Digitial TV Convert

I must be one of the few people left in the U.S. without cable or satellite TV. And despite the barrage of low-cost cable package offers that have been flooding my mailbox, I’m anxious to stay that way despite the looming February 17, 2009, changeover from analog to digital HD. For one thing, I can’t afford the extra $50 a month for cable, and for another, the last thing I need is the temptation to watch more television — baseball and basketball games are my weaknesses.

I happen to own a large-screen HD TV (the charity gift of our next-door neighbor, if you’re curious), but I was told that even my fancy Trinitron needed a converter due to it being more than three years old. So I recently picked up one of those converter boxes. (Looking up the digital conversion on the government FAQ, I had learned that most stations are already broadcasting in HD.) Hooking up the machine was nothing more than taking the line going from my TV antenna and connecting it to the converter box, and then connecting the box to my VCR (which is already hooked up to my TV). So in my case, that meant setting the channel on my VCR to 3 and using the remote that came with the converter box to change channels.

And it worked! The coolest thing about it is that every station now comes in crystal-clear, even stations like channel 9 and 11 that I haven’t received in years. As a bonus, a number of the big broadcast stations have multiple digital feeds. For instance, here in New York, NBC Channel 4 has three feeds, called 4.1, 4.2, and 4.4. Channel 4.1 is the basic local NBC affiliate program, but 4.2 shows local area weather, and 4.4 is some kind of "educational/informative" channel. The other major stations offer the same multi-feed packages. It’s basically like having cable — except for free!

If there’s one "drawback" to the conversion, it’s that the TV picture does seem a bit "computery" to me, almost as if you can see the images were made from pixels. There is a subtle distinction between the look of the image compared to the old analog reception. But after watching a little while, the perception faded, and I’m more than happy to exchange that slight disparity for the huge boost in clarity and selection.I really feel like I got away with something!

Now, I made the mistake of buying my machine before I got the $40 coupon the government is offering to help ease the transition, Don’t make the same error! But you only have until Wednesday to apply — that’s two short days. Go to the TV Converter Box Coupon Program website and apply now. It’s super-fast and easy: https://www.dtv2009.gov

About joshcomix
Brooklyn-based cartoonist specializing in nonfiction comics about topics like Hurricane Katrina, the media, travel, and finance.

3 Responses to Digitial TV Convert

  1. spirespike says:

    Yeah, I bought my father a digital TV for Christmas. The reception’s still pretty bad because the antenna I got him isn’t a very good one (something I didn’t realize till after I got it). But the channels we do get feel like a revelation. I think all the networks are going to go even crazier with the subchannels to fully take advantage of them. Maybe 7.8 will be a LOST channel, lol.

  2. benchilada says:

    I loved that when we turned on our digital TV, one of the local PBS stations expanded from one channel to three.
    As to the pixelly stuff, I imagine that that stuff will get worked out as the years go on, much as quality got better with original television signals…

  3. wjcohen says:

    Not having cable is un-American….don’t you want people to buy your book? Support your fellow media brethren!

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