THE DIGITAL TRANSITION: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly about the Digital Transition (Part 1)

You’ve heard all the rumors and the confusing information, now is the time for some clear and concise information on this thing called “The Digital Transition”.

With the changes taking place over the last several months and the one that is taking  place today, I saw a need for a source of good information to be available for all of you out there and I intend to do my best to keep you informed, especially with the touted digital transition taking place today, (even though it’s deadline is actually being extended by the government to June 12th which will be observed by some, but not all.)

I can hear you now and you are asking, “Why should you listen to me … and  why do I think I know anything about it anyway?

First of all, I am no-one special and it’s no big deal, but I have been working on televisions and with antennas, satellite and private cable systems since 1985. That doesn’t mean I know it all, it just means I am familiar with the technologies that are used for signal reception and viewing. In fact, it is my opinion, the more you learn about technology, the more you find you need to learn, if for no other reason than it keeps changing so often.

So, what is this digital transition stuff all about?

I get calls all of the time about the “transition” and it is amazing to me how much wrong information is being shared with people about to experience one of the largest technical changes in their lifetime. Maybe “wrong information” is a little strong because I don’t really believe people are trying to mislead anyone, I just think there needs to be a better understanding of the consumers and what they are going through instead of someone always trying to sell them something.

Here’s how I see it. Sales people are programmed to make sales and sometimes the item they are selling is not the most necessary for the consumer’s need. That is not an indictment of sales people, but it is a fact that they are “sales” people and they make their living by selling stuff.

You’ve already heard on the news about the extension offered by the government until June 12th, but many of the major broadcasters have opted to eliminate their analog broadcasts anyway. As it stands at this writing, most of the major broadcasters in our area (Naples-Fort Myers DMA) are definitely adhering to the original Feb 17th deadline and it will happen by 12:00 noon. Some may think this unfair, but there are many sides to this situation and I will try to hit on a few of the important ones in this article.

First, and most unfortunately, many are still confused by what is about to take place. Hopefully this article will alleviate some of that confusion and make you feel more comfortable with what you do, or don’t, have and what you do, or don’t, need.

Let’s say, for example’s sake, you are watching the NBC local station (Ch20 or Ch2 cable) a little before noon today, February 17th, 2009, and you receive that transmission by an off-air antenna of some sort. Just before the noon news begins, your picture turns to snow. This means you were watching the analog signal for viewing their broadcast.

If you have no other way of receiving their signal (such as a satellite receiver, a cable box, a digital-to-analog converter or a TV with a digital tuner) you will be out of luck. You will no longer be able to receive their analog broadcast because it is being shut off.

If you have the other type of reception devices, then you will have to switch over to using which-ever one of them you have to continue viewing NBC’s local broadcast.

If you have none of  the devices mentioned above, then you will no longer be able to view their signals until you invest in one of them to use.

Second, if someone tells you you need a “SPECIAL” antenna to replace your existing antenna to receive the digital/HD signals, DON’T LISTEN TO THEM! If your existing outdoor antenna is properly receiving the local analog signals and your pictures were good and clear, you will, more than likely, be able to receive all of the existing local digital/HD signals for viewing. (Unfortunately, some antennas do not measure up to this statement.)

If you were using rabbit ears (or sometimes called a set top antenna) and had decent  reception of your favorite local channels, you may or may not be able to have good reception of the local digital/HD channels. It is my opinion, and believe me, I have worked with many differing types of ‘rabbit ears’, that they are not always capable of receiving the digital signals at a proper level to show you a picture. You have to remember, the digital pictures are either going to be there or they are not. The digital pictures will not go to snow as the old analog signals did. Once the signal drops down to a certain threshold level it will no longer key the converter or TV to show a picture.  Usually you will get an error message of some sort (such as a black screen with the message … no signal, or, possibly even just a black screen.)

Well, that should get you through today.  So… tune in tomorrow and we’ll continue this discussion and my opinion about “the Good and the Bad”  about “THE DIGITAL TRANSITION”

Hey, this is Russ and:

I’ll see you next time …

© February 2009…

Norman TV & Video Systems and Rusty Norman