What's in a name?

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As the evolution of IBOC technology continues, we will need to supplement our own understanding of the technology and add the concepts and principles to our engineering skills.

With the new technology comes new terms. In our twice-monthly e-mail newsletter called IBOC Update — Insight to HD Radio, we have highlighted some of these new terms. By now you're already familiar with low-level combing, high-level combining, primary sidebands and latency. Some newer terms that you might be learning are telematics, program-associated data (PAD) and advanced application services (AAS).

Familiarity with these terms and knowing what they mean is an important part of understanding IBOC. But with using any technological terms comes the proper use of the language. By spouting too much jargon it quickly becomes techno-babble to the non-technical listener. So, while you learn the new concepts, also learn how to explain their meaning in plain language.

As we learn to work with the new terms, I'm hearing a frequent misuse of the most basic term dealing with IBOC. The term isn't a technology phrase, which makes it more interesting that it is so frequently misused. This troublesome term is actually a trademark of Ibiquity: HD Radio.

Branding the in-band on-channel radio transmission technology was a smart move by Ibiquity. Part of this is just standard practice in our modern, marketed society. We frequently apply trade names to products, services and inventions. The processor in your computer is called a Pentium processor because Intel could trademark that name. The heart of the system still started with a 586 processor.

We use trade names in other parts of our lives as well. If you cut yourself on your insulated beverage container, you might first use a facial tissue to attend to the wound before applying an adhesive bandage. Then again, you might cut yourself on a Thermos and then use a Kleenex before applying a Band-aid. Trade names have a way of becoming part of regular grammar, which delights the trade name owner in some ways, while simultaneously reducing the uniqueness of that name in the process.

The synonymy of the terms HD Radio and IBOC is growing. Granted, there is only one in-band on-channel system in widespread deployment that is being watched by the FCC and the NRSC, so it's a little different than Kleenex or Thermos, but there are established guidelines for the proper use of the term HD Radio. It's the increased frequency of the improper use that bothers me.

I'm the first to admit that I don't like the trade name HD Radio. Obviously it was chosen because of the consumer acceptance of HD as it relates to television. In this case, the HD in HDTV stands for high-definition. In video, this is true. There is a greater resolution in an HDTV picture than there is in its analog counterpart. However, HD Radio is not high-definition radio in the same sense. Ibiquity even states that the trade name is not a short hand for high-definition. Yet I see “HD” being used to mean HD Radio or IBOC.

I came across the Ibiquity style guide that outlines the proper use of the term HD Radio. This guide clearly describes the proper use of the term in several contexts. The first is that HD Radio should be used as an adjective and not a noun or a verb. Without making this a language lesson, the short rule is that you cannot buy an HD Radio, but you can buy an HD Radio receiver. Likewise, your station can transmit an HD Radio signal, but it cannot transmit HD Radio.

The style guide goes on to state that HD Radio should never be abbreviated. It is not HDR or HD. Also, it is properly written “HD Radio,” not “HD radio,” “HDRadio,” “HD-Radio” or “HD/Radio.”

Why the nit-pick? It's my job. Seriously, while my background is broadcast engineering, my daily work is that of an editor. I believe that it is important to use the new terms of this broadcast technology properly. Doing so will help consumers to better understand what is being offered and what it means, without blurring the difference between other forms of digital radio and other uses of the letters HD.

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