Seven-day wonder: Inside the Promise TV

Seven-day wonder: Inside the Promise TV

Summary: Modern consumer products need hardware, software, industrial design and usability. Find out what two designers can do with Promise TV, a set-top box that records seven days of Freeview at once


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  • Promise TV box

    This is the remote head that links a TV to Ethernet while relaying infrared control codes from the remote. Up to four of these can be fitted around a building and connected back to the main box.

    The natural length limitations of single-span wired Ethernet and the deliberate lack of wireless make it very hard to use this system to distribute TV outside a single building. The company hopes this will placate any broadcaster nervous that its content rights are being infringed.

    Image credit: Rupert Goodwins/ZDNet UK

  • EPG screen

    A major advantage of the Promise TV system is its ease of use and guaranteed capture of wanted programmes — potentially even before the viewer knows they want to see them.

    Dominic Ludlam, the software designer, has eschewed the grid system so common in other electronic programme guides (EPGs) for a simple timeline or content grouped by type.

    Here, part of the list of the hundreds of films that had been broadcast in the week prior to ZDNet UK's visit is shown. Because it's unlikely the viewer would care when the film was broadcast, the time isn't shown. With news or sport, however, that information is displayed. 

    Image credit: Rupert Goodwins/ZDNet UK

  • Circuit board

    The main circuit board looks very similar to a wireless router, as it includes five wired Ethernet ports, memory, a CPU and I/O chips. In effect, that's what it is, but with a very specialised function and SATA interfaces to up to two hard disks.

    Working as a small company, the designers found that some chip suppliers were extremely helpful, despite the possibility of very small sales — Marvell and Lattice were singled out — while others refused to provide technical support, but "did at least supply devices and documentation", said Dominic Ludlam. The worst offender let Promise TV get a long way down the design process before refusing to divulge missing documentation with essential information.

    Image credit: Rupert Goodwins/ZDNet UK

Topics: Storage, Emerging Tech

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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  • Oh very nice!