If you've shopped for an HDTV, a PlayStation 3, or an HD-DVD or Blu-ray player, you've probably heard about HDMI. It can seem like just one of many connections on televisions or home-theater receivers. But HDMI is more than a port on the back of a TV (and the often expensive cable that fits inside). It's a set of rules for allowing high-definition electronic devices to communicate.
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An HDMI cable
Before the development of high-definition televisions, most TVs displayed pictures in what is now known as standard definition. The picture was roughly square -- its aspect ratio was 4:3. Its resolution, or the number of dots that make up the picture on the screen, was about 704 x 480 pixels. The picture was interlaced -- each piece of the moving image was really half a picture, but the pictures changed quickly enough that the human brain didn't really notice. Finally, older TVs relied on analog signals, which travel as a constantly varying electrical current.