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The Future of Present Decisions

The Future of Present Decisions

In an earlier blog entry I referenced a concept I called Drucker’s Efficiency. In case you were wondering, Peter Ferdinand Drucker was something of a rock star in the world of multinational corporations during the latter half of the 20th Century. His groundbreaking book “Concept of the Corporation” was strong medicine for GM and the other industrial giants of the 1950’s. Drucker’s impact on business is only now being put into real perspective, and that makes his observation that “Long range planning does not deal with future decisions, but with the future of present decisions” prescient to the point of being spooky. This quote is astoundingly relevant in the A/V industry, where we have a long history of holding onto technology we know is well beyond its “best if used by” date. Need an example? Easy. All I need to say is S-Video. How quickly would you have dropped that dog if you’d had the ability to predict the future?

We are all hesitant to abandon technology that works - and that we understand - for something shiny, new and generally untested. And rightfully so. We’ve been bitten before. A/V systems are mission critical. They are the source of efficient communication, and efficient communication is vital to organizational success. Our responsibility, whether we are designer, integrator or purchaser, is always the same. We are tasked with making it work today. In the course of accomplishing that goal we are pushed to do what we always did. We lean heavily on the past, letting tomorrow fend for itself. We fail to include the future ramifications of our present decisions in the algebra of contemporary compromise.

The result of this is a kind of paralysis. We can’t include forward-looking solutions unless we also include those that encompass our past. We often end up with systems that are optimized for legacy compatibility and lack the fundamental ability to connect with a cheery, bright future. It’s our pain point. We cling tightly to the familiar and comfortable precisely because they are familiar and comfortable. We hesitate to invest in something new, even when it’s built on time-tested principles using quality ingredients. When we walk into the local ice cream shop we think “vanilla and chocolate” out of habit. The idea of a fig, black pepper and goat cheese milkshake is just too much of a stretch.

DisplayPort is like that crazy milkshake (try it before you judge). With its multiple digital lanes, dual-mode signaling and embedded audio, it’s too far away from the familiar vanilla and chocolate. It’s the first display interface to rely on the same kind of packetized data transmission technology found at the core of both USB and Ethernet connectivity. DisplayPort’s performance advantages are legion and they are undeniable. DisplayPort 1.3 (the new standard was released last month) supports up to 8.1 Gbps over each of its 4 lanes, allows for 5120 x 2880 resolution over a single cable with no compression and for dual 4K UltraHD monitors in an extended desktop configuration, and can connect with HDMI-enabled HDCP-compliant displays of all types and resolutions. And if you need any more convincing, consider this. In its latest release specifying new USB Type C connectivity, VESA includes an “alternate mode” that enables DisplayPort capabilities over the USB plug. New computers, tablets, smartphones, displays, and docking stations will be able to use the new USB Type-C connector, at either the Tx or Rx end, to transmit high-resolution A/V along with USB data and power using USB 3.1 and Type C topology. All over a single, unified link. A digital link.

DisplayPort is destined to be a big part of our tomorrow. That’s not a guess nor a crystal ball vision. It’s a fact. In the same way that component video was finally doomed to the dust bin of connectivity when HDMI made its multimedia third generation appearance in 2006 (HDMI 1.3), VGA and DVI were doomed when DisplayPort emerged in its dual mode 1.2 version in 2009. The analog technology of the previous century kicked the bucket and is fading every bit as quickly as that outdated idiom. Welcome to the new age.

As we wind our way to tomorrow, we typically have to deal with the weight of decades of previous system choices. Most of those decisions were made to fall within a budget, or a construction schedule, or the comfort level of past system designers and operators. Very few were made in anticipation of the future. Sometimes we are trying to find ways to make digital connectivity work over analog links. Sometimes we are looking for a solution with parallel paths so we can avoid the choice entirely. One thing is certain. If you consider the future impact of present decisions then it becomes clear that adding familiarity with DisplayPort to your professional repertoire is good long range planning.


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