About gonedigital

Much of the technology discussed throughout Set Top Boxing is either obsolete or soon to be, as television transmission technologies evolve, older technologies fall out of favour or more modern revisions become incompatible with older receivers.

In the computer world, this phasing out of support, technological redundancy, and future incompatibility is handled extensively by emulation and a market for hobbyist-designed expansions and restoration products for now-obsolete computers. Not every machine is preserved and usable in its entirety as some peripherals may be rare or difficult to recreate, but almost every piece of home gaming or productivity equipment one might commonly think of is preserved in some sense or another by dedicated fans and enthusiasts.

Efforts of a similar kind are unfortunately not as commonly found within other areas of home technology, where equipment tends to be considered less noteworthy or more disposable. There are projects of relevance, most notably hacktv (software to produce many analogue television signals to feed into various forms of old equipment such as PAL FM satellite receivers, D-MAC receivers, or 405-line televisions. Within the television history community, there exist 625-line PAL to 405-line signal converters, however these are purpose-built, expensive, and can perform only that duty. Amateur radio enthusiasts have some tools for transmitting television signals, however these are also fairly specific and intended for amateur radio licence-holders. These projects are few and far between when compared to computer preservation and often less accessible, they also tend not to target service-specific receivers which results in compatibility issues with receivers designed explicitly to operate on a particular company’s transmissions.

Whilst hacktv admirably generates a broad array of exciting signals for any vintage television enthusiast, its purpose is purely analogue, it does not cover digital technologies such as DVB. This is the purpose of gonedigital; to continue that lineage of television reception equipment from the late 1980s and early 1990s as served by hacktv into the digital era of the late 1990s and early 2000s. It is intended to be a project which documents and implements transmissions compatible with the likes of ONdigital DVB-T (which inspired its name), Cable & Wireless/Telewest/NTL DVB-C, and Sky Digital Digibox DVB-S receivers.

These receivers are nominally DVB-compliant, but aspects of them (commonly EPG data, for example) are often custom and do not work correctly with simplistic DVB transmissions which would better suit more generic receivers not affiliated with any particular broadcaster. Some receivers of this type, in particular many digital cable receivers, simply will not even boot without the appropriate signal present. This makes it very difficult to produce modern, high-quality videos and screenshots documenting their behaviour and user-interface appearance. This is the drive behind gonedigital, to enable once again (and to maintain, as services continue to abandon older receivers) the operation – as close to full is as reasonably achievable – of these receivers such that they may be experienced and documented as they were intended to be used over twenty years ago.