Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Making the switch

Analog TV—what we have been watching since the 1930s (and in color from the 1950s)— is scheduled to go dark at 2 a.m. February 18, 2009. This date was carefully chosen because it is after the Super Bowl and before March Madness. (Who says sports don’t run the county?!) Do you really care about this? Yeah, if you are one of the 15 percent of U.S. households that only watch free, over-the-air TV.

So what do you do? You have three choices:

1. Buy a new TV with a digital (ATSC) tuner.

2. Pay for TV by subscribing to a cable, fiber or satellite delivery system.

3. Buy a digital-to-analog converter box. This is a standalone digital tuner that takes the free digital (and far superior to analog) off-air signal and converts it for viewing on your existing TV. Today these boxes are priced around $100-$150 but prices are expected to drop. But wait! There’s more: Uncle Sam is coming to your aid by distributing $40 rebate coupons to help you buy one of these boxes. The government plans on rolling out this rebate program in early 2008, so stay tuned.

“But don’t I need an HDTV digital antenna to receive those free digital signals?” you may ask. The short answer is no. Antennas are antennas. Before you buy a new antenna, try rabbit ears or your old roof-top antenna. I’m using a paperclip on my office set. Here’s a great link to learn about antennas. MPT has a site explaining the switch to digital as well.

Try digital TV! You’ll really like it!

George Beneman
Vice President of Technology

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