to any of the 168 terminals on the network. Most programs
could be transmitted to multiple subscribers simultaneously.
That differed from the branched tree used in cable systems,
which sends the same group of multiple video signals to many
subscribers, who pick which signal to
view on their set-top boxes.
The step-index multimode fibers
used in Hi-OVIS couldn’t match
the bandwidth of the coax used in
branched tree networks, but they
were smaller and did not require
amplifiers to span the length of the
system. More important, the switched
fiber network promised better support
for the social experiments that were
the key goals of Hi-OVIS.
A visionary project
Although fiber-optic technology was an essential part of Hi-OVIS, it was really a means to achieve social goals such as
those of American wired city projects. In a series of articles and
reports, Hi-OVIS managing director Masahiro Kawahata laid
out four specific social goals with a visionary’s enthusiasm:
c “Establishing a new community in which the public can
participate of their own accord,” aiding each other and
building a strong local community.
c “Lifelong education” through face-to-face two-way telecommunications, helping participants to continue learning long
after they finished formal schooling.
c “Forming the safe local welfare society,” to enhance the
health and safety of the public, particularly children,
the handicapped and the elderly. The hope was that the
communication system would help build a community of
people helping each other, enhancing medical care and fire
prevention, and deterring crime.
c “Establishing the initiative in the selection of information,”
helping people cope with the overwhelming flood of infor-
mation so they could “regain inde-
pendent thinking and creativity.”
Kawahata’s objectives show con-
cern that television was becoming
too powerful and too passivating a
medium, drawing people away from
the local community and leaving
them isolated in their own homes.
Hi-OVIS sought to change television
so that it strengthened social bonds
within local communities and served
the public as more than a source of
passive entertainment. His objectives
are phrased in terms of Japanese society, but his concerns clearly
paralleled those of wired city developers in the United States.