a different system to encode it'scolours (the Colour Signal Frequency again). For those of you that are not confused yet:Film runs at 24 FPS (except for 8mm, this runs at 18 FPS). But no one plays his 2600from film I hope.

Why different Systems ?

Historically, the different systems (in Europe) owe a lot to political considerations.Basically, many countries didn't want their citizens to be able to pick up broadcastsfrom neighbouring countries, so they adopted different standards. The PAL-A and SECAMstory is a very good example of this. There are also the technical reasons -differentstandards were adopted to minimise the risk of interference between broadcast signals.

The fragmentation into separate markets became an issue in the late 1970swhen home video recorders came onto the scene, long after the standards had been set.For now, the standards won't merge mostly because of money. Different systems keep the marketsseperated, and the more markets, the more money there is to earn. The rise of the DVD(Digital Versitile Disc), DTV (Digital Television) and HDTV (High Definition TV) is not changinga thing. DVDs are produced for different standards and different areas. To make sure themovie-studios are making huge profits, special code with the release date for that specific areaimprinted, so that the DVD will not play until that date. European DVD players will play American(NTSC) discs, US discs won't (and should there be a reason?). Meanwhile, in France, moviebuffs canbuy their favorite films on DVD at the local supermarket, while the support and number of titlesavailable in the Netherlands is pathetic and hopeless.

The NTSC standard was devised in the 40's, and the only major update since then has been the additionof color in 1953. NHK of Japan (a state-owned broadcasting company), who adapted the American standardwas the first to develop a more sophisticated follow-up of a higher quality. While U.S. corporationswere sitting on their butts, Japan and Europe were gathering money for further research.The companies in the States finally caught on as well. However, the process of discussions, proposalsand counterproposals has taken up to 1993, when a Grand Alliance reached a compromise for HDTV.As of now, 18 new (HD)TV formats have been submitted (by various companies) to the U.S.FCC (Federal Communications Commission, who issuesbroadcast licences and provides the bandwith).
As you can see, it takes a long time before the crappy screens you are looking at will finnaly be updatedinto something bearable, whatever region you're in. It's really only getting worse. No doubt that this willinfluence the future of the game industry in a bad way.
If you want to know more about this, there has been quite a revealing article inWIRED magazine ("The Great HDTV Swindle"),and if you're really into die-hard technical Film- and TV-schtuff you should become a member of theSMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and TelevisionEngineers).Actually,

What does all this mean for me?

This means that the all video related markets differ, whether we're talkingabout videogames, -cassettes, DVDs, CD-Vs and LaserDiscs, VCRs, or camcorders.. Whichmeans that marketing strategies differ and products have always been different because straightimports aren't possible.

Looking at the 2600 (and other video game systems), we see that there are indeeddifferent labels, cartridges, boxes and games like KLAX  and Jumping Jack were only released in Europe. Games from the BIT Corporation, Sancho and Bomb seem to be moreavailable here then in the U.S., but SEARS and Twentieth Century Fox games are raritieshere. However, it is only due to American prudity that X-Man  is so rare in the US.They were never produced in PAL-versions. More about this in theEuropean Rating Rarities List.

Can we play U.S. games on our PAL 2600 Systems and vice versa? Sure, no problem.The games are perfectly compatible and interchangable. Only colors will vary(playing AcTiVision's Tennis  on a blue court is actually pretty awsome).It's your TV-Set that could cause trouble. If you have an old big television (like Deleto)it doesn't care at all. Newer TVs will cause the screen to roll when other standard gamesare played. If your TV has a Vertical (for PAL ppl) or a Horizontal (for NTSC ppl) PotHolder/Meter, you can adjust this until the rolling and flashing stops.

If you want to know more about Television Standards follow
THIS orTHIS link.You can find out what your country has. If it's not there, try it HERE, or take a look onTHIS map.
The Society of Motion Picture and TelevisionEngineers has the most up to date info as this international group of experts is highlyinvolved in creating standards.

FAQ Written & compiled by Roloff the Jeu, thanks to Ross Hamilton, and some forgotten emailers.




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