Hattix.co.uk PC Hardware Collection
     
  Media and Video
Hauppuage WinCast/TV - 1996
Another reference design, this one being the BT848 from 1996. The AVerMedia card looks a lot better than this one with its image quality (and aspect ratio support), but both suffer from the RFI generated within today's computers. The Hauppauge especially takes a lot of sound degradation.

When this thing was new, the top level PC was around a Pentium133, nowhere near the level required to deinterlace and process real time full resolution video. As a result, the software halved the horizontal resolution and didn't bother deinterlacing at all, just showing one field after the other in a hardware overlay.

The BT848 chip was the predecessor of the BT878, and lacks audio suppport completely. Typically, cards would just handle audio themselves using extra components out of the tuner.
Creative DXR2 - 1997
Marketed as "PC-DVD Encore" and with a 2x DVD-ROM drive included, the hardware DVD decoder filled the gap before CPUs were really powerful enough to handle DVD decoding unassisted. (Which was all of roughly six months)

The MPEG-2 decoder is the ZiVA-DS chip, the VXP524 is a PCI video processor, the CT7115 a simple audio DAC and the BT865 is a video encoder. In this case, the BT865 outputs NTSC or PAL S-video. The NPN chips are Nanya 256kx16 EDO DRAM chips of 512kB capacity. With six of them, the DXR2 has 3MB of onboard memory, just enough for a PAL framebuffer with a bit of space for scratch and workspace.
AVerMedia TV Capture 98 - 1998
This model is a fairly standard (and high quality) BT878 implementation, but does feature the remote control. The FM radio tuner of the BT878 is not implemented on this card, although it can be exploited using freely available software.

The tuner is a Philips PAL-I and this card is fully supported by DScaler. Unfortunately, the card has inadequate grounding and suffers the "eight vertical noise bars of death", a condition caused by the ground planes of the card being at different potentials. To eradicate it, scrape off a little of the PCB green coating from each ground plane and solder a wire between them, finally connecting it to the metal of the back plate.

With this device, I hooked up a PlayStation2 to my PC, handled audio by fibre optic TOS-Link (and a Hercules Fortissimo II card to receive it), and could play PS2 games in a window on my PC. Or full screen, with correct aspect ratio, if I so chose.

The BT878 (and earlier BT848) is one of the unsung greats of the PC world. With a piece of software called DScaler4, your PC was not just a dodgy TV-in-a-window thing, but a fully fledged TV viewer with full scaling, deinterlacing, colour controls and everything you'd expect from a TV which wasn't to actually exist for another five years or so. Deinterlacing was bob, weave, even or odd fields, right until someone took motion compensation algorithms, CPUs fast enough to run them, and did them in realtime in DScaler. "TomsMoComp" was far and away superior to any other deinterlacer. No "TV on PC" system has ever got it quite as right as DScaler on a BT878 did, in 2001.
Hauppuage WinTV PVR PCI - 1998

A rarity among this collection, the PVR PCI variant of their WinTV (formerly the WinCastTV, see above) put Hauppuage on the map. It featured expensive, specialised hardware for MPEG2 encoding on the fly and so was immune to the PCI bus bandwidth problems of other cards, but it did need a meaty CPU.

The video digitiser is Brooktree (Bought by Rockwell, now Conexant, in 1996) BT878A, very common on these cards. Right of the BT878A is an Altera FLEX programmable logic array which appears to handle bootstrapping. The MPEG2 encoder begins with an Analog Devices ADSP-2185M digital signal processor and microcontroller (which is amazingly still in production and still being used in new devices, such as Skype phones and other stream processing devices). The VisionTech Kfir is a hardware MPEG2 encoder, the chip just above it is an SDRAM. The Kfir was commonly seen in hardware MPEG2 encoders (DVD recorders and PCI cards) and a multitude of other devices expected to encode MPEG2 streams.

As a PCI card, the WinTV PVR PCI stood pretty much unmatched. Its high quality construction (part of being four times more expensive than the contemporary AVerMedia TVCapture98 on this page) rendered it immune to noise bars but it was still a niche product and didn't sell too well.

This card will work in WindowsXP, but a convoluted four stage driver and software installation is needed.

     
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