A cc of a response to an email on the latest bombcast:
Your comments about copyright, while amusing, miss one of the great things about almost all copyright legislation: independent creation. If we both, independently, create exactly the same work then we both have copyright claims to it and the other cannot be infringing. The burden of proof is obviously high if you claim this when it looks like you copied someone else's work and the chances of it happening are low but this is a safety valve in copyright. The lack of a similar provision for patents is one of the reasons why everything is so messed up for patent law.
Think of a number. No bigger than that
But on to that TV that will show you every possible image: even moving to SD or 320x240 is not going to help you. The problem is how quickly the numbers blow up.
As the original emailer mentions, each pixel is just an R G B triple and with a standard TV the brightness of each sub-pixel ranges from 0 to 255. So there are 256 different brightnesses for each sub-pixel. 256 to the power 3 (which is 256*256*256, 256^3) is about 16.7 million; the number of different colours possible for a single pixel to display.
Lets scale that up to an 8 by 6 screen, not 800 by 600 but just 8 pixels wide by 6 pixels high. There are now 8*6*3 = 144 sub-pixels taking a range of 256 values. 256^144 is approximately equal to a 6 with 346 zeros after it and before the decimal point.
If this 8 by 6 screen was to show a brand new image 60 times a second, standard 60Hz, then it would take a 3 followed by 337 zeros of years to display all possible images. With the default zoom/font on GB (on Chrome on my PC) this 8 by 6 screen has about as many pixels are there are inside a single 0 in this text. Not big enough to render the entire 0, just the void in the middle. It's not a very good screen.
30000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 years. (I am preparing to hit the edit and put some breaks in that if it doesn't automatically get broken up by the forum engine)
We should put that in context: After 1 followed by 14 zeros of years (100000000000000 years) the universe will no longer be forming new stars, the beginning of the end. Much much later, about 1 followed by 100 zeros of years later then even the supermassive black holes (potential mass: 100 billion solar masses) will have completed evaporated.
Maybe 1 followed by 150 zeros of years after now, there will be "a state of no thermodynamic free energy to sustain motion or life", the heat death of the Universe. In any case, at this theoretical point in time there would still be 3 followed by 337 zeros of years left before the 8 by 6 screen finished showing all possible images, so little progress would have been made that the percentage change can only sensibly be approximated to 0.<lots of zeros>% progress. None, not a sausage. The expected lifespan of the universe as a place where things occur is but an instant compared to how long that 8 by 6 screen would take to show all the possible images made up of RGB sub-elements when running at 60Hz. A billion expected lifespans of the universe in a row would be nothing compared to how long this 8 by 6 screen would take to display all images.
So moving from 1080p to SDTV or EDTV would not help. The bigness of the numbers involved is basically impossible to comprehend, our brains are just not able to deal with it. Every pixel you add to the display makes it take 16.7 million times longer to finish displaying all possible images. And that's just with normal 8 bits per sub-pixel TVs, at some point before the head death of the Universe we might have to start again and use a wide gamut (maybe xvYCC) colour space and deep colour (maybe 12 bits per sub-pixel).
Edit: I wanted to add some zero width space chars to that long number so it should break reasonably well for all views but we can't drop HTML into our text so experimented with pasting them in (Edit 2: seems to work).