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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Digital TV

There has been allot of talk and commotion about the "new" digital over the air TV and in February 2009 most stations will stop broadcasting in analog. What does that mean to you? Well if you have Cable TV or satellite TV like Dish Network or Direct TV, you have nothing to worry about and you don't have to change or buy anything.

What's the difference? To over simplify it, analog is like a handwritten letter with spelling mistakes and a pen that is running out of ink so much is is unclear. Digital is like a typed letter with spell check turned on so everything is clear and nothing is lost and what you see is what you were meant to see without error.

If you receive your TV stations using an older TV and an antenna, either built in or set top like rabbit ears, or even an outside antenna like a mast antenna, you will have to either upgrade your TV to digital, or buy a converter box to continue watching TV.

If your TV is HDTV, SDTV, DTV or has any digital tuner built into it you will be able to receive any available digital over the air station within your reach depending on your antenna. If your TV does not have a built in digital tuner you will need a converter box which you can buy at most electronics stores.

I decided to experiment with digital over the air. Two years ago I bought a new TV and made sure that it had a digital tuner built in. Mine is SDTV which is Standard defenition Digital TeleVision. It's nothing fancy, a flat screen CRT not a fancy expensive flat screen plasma or LCD but it is digital. Any way, I bought a tiny little amplified antenna for $50.00 just to see how good or bad the picture was.If it was bad, I can always return it.

After setting the TV to scan for digital channels I was amazed by how many local channels I could receive, and the the clarity was amazing! Even on my cheap TV, with a cheap indoor antenna, the over the air signal is comparable to DVD quality. I switched back and forth between analog (what we have now) and digital several times and I couldn't believe the difference. Same TV, same antenna, same station, but digital surpasses the quality of analog 10 fold if not more. I stopped saying wow after a few hours.

I do have digital cable TV for now so I was able to compare between free over the air digital channels and digital cable, and the over the air picture and audio was far better. I will miss a few channels on cable like History Channel and Discovery Channel, but I won't miss the high cable TV bills. Instead of paying $50+ for cable TV every month, I spent $50 for the antenna and I will never have another bill.

There are also "alternate" local channels available depending on where you live and the stations available to you. For example my local station, WGAL has it's regular broadcast on one channel D08-1 but also broadcasts a 24/7 weather outlook on D08-2. And a local PBS station has different programs on 2 channels D33-1 and D33-3. Without digital I would not even know that the other broadcasts exist, and even with my cable provider, I had never seen the "other" PBS channel.

I guess what I am saying is that digital over the air is far better than even digital cable and you can't beet free! You will loose many channels that are only available on cable or satellite, but if you can do without those , save a buck by going digital over the air. After you buy a decent antenna, you will never have to pay the cable or satelite provider again.