Monday, June 15, 2009

U.S. Analog Sunset

I got through the conversion to all digital over the air TV in the U.S. over the weekend. As of Saturday morning all analog TV had ceased. Actually, there was one station that I could pick up here that still broadcast an analog signal - a text screen saying that you need a digital converter or a digital TV to receive service. All of the rest of the analog signals here went blank.

I live in San Francisco and stopped my cable service more than five years ago. I did not have a cable connection in the room where we moved the TV and did not want Comcast to hack up our 80 year old house any more than it had already.

We were well prepared for the digital conversion. We now have the HD/digital sets with good Terk indoor antennas that were already receiving over the air digital signals. We have gotten rid of our analog sets over the last year. We are now only left with a couple of radios with analog TV audio receivers that no longer work.

Everything went as scheduled. We seemed to lose one channel Friday evening. I guess it made its changes earlier than midnight. Many stations were reassigning their digital signals to new frequencies as part of the conversion.

Saturday morning we rescanned two of the TVs. We had some trouble getting all of the channels we had before. We had to reorient the antennas to a position and were able to find all of the channels we had before. We scanned the third set that afternoon. One set is not able to find the NBC outlet, but this was nothing new. This set has a more compact and less powerful Terk antenna, which has not been able to pick up this channel. The more sensitive set picked up a channel that we have not been able to receive before.

The only frustration with all of this is that the channel scanning is an all or nothing operation. Every time we scan channels, it clears all channels and adds those that it finds. This means that the antenna has to be positioned carefully to get them all. I would like to see an "add channel" function that keeps the channels that have already been found and adds any new ones that it finds. This would let me point the antenna in another direction and pick up the channels that it can find in that direction. I think I would be able to pick up more channels this way.

The U.S. analog sunset is a much easier transition than will be experienced in other countries. Only 10 to 15 percent of U.S. homes use over the air broadcasting as their only source for TV programming. The rest have cable or satellite subscription. A prominent survey said last week that only 2 million households were not prepared for the change. This is less than 2 percent of the total households in the U.S. Countries with a higher dependence on analog TV broadcasting will have a more difficult transition.

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