Box - (STB) - (Last update was in 2012) - May
be known as
top, Set-tops, set-top box, set top box, STB, Receivers, Converters,
Decoders, Intelligent Set-top Boxes, Set-top Decoders, Smart
Encoder, Digital TV
Converter, DTV Converter, Voice-enabled Set-top Boxes, Digital Decoder,
DTV Tuner, Descrambler, Digital Set-top Box, Addressable Converter,
Demodulator, Smart TV Set-top Box, ITV enabled Set-top Box,
Internet-enabled Set-top Box, ITV enabled Set-top Cable Box,
Satellite-enabled Set-top Box, Cable-enabled Set-top Box, Low-end
Boxes, Thick Boxes, Smart TV Set-top Box, Super Box, All-in-one Set Top
Box, Integrated Set Top Box, Hybrid Cable
Box, Media Center.
with Digital Media Adapters, Digital
Media Receivers, Windows Media Extender Set-top Boxes, Gaming Consoles,
Its ancestor is
often considered the
Nintendo game box as
those ancient 8-bit game boxes had data ports. (A data port is a
physical interface on a device through which information travels.) A
set-top box (STB) is a device that connects to an external signal
source and decodes that signal into content that can be presented on a
display unit such as a TV.
boxes generally are
digital devices that communicate using computer language. In the past
when the set-top box
functions were built in to another device, such as a TV, it might have
been referred to as a device with a “built-in”. Now-a-days the phrase “built-in”
has been superceeded by the
phrase "integrated". Now a TV
box functionality built into it is more often called an "Integrated TV". If it's a digital
TV, it would be known as an "Integrated
Digital TV" (iDTV). Do note that just because a TV has
functions built in to it, that doesn't mean it's a digital TV. In
that case it's just an analog TV with set-top box functions
set-top box is a computerized device that
processes digital information. Set-top boxes (STB) come in many forms
and can have a variety of functions. Digital
Media Adapters, Digital
Media Receivers, Windows
Media Extender and most video game consoles are also
Mailing List of set-top boxes. Currently the type of TV
set-top box most
widely used is one which receives encoded/compressed digital signals
from the signal
source (perhaps your cable or telco TV provider's headend)
and decodes/decompresses those signals, converting them into analog
signals that your analog
(SDTV) television can understand. The STB accepts commands from the
(often via the use
of remote devices such as a remote control)
commands back to the network
operator through some sort of return path. Most
set-top boxes deployed today have return path capability for two-way
can make it possible to receive and display TV
connect to networks, play games via a game console, surf the
Internet, interact with Interactive Program
gardens, send e-mail, and videoconference. Many STBs
are able to communicate in real time with devices such as camcorders,
DVD and CD players, portable
media devices and music keyboards. Some have huge
hard-drives and smart card slots to put your smart card into for
purchases and identification.
Generally put, to
interactive services, the set-top box might need some or all of the
(1) A network
that offers the potential for interactivity.
The network interface - This connects the STB to a network which
makes it possible to communicate
with the servers.
(3) A tuner is
electronics that 'catch' the incoming signal.
(4) The decoder - In order to save storage space, disk bandwidth,
and network bandwidth, programming is usually encoded (compressed)
before being sent over the network to the STB. Thus, the end-user
(subscriber) needs a decoder to decode (uncompress among other things)
the incoming stream's data before it can be viewable on the TV. This is
part of what a modem does. The decoding process may be known as (or
include) Demodulation (Heavy Lifting.) It could include Demultiplexing. Also see Codec H.264 (MPEG-4) compression technology utilizes up to 40
percent less network bandwidth than the MPEG-2 compression used in most systems to date.
(5) The buffer - Due to delay jitters in the network, the exact arrival
time of a video stream often cannot be determined. In order to
guarantee continuous and consistent playback for the viewer, the video
and/or data stream(s) may be received one or even a few seconds before
it's actually seen by the end-user. This way if there are
fluctuations in the transport time of the streams to that receiver (aka
set-top box, decoder), the viewer won't know the difference as their
buffer has a bit of time to spare.
(6) Synchronization software/hardware -
audio streams must be synchronized with each other before viewing.
Other streams may be added including those related to enhancements
(such as metadata.)
additional software and/or hardware.
(11) A return
boxes may be associated with
these major categories. (The below was originally written in 2002 and
has some updates):
(1) Broadcast TV
- (a.k.a. Thin
Boxes) - A more primitive set-top box with no back channel
(return path.) These might come with interface ports, some
memory and some processing power.
(2) Enhanced TV
- (May be known as: Smart
TV Set-top Box, Thick Boxes) - These have a back channel
(return path), often
through a phone line. These may be capable of Video on Demand,
e-commerce, Internet browsing, e-mail communications, chat and more.
Set-top Boxes - (a.k.a. Advanced
digital Set-top boxes, Smart TV Set-top Box, Thick Boxes, All-in-one
Set Top Box, Media Center)
- A fully integrated set-top box.
These have good processors, memory, middleware,
software applications and optional hard-drives. They're often
high-speed (broadband) connections.
Features could include high-speed Internet access, Interactive TV,
digital video recording & gaming. Instead of this, a "sidecar"
might be used in tandem with the set top box and/or
TV. Advanced set-top boxes are more likely to be integrated with DVRs
TV. See Media
note this 2007 update; as advanced set-top boxes now typically are
integrated units, the sidecar is not often used.) - This type of
box provides an
additional transport stream of data from the network operator to
compliment the main stream. With Charter
Communications’, the BMC-8000 (Broadband Media Center) is/was
sidecar box that works in tandem with the Motorola DCT-2000. A fully
integrated unit would not require a Sidecar.
(5) Over-the-top Boxes - Electronic device
manufacturers are providing DVD players, video game consoles and TVs
with built-in wireless connectivity. These devices piggy back on an
existing wireless network and pull content from the Internet and
deliver it to the TV set. Typically these devices need no additional
wires, hardware or advanced knowledge in how to operate. Content suited
for TV can be delivered via the Internet. These OTT applications
include Facebook and YouTube. Also see Internet-connected TV.
(6) Hybrid Digital Cable Box – A Hybrid
Cable Box is a specialized cable TV set-top box with high end
functions. Motorola Broadband’s DCP501 home theater system is/was an
example (depending on when you read this.) It has/had a DVD player and
high-end stereo output. This term may be antiquated. See Home
In the States, CableCARD can offer an alternative for cable TV
The physical CableCARD is a PCMCIA type II PC card approximately the
size of a thick credit card. These allows cable consumers in the States
to view and record digital cable television channels on DVRs, PCs and
TVs without the use of decoding equipment such as a set top box.
CableCARDs unlock the channels and services that the cable customer has
subscribed to. Some CableCARD technologies can even be used with
devices that have no physical CableCARD slots.
- Firmware is often used in set-top boxes.