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Ready or not, digital is here to stay

Today is the big day for Americans still clinging to analog TVs and rabbit ears. For those folks that haven't already picked up a DTV converter box to translate the new digital signals, their TVs will now be relegated to useless lumps of plastic, metal, and glass.

The switch to DTV was supposed to take place on February 17, but Congress passed legislation to delay the switch until June 12 under the guidance of President Obama. The delay also gave the government additional time to disperse an additional $650 million USD in DTV coupons to Americans who still hadn't purchased a converter box.

Despite the extra time afforded to Americans to prepare for the DTV switch, additional funds for DTV coupons, and free assistance provided to setup converter boxes, the New York Times reported that roughly 2 million households will still be unprepared for today's switchover.

For those using cable, satellite, or digital TVs with an antenna, you have nothing to worry about -- your TV programming will be unaffected.

For more information on the DTV switch, you can check out the official website here.

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Why the hate on rabbit ears?
By rtrski on 6/12/2009 8:59:46 AM , Rating: 5
If you live close enough to the broadcast towers, the same old antennas will work just fine with a converter box (digital tuner) as they did with the analog one.

Way to promulgate the ignorance you're decrying. Or do you have stock in one of those DIGITAL ANTENNA companies (snicker)? Make sure you only hook them up with Monster(TM) Cable, too. gah....

RE: Why the hate on rabbit ears?
By blowfish on 6/12/2009 9:39:54 AM , Rating: 5
My mother in law was obsessing about digital antennas, and bought a square GEC one. She didn't like how it looked, however, and passed it on to her son, reverting to her rabbit ears, which work just fine. This didn't stop her buying me an even fancier digital antenna, however, which I have now tested alongside the GEC one and the rabbit ears - and I have to say there's precious little difference between any of them.

RE: Why the hate on rabbit ears?
By rtrski on 6/12/2009 10:10:26 AM , Rating: 2
Which is of course why I got rated down. Or is it an automatic decrement of a point for using the word "Monster(TM)", just like for cussing, even in sarcasm? :-)

RE: Why the hate on rabbit ears?
By omnicronx on 6/12/2009 10:56:16 AM , Rating: 5
and I have to say there's precious little difference between any of them.

Haha that's because there is no such thing as a digital antenna. That's just a marketing ploy. DTV is still good ol UHF, any old analog antenna will suffice.

Funny you bring this up actually, I have a few friends in the US that thought they could no longer user their big outdoor antennas for DTV service, little do they know these are still the best possible antennas to have. I get signals from buffalo that are more than 100 miles away, no chance of that happening with an indoor antenna, no matter how expensive.

RE: Why the hate on rabbit ears?
By cobra1771 on 6/12/2009 4:11:35 PM , Rating: 2
Haha that's because there is no such thing as a digital antenna. That's just a marketing ploy. DTV is still good ol UHF, any old analog antenna will suffice.

Well, sort of. Many stations are moving their digital broadcasts to hi vhf. (channel 7+). That sucks. I have had a UHF antenna with a UHF only pre-amp up for about 9 years now. I had to go up and replace it with a UHF antenna that can supposedly handle hi vhf. I also swapped out my pre-amp with a vhf/uhf pre-amp. I'll find out today how well my new antenna can received hi vhf. I get both DC and Baltimore stations and the CBS affiliates from both cities are moving to vhf as is the ABC affiliate from DC.

RE: Why the hate on rabbit ears?
By theapparition on 6/15/2009 8:47:22 AM , Rating: 2
Not quite sort of.....
All stations will stay on EXACTLY the same channel that they are now.
That means, for example, channel 2 analog was shut off. Channel 2 digital was moved from some temp UHF frequency to channel 2 (VHF low). That's why it was important to rescan after the switch. So digital broadcasts will continue in place of the analog ones on the exact same frequencies, meaning both VHF low/high and UHF.

So the original point is completely true, there is absolutely no such thing as a "digital" antenna. Any antenna that recieved VHF-L, VHF-H, and UHF will work fine. The only measure of so-called half truth to the digital antenna myth is that digital broadcasts tend to be more localized, meaning the range for acceptable picture is less. So amplified antennas may be necessary for some households. However, any amplified antenna, even the old analog ones, will work fine.

RE: Why the hate on rabbit ears?
By Keeir on 6/18/2009 1:38:12 PM , Rating: 2
Ummm.... no.

In some select markets, broadcasters have indeed moved the "channel" of transmissions permanently

The reason for this is the more strict power requirments on the VHF band for digital.

RE: Why the hate on rabbit ears?
By TaraLi on 6/12/2009 6:31:11 PM , Rating: 3
You know, this is one of the issues with "unprepared homes". Some - probably even *MOST* of these unprepared home - quite simply don't *LIVE* near enough to a broadcast tower. To *theoretically* get a signal, we'd need a pretty high mast, and a really good amp. The nearest tower (in two directions) is 60-75 miles, and as this is fairly hilly, wooded territory, we're kinda of in some shadows. The low channels, up to 7 or 10, would come in before. The higher channels never would, even as analog. Now, to expect the *DIGITAL* ones to get to us? Of course, most of the East and West Coast's idea of preparing, if you live in a rural area, is "move to a city!" Thanks, but no thanks. I think you can expect to see a rise in sneakernet piracy of TV shows, even things like the nightly news.

Folks, "everybody" != "a majority", not even "a vast majority". So *NOT* everybody is in any kind of position *to* get digital over-the-air broadcasts. It's not unprepared - it's mis-positioned.

RE: Why the hate on rabbit ears?
By RjBass on 6/12/2009 9:42:45 PM , Rating: 2
So I assume satellite tv isn't available in your area then?

RE: Why the hate on rabbit ears?
By mindless1 on 6/13/2009 12:14:36 AM , Rating: 2
The glaring proof of your fallacy is that people in the boone docks, only expect to get the same channels they did previously.

You are right though, in having mentioned this, but the point is with modern coverter boxes, at least they have a signal strength indicator so when they swing their antenna, they know if it helps or hurts reception.

RE: Why the hate on rabbit ears?
By 0ldman on 6/13/2009 1:47:42 AM , Rating: 2
The digital receiver can pick up a much lower signal level than analog. The problem is, once you hit the limit, instead of snow, you get blocks, chops, chirps and then a big black nothing.

RE: Why the hate on rabbit ears?
By TomCorelis on 6/13/2009 3:32:52 PM , Rating: 2
Well FWIW I live in a suburb of San Diego and my rabbit ears get one English station and one -- if I'm lucky -- Spanish station. Of course, I only got about one and a half stations before... but I guess I should be lucky as CBS is now static free...

By mikeyD95125 on 6/12/2009 8:38:58 PM , Rating: 1
Because we can use the spectrum for something else.

2.8 million haven't switched, not 12 million.
By reader1 on 6/12/2009 7:30:04 AM , Rating: 2
“Since February, when the U.S. government postponed the transition for three months, the number of households that are completely unready has been cut in half - from 5.8 million to 2.8 million homes,” said Sara Erichson, President Media Client Services, The Nielsen Company.

RE: 2.8 million haven't switched, not 12 million.
By Targon on 6/12/2009 7:49:54 AM , Rating: 5
Can you really trust ANYTHING from Nielsen though? The ratings system may be used by idiots in Hollywood to justify renewing pathetic shows and then canceling some great shows, but they don't have enough of a handle in what goes on in various markets because their methods of gathering data seem to skip many households.

It would be like doing a political survey in the deep south and expecting the results to reflect what you would see in the Northeast. Or in a given area, polling only those in the Republican party and then claiming that the results reflect everyone in that area. You miss out on things when better methods of seeing what people are watching.

I also suspect that if someone goes out and leaves their box on a given channel, that the ratings will include the shows that person is not watching.

By omnicronx on 6/12/2009 10:48:44 AM , Rating: 2
but they don't have enough of a handle in what goes on in various markets because their methods of gathering data seem to skip many households.
Well of course it does, its all based on stats, its not like they actually know what every single household is watching, anyone involved in the program has special boxes setup on their TV's. I have a Nielsen ratings box, they go around every area and find people from certain demographics. Its setup per user in the household too, so they know exactly who is watching what. Its not like they select people at random. In fact the person who came to sign me up went through my apartment and put her head to the doors to see if she could make out the voices just to make sure (I actually caught her doing it as I heard someone at the door). While not perfect, it does give a nice picture. They also pay you 200 dollars up front and 25$ each time you upgrade a piece of hardware on your TV. This way not only those that watch TV 24/7 will be interested, everyone likes free money.

By Keeir on 6/13/2009 2:41:35 PM , Rating: 2
Can you really trust ANYTHING from Nielsen though?

Its not so much as trusting Nielsen as who else would you trust for this data?

The government? The TV makers? Who else has a long history of both collecting large amounts of this data and being trusted enough to make major decisions on....

Nielson may not be perfect, but they are the best source for this data.

RE: 2.8 million haven't switched, not 12 million.
By pequin06 on 6/12/2009 7:55:54 AM , Rating: 2
It's pretty bad when reader1 points out a New York Times mistake.

RE: 2.8 million haven't switched, not 12 million.
By reader1 on 6/12/2009 8:28:26 AM , Rating: 2
The 12 million the NY Times reported is the number of completely unready and partially unready households.

"Partially Unready Household – a household that has at
least one Ready Set and at least one Unready Set"

By omnicronx on 6/12/2009 10:28:30 AM , Rating: 2
Now why can't the rest of your posts be this informative? This is very interesting, I really wonder how many of these unready sets will be able to take advantage as I assume they will setup their main TV first usually on the first floor of their house. I set up my grandmas TV in New York a few weeks ago (long island actually) and I could not get one channel to tune from her basement even though she has a 50 dollar indoor antenna. Apartment buildings will have similar problems.

No sympathy
By nuarbnellaffej on 6/12/2009 5:14:54 AM , Rating: 2
Those 12 million households have had years! to prepare for the switch, as well as numerous government handouts! Enough is enough, just make the freaking switch already, so us cable/satellite users can get back to our lives.

RE: No sympathy
By marvdmartian on 6/12/2009 10:12:05 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed, 100%.

However, the whining by the few that just didn't get it, or were too busy with other aspects of their pitiful lives to take care of it (and still wouldn't understand it if you bought the box for them, hooked it up AND showed them how to use it!!), will commence in 5....





RE: No sympathy
By omnicronx on 6/12/2009 10:20:11 AM , Rating: 2
I agree, as a cable user I have not had a good nights sleep since February, just the thought that others could of had crystal clear digital picture for last last 4 months keeps me up at night! sorry couldn't resist :)

100% agree with your first sentence though, I'm Canadian and I've been ready for 2+ years ;) I can't wait to go home today and see what channels I can get from Buffalo now that they are high powered. Now I can join the 5 users in Buffalo that actually own an HDTV =D

Sort of related - IPv6 switch
By Lord 666 on 6/12/2009 6:26:11 AM , Rating: 2
Far more important to me is a potential IPv6 migration mandate. US Government agencies were tasked to confirm their readiness, but not migrate just yet.

However, try explaining to grandma or the typical Best Buy shopper they must upgrade to a DOCIS 3.0 modem to get IPv6 or their Internet connection is going to die. The potential subsidies would be much larger than silly digital converter boxes if mandated by the government.

Television = waste of time entertainment

Internet = mission-critical

RE: Sort of related - IPv6 switch
By Oregonian2 on 6/12/2009 8:34:35 AM , Rating: 2
Note: TV is that which decides political elections in the US in the last decade or three. To politicians, TV watching is not only mission critical, but of highest priority. And to some politicians, having TV access to the poor is all the more critical depending upon their particular support demographic.

RE: Sort of related - IPv6 switch
By Lord 666 on 6/12/2009 12:26:25 PM , Rating: 2
The winner of the past election developed a "cult-like" following using social networking, web presence, and video streams.

Ironically, Megan McCain has a valid argument stating the GOP is behind the times with technology.

The transcript is better.
By drunkenmastermind on 6/12/2009 6:27:38 AM , Rating: 1
"Ralph, you can ball my wife.
You can lounge around her $1.7
million condominium on her sofa.
You can do all those things.
But you do not get to watch my
fucking TV...!"

RE: The transcript is better.
By TennesseeTony on 6/12/2009 7:49:57 AM , Rating: 2
Forgive my ignorance, what movie? Sounds like I want to watch it. ;)

RE: The transcript is better.
By yacoub on 6/12/2009 7:52:49 AM , Rating: 2

The transcript
By drunkenmastermind on 6/12/2009 6:29:07 AM , Rating: 2
"I'm angry. I'm very angry, Ralph. You know, you can ball my wife if she wants you to. You can lounge around here on her sofa, in her ex-husband's dead-tech, post-modernistic bullshit house if you want to. But you do not get to watch my fucking television set!"

RE: The transcript
By nuarbnellaffej on 6/12/09, Rating: 0
RE: The transcript
By drunkenmastermind on 6/12/09, Rating: -1
RE: The transcript
By callmeroy on 6/12/2009 8:38:57 AM , Rating: 2
Great movie... :)

RE: The transcript
By drunkenmastermind on 6/12/2009 10:34:56 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah it is a kick ass movie. I just wanted to add the dialog that goes with the picture for this article and this guys breaking my balls!

By nubie on 6/12/2009 6:30:03 PM , Rating: 2
Northern California was already on track to switch, in fact some of the mountain transmitters switched before the winter. Most of the other transmitters did "go digital" on time as well. Last I checked there was 1 station in the area still broadcasting analog (besides the low-power repeaters that is).

I have been digital for about 2 years, and I don't have any HD TV's (unless you count PC monitors, of which I do have several, but don't normally watch TV on them.)

RE: Puleease
By deltadeltadelta on 6/15/2009 3:10:32 PM , Rating: 2
It's probably the nerd in me, but I really appreciated your comment about PC monitors. I have found a certain hilarity in the quest for fancy expensive TVs (of which I have felt the tug, but have remained unstirred) when in reality a 1080 TV is marginally better than the resolution most common on 17in monitors.

What did the delay really accomplish
By Verran on 6/12/2009 11:05:54 AM , Rating: 3
I'd would be really interested to see numbers on US preparedness now versus back in February. How many people actually made use of the delay period to get off their cans and prepare themselves. Probably about 3.

Oh well, just millions down the drain. Nothing new, really...

By IcePickFreak on 6/12/2009 5:25:18 PM , Rating: 3
Wait, the analog signals are going to stop being broadcast??

Why wasn't I made aware of this and what do I need to do? I'm going to be pissed if my TV doesn't work and I miss the Bob Ross painting marathon this weekend on PBS!

Say what now?
By ThePooBurner on 6/12/2009 6:22:22 PM , Rating: 3
under the guidance of President Obama.

You mean the direct interference, command, totalitarian dictation, cost tax payers millions, cost businesses even more millions, screw everything up, socialistic spread the wealth and cater to the lazy worthless dregs of society that are to stupid to understand the bombardment of commercials about the switch, know nothing about technology at all but pretends to, imbecility of Obama?

Yes. I'm sure that's what you meant to say. "Guidance." BAH!

not totally useless
By Silver2k7 on 6/12/2009 10:11:02 AM , Rating: 2
"TVs will now be relegated to useless lumps of plastic, metal, and glass."

Nah thats not true, you could still watch, DVD, Blu-Ray material from a HTPC or even VHS :p

The New Digital Divide
By Teancum on 6/12/2009 3:09:12 PM , Rating: 2
No doubt we will soon here people wringing their hands lamenting about this Digital Divide (remember the whole Hi-Speed vs Dial Up access fiasco). Somebody will argue that the transition to Digital TV constitutes a "Disparate Impact" on the minorities and poor, (who are always 'Hardest Hit') If they Supreme Court can find right to Abortion in the text of the Constitution then they sure as hell can find a right to Over the air Television.

By aaronzim on 6/13/2009 2:10:45 AM , Rating: 2
Someone just sent me a link to, a contest where people upload photos of old tvs that still work for a chance to win a new plasma.

I just posted my hideous old black and white TV that I have hooked up in my basement.

At least someone is taking a lighthearted view of all this.

By KingOfOldSkool on 6/12/2009 5:18:42 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sorry.. for people to "sit on their a** watching TV"..

By Oregonian2 on 6/12/2009 8:30:24 AM , Rating: 4
You stand in front of your TV when watching?

Most people sit when watching TV, and when sitting, most people do it on their a**.

Do you do something unusual when watching TV (or sitting)? Just curious as to your point.

By callmeroy on 6/12/2009 8:45:05 AM , Rating: 2
While I'm not feeling that well today -- about dragged myself out of bed to work, I'm not in the mood to debate much --- but what folks forget is the original reason for the DTV was something to do with freeing up the radio spectrum, I'm more than confident if one wanted to research it online you'd find the figures -- but supposed it's supposed to translate to billions in savings.

I think most folks get that -- but some seem to think the transition was so high level -- that it was just to be cool to say our nation is all Digital TV now or something silly like that.

that's not why -- the government doesn't care about your tv shows....they care about the money they perceive it will either save them or make them (all has to do with selling off frequencies to companies).

By bjacobson on 6/12/2009 9:49:32 AM , Rating: 1
I feel sorry for the folk who haven't gotten their converter yet. One of the best ones isn't available on Amazon anymore (Channel Master 7000).

It had some of the highest ratings-- the box is solid metal, not the cheapo plastic that feels like it's going to break if you touch it. It was also one of the only ones that had S-Video out-- IE you'll get much better (albeit still interlaced) picture quality out of it than the composite cables that most other boxes have. I'm loving mine; others might want to check ebay if they want to pick up some leftovers of this model.

By Indianapolis on 6/12/2009 11:12:52 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, there can be a pretty big difference between S-Video and RCA video. I've done back-to-back tests many times, and the difference has always been easy to spot. It is most noticeable when viewing text, such as from an on-screen program guide. Through RCA the text is fuzzy and kind of sparkles. Through S-video the text is sharp and solid.

By Spivonious on 6/12/2009 11:42:57 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah I was just about to post this. It's not a huge difference, but it is definitely noticeable.

By omnicronx on 6/12/2009 12:20:49 PM , Rating: 2
He went out and spent 40+ dollars more for a channel master just to get Svideo. To me that does not make much sense. The difference is minor, especially on an analog TV.

A Back to Back test is not exactly the best comparison either, as you will have a bias towards what you perceive to be better and you cannot be watching both at the same time.

Don't get me wrong, Svideo is marginally better, I just don't think it warrants the extra price, if it were up to me I would take the free box via coupon and be done with it. Especially considering if he does upgrade to an HDTV anytime soon, it will have an integrated ATSC tuner (with resolutions up to 1080i). Alas it is not up to me, so I could really care less, its not my money.

By bjacobson on 6/12/2009 5:03:36 PM , Rating: 2
It was 110% worth it to me.

By pwnsweet on 6/12/2009 6:31:07 AM , Rating: 1
I made this exact same comment back in January when it was announced that the switch to DTV would be delayed:

The world is in an economic downturn and people are complaining about a delay of digital TV? The delay should be a few more YEARS in my opinion. The money spent trasitioning everyone to digital TV could be better spent elsewhere to combat the slow economy.

By Screwballl on 6/12/2009 9:40:28 AM , Rating: 1

They should have mandated it years ago BUT not used any of our taxpayer dollars to fund the transition. Thats the part that bugs the hell out of me: using my money to help others do something they should be able to do or afford on their own. They should have forced the TV stations to do it on their own AND if the public was to comply, they would have to spend money out of their own pocket to get the converter boxes... come one, very few people cannot afford $40-50.

Think of the economic gains by making people spend a few dollars of their own, rather than take it from everybody forcefully and give it away.

Another reason why I HATE living in a welfare state/country. I am hoping for a Centrist/Independent that will bring about the "work for welfare" type programs.

By omnicronx on 6/12/2009 10:32:10 AM , Rating: 5
As has been explained time and time again, only a small portion of tax payer money went to funding this project. Almost all of the funding (a few billion not millions) came from selling off parts of the spectrum. As my post below also explains, the markets that will fill the void of these parts of the spectrum will most likely far outweigh the mere 650 million dollars in tax dollars. In fact if these projects are successful, they could probably pull in that amount within a few years from taxed revenue alone.

By Belard on 6/14/2009 8:42:57 PM , Rating: 2
We are not in a welfare country. After the bailouts and such, as of now, the USGovt (US) own about 1%.

Those converter boxes help stimulate the economy. All those people who are NOT able to watch TV are NOT able to see the TV ADs and buy crap! :)

But you know what... I think the TV industry (broadcasters) should chip in and help buy those converters.

Most of the 1million left are: disabled, elderly who cannot afford the converter boxes and most likely foreigners. Of course, the FUN will be explaining to Grandpa how to operate the convert box... :(

Okay.. channel 8 is now 8.1 8.2 8.3, what?

By omnicronx on 6/12/2009 10:02:42 AM , Rating: 2
You do realize that almost all of the money used for this project was raised by selling off the parts of the UHF spectrum. I understand its all pooled money, but in the end the revenue generated from opening up the spectrum to new markets will far outweigh the money being put into it, which will stimulate the economy far more than any bailout ever could. Furthermore the additional 650 million that was required to make the last bunch of rebates available is a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of the bailouts that were given out.

By Oregonian2 on 6/13/2009 12:11:55 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, it was very profitable for the government. The coupons were a minor expense.

By Spivonious on 6/12/2009 9:12:20 AM , Rating: 3
When single companies are getting $30 billion in bailouts, I don't think $650 million is much to complain about.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive
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