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Maximum distance separable (MDS) convolutional codes are defined as the row space over of totally nonsingular polynomial matrices in the indeterminate . These codes may be used to transmit information on parallel channels when a temporary or even an infinite break can occur in some of these channels. Their algebraic properties are emphasized, and the relevant parameters are introduced. On this basis two decoding procedures are described. Both procedures correct arbitrarily long error sequences that may occur at the same time in some of the channels. Some specific constructions of MDS convolutional codes are presented.