The Father of HDTV

Dick Wiley didn't invent the technology. But it never would have seen the light of day without him.

But it didn’t. In 1996, the FCC endorsed the committee’s plan and HDTV-compliant TV sets went on sale soon after. (The old analog TVs had 525 lines of resolution; HDTVs have more than 1,000 lines, which is why the images are much sharper.) Accolades and awards flowed in—including a 1997 Emmy for leading the development of the country’s HDTV transition standards. Wiley prominently displays the statuette on a coffee table in his corner office.

Now a grandfather of six, he still shares the same Arlington home with his wife, Betty, a former teacher at Jamestown Elementary School. Their children, Doug and Pam, also live in Arlington and send their kids to Arlington Public Schools.

Wiley, who turns 84 in July, is old enough to remember sitting on the floor of a Winnetka, Illinois, department store in 1949, watching a college football game broadcast in black and white on a newfangled contraption called television. He wouldn’t describe himself as an “early adopter,” he says, but he remembers being smitten the first time he saw a demo of HDTV technology in the 1980s. During the committee’s early days, he dreamed of going into homes and buildings and seeing large-screen TVs hanging on the wall.

“High-definition TV was the holy grail for me,” he says. “A lot of people said, ‘Who cares about pretty pictures?’ It was the most interesting and rewarding thing I was ever involved with.”

These days, when he’s not at work (nope, he’s not retired) or playing tennis at Washington Golf and Country Club, you’ll often find him in front of the tube watching baseball and football. What kind of TV does he have? A 65-inch LG.

“It’s the best, naturally,” he says with a chuckle. He’s earned it.

Lisa Lednicer grew up with a black-and-white TV set. She still remembers the shock of seeing the Muppets in color for the first time.

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