Bookshelp header image for page World Wide Words logo

Set-top box

This term describes a specialised computer which translates incoming digital signals into a form suitable for viewing on a standard television set. The source of the signals could be a digital satellite or terrestrial broadcast, a cable television channel or a video-on-demand programme sent down a telephone line. Other projected uses for the set-top box include control of interactive viewing, for example with a home-shopping channel or WebTV; it may also decrypt signals on subscription or pay-per-view channels. The term is an obvious compound, helped towards acceptance by its form and rhythm, even though, as one commentator remarked, it is normally found under the set rather than on top of it. The set-top box is posing a particular problem in Britain, where Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB will start digital broadcasting from satellite shortly before the terrestrial channels introduce their own digital service using a different encoding system. This would require viewers to buy two boxes, something that everyone in the business agrees is unlikely. So the first to go live may scoop the pool unless some muscular regulator forces everyone to use the same system.

Share this page
Facebook Twitter StumbleUpon Google+ LinkedIn Email

Search World Wide Words

Support World Wide Words!

Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.


Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!

OTHER WAYS TO HELP

Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 23 Nov. 1996

Advice on copyright

The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/turnsofphrase/tp-set1.htm
Last modified: 23 November 1996.