THE DIGITAL TRANSITION: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (part 4)

As a little review of the last three articles (maybe even the last four), we have taken a general look at the  The Digital Transition itself where we discovered it was coming whether we were ready or not.  We also touched on some of the new nomenclature like the difference between interlace scan and progressive scan.

We took a very short look at  The Good side of it where we found the best features are probably the quality of the pictures that we see as compared to the old analog pictures. Another Good part was the lack of snow and reflections (ghosts) in the pictures and that was a great improvement over the way the analog signals were viewed on many TVs.

After a look at those good points we talked about what I call  The Bad parts of the transition and they included a short discussion on some of the bad parts of making the transition from analog to digital.  In that discussion, we found that making the transition was not at all as easy as some would’ve had us believe. It came with its own set of complications as well.

Now I want to tell you some of ” The Ugly” parts (at least that’s what I call them) of the digital transition.

Let me start by asking a question:

When you were being told how easy the transition was going to be, did anyone ever make it clear to you that you would need one converter box for each TV in your home?

I think the answer to that question is more than likely going to be answered with a “Yes”, but, I am not sure how many were really listening at the time. It seemed to me at the time, the people making the ads for the transition simply ASSUMED people would  understand that part. Now, I do have to admit I did hear it mentioned at times, but it seemed to me it was only in passing.

It is my opinion one of  The Ugliest facts of the transition is that I don’t think it was ever really made clear to the general public that needed a converter box to make the transition that they may actually need two converter boxes at one viewing location.

The reason I make that statement calling for two is, if they want to be able to record a program different than what they are actually watching, they would need one for the TV and one for the VCR or DVD recorder. This came as a shock to many and I did receive several calls about this particular situation. I don’t remember ever hearing anyone say anything about this in preparing the nation for the “coming digital transition.” (They may have, but I sure don’t remember it.)

Some of these customers actually do use  two converter boxes at one location so they can continue their viewing life according to the way they are familiar with. Others chose to stop recording all together because it became too complicated and, now, only watch their programs live. Some now record some of their favorites while they are out with a single converter box, but watch the rest of their favorite programs live or not at all the first time around and wait for the reruns.

The next UGLY fact has to do with their set top antennas. It seems no one really told them they would need at least one set for each viewing location,  (if they had more than one TV in the house). If they wanted to record and the signal wasn’t strong enough to pass through a splitter, they would need one for the VCR or DVD recorder and one for the TV along with that second converter box.

(Let’s see, now, Rusty… You’re telling me if I want to view one program and record another, I will need two converter boxes and possibly even two sets of  set top antennas? )

Yep … that’s true.

Are you beginning to see a pattern developing here? Yeah, I kinda thought you would. You see, even in hind sight, you wonder if anybody ever thought far enough ahead to make these facts clear to the consumers. In fact, I wonder if they ever really thought about it until it was too late to tell them properly.  I’m sure the information was available, it’s just that people in charge, once again, ASSUMED that people would just understand or know about all of this stuff. Unfortunately, the results have not proved that to be the case.

Now, lest you think I am just picking on places that only have set top antennas, I can tell you I have also run into reception problems with existing antennas that received all of the analog signals clearly and yet do not get all of the digital signals. This is probably one of the most frustrating things I have come across in this Digital Transition.

It appears to me that some of the antennas are possibly just too old and tired and don’t have enough gain anymore to pull enough signal for all of the digital signals. Of course, we do have to leave room in this part of this  discussion for the possibility that the problems mentioned back in part 3 could also be the problems with these antennas. Those problems of  which I speak, of course, are the possible multi-path problems or data stream corruption problems of some sort, that affect the digital signals differently than they did the analog signals.

Now I come to a thing I call a really “unfortunate UGLY ” part.

Because for some, this transition has been quite a bit more complicated than some made it seem, sometimes the average consumer has needed to call in service personnel to help them hook up their converters for one reason or another. It’s not because they didn’t try to do it themselves, it’s because they tried and became totally frustrated.  The unfortunate thing about this is it adds to the individual’s expense for making the transition.

Generally, myself and the service people I know best in the business, have tried to be as reasonable as we can with our charges on calls such as this, but, it has to be remembered that much of what we do is often covered by service calls that are figured by estimated time on site and travel time rates. Depending on what the service company has figured for time on site to make their business profitable tells how much time they are willing to spend trying to make the adjustments or fix the problem. I find many are more than willing to go the extra mile to help. (But, like it or not, our time is our most valuable asset along with what we know, or have learned, through our experience in working on, or with, the equipment we service  in this business.)

I realize I have only scratched the surface of all that has been involved in making this transition and a few of the problems encountered in this discussion. It is my hope, as time progresses, to have answers for some of the more complex and frustrating issues concerning Digital Signal Reception that I do not have at this very moment.

As it is, the transition is new to all of us.  As a technician I want to understand what causes these things so I can better help solve your problems with the transition.  I also want to better help you understand  what you are facing. All of this will take time …

In closing this part, I want you to understand that part of the problems we face in the transition are because we aren’t completely getting rid of the old analog system. Until everything switches totally over to Digital, we have to try and work with what we have been given.

For now, we are having to make two different types of technology work together as one and that is not easy. In the not too distant future, I believe things will get easier for two reasons. The first is because we will understand it better. The second is because everyone will eventually get rid of their analog only equipment and switch over to digital.

Until that happens, we must work with what we have and try to make it work as best we can…

Don’t forget to leave your comments or questions about all of this below in the comments box…

Tune in next time as we will discuss my opinion and possible recommendations for antennas to use, especially in our DMA (Naples-Fort Myers, FL).

See ya next time …


©February 2009 – all rights reserved

Norman TV & Video Systems and Rusty Norman