This was supposed to be the day.
The end of analog television as we know it.
Of course, that's been delayed, since a small portion of really dumb and/or naive people aren't ready yet. So yes, the new date for the end of analog television broadcasting and the adoption of DTV as the official standard will now be June 12. Kind of.
In most markets around the country, the estimated 5-7% of the population still watching in analog will notice a few stations missing come tomorrow. See, although stations have the authority to continue cranking out analog waveforms until June, 491 of the nation's 1,796 full-power TV stations across the country have chosen to stick with today's original changeover date and will go digital-only by midnight tonight. Most of them are full-power independents or affiliated with lower-tier networks (i.e. The CW on down). Many of the country's Big Four-affiliated stations (i.e. the ones that carry NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX) are likely to keep their analog transmitters going until June, though some are going through with today's original changeover date.
So, in the instance of Madison, WI, the only full-power stations that will still be doing analog tomorrow morning include the FOX affiliate and the public television station (which will turn off analog in March). The NBC, ABC, CBS and CW outlets there are going all-digital. Therefore, the stone-agers there will still get their Sesame Street and America Idol. In San Diego, only the NBC affiliate will remain in analog. In the Waco and Temple markets in Texas, virtually the entire dial will be all-digital.
So, what's a stone-ager to do?
Well, first of all, pull your head out of your ass. Then, get out of the cave. There are many sites on the web that will explain what to do, such as the official DTV2009.gov and DTVanswers.com.
If you currently get your television from cable or satellite (i.e. pay a bill for TV every month), you need do nothing. This applies only to those who rely on an antenna (the pointy thing on top of the TV or on the roof) to get TV signals. If you just bought a TV in the past several years, it may be all ready to receive DTV signals. Make sure it's in the digital tuning position rather than the analog one. Consult your owner's manual if you're confused.
If your TV is older, it is likely analog-only. You need either one of the above or you need what's called a converter box. They retail for roughly between $40-60 dollars. And there's a lot of them out there. One webmaster sent me an email over the weekend telling me about a site he has that lists and reviews all the major converter boxes, so if you're confused, you're in luck.
Converter boxes are available generally at general retailers like Wal-Mart or Target, or electronics dealers like Best Buy and Radio Shack. Some mom-and-pop places sell them too. In fact, Target is currently featuring a $45 box in this week's circular. Now, that's a lot of scratch to come up with, especially with this crappy economic market. Luckily, your Uncle Sam will cover the first $40 for you. You can order up to two plastic cards good for a $40 discount on any approved converter box, meaning that box at Target will cost you $5. If you can't come up with that, recycle some pop cans, sell bodily fluids or brew some backyard meth. It ain't that much money, especially since it's one of the cheapest forms of entertainment available. Better than sitting on your sofa in denial watching snow and crappy VHS tapes on that fancy box, right? Now, do it ASAP, since there is a backlog of people requesting these vouchers.
As for those of you (us!) that are DTV-ready, via a newer set or converter box, you may still be affected somewhat if your favorite local stations shut down their analog tonight. Some outlets plan on moving their digital frequency back to their original analog channel assignment (with DTV and analog, they get a channel for each). A channel rescan tomorrow should ensure that all your local stations come in. In addition, some stations may increase power or change broadcast facilities for their digital signals. A rescan and maneuvering of the antenna should work.
So you see, DTV ain't that complicated. Maybe that's why they call it an idiot box.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
This was supposed to be the day.