The full digital television revolution officially began a week ago on Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 in places like Albuquerque, New Mexico and Biloxi, Mississippi and Charlotte, North Carolina and Eugene, Oregon and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
On that date in these and many other American cities, the transition began from analog to digital television. It begins a revolution that will have spread to every American household with TV reception by no later than June 12th, 2009.
Ever since television sets became commercially available in the late 1930’s the signals transmitted to our homes and businesses have come to us in ‘analog’ form.
Technicality aside, the idea is that a number of images are drawn across the screen of your monitor in rapid succession. You were basically receiving a high-speed version of a flip-picture book, where each page of the book contained a slightly different image from the one on the previous page.
Your TV monitor would flip through the images to create the illusion of movement. Because of this process there were occasional image ‘skips’ and other distortions.
Then digital television began to be developed, and in 1996 the U.S. Congress ordered all broadcast networks to begin preparations to switch their broadcasts over to digital.
The digital signal has a couple of major benefits. First from a consumer standpoint, the quality of the pictures and sound that we receive is greater with digital broadcasting. There will be none of the ‘ghosts’ and ‘snow’ that we now receive from time to time.
Secondly from an industry standpoint, the former analog air space will now be freed up to be used by emergency responders and by advanced wireless services such as broadband.
The bottom line for those of us watching news and entertainment at home and work is that our picture quality will be greater in resolution, clarity, and color and our sound will be better with features such as Dolby surround sound.
Digital will also allow for the added quality of services such as HDTV, multi-casting, wide screen formatting and data streaming, depending on our particular home setup.
At home, you will still be able to use your ‘rabbit ears’, and you do not have to switch to cable television.
As of March 1st, 2007, the government required all TV’s being manufactured from that point on to include digital tuners. Manufacturers were allowed to continue to sell analog-tuning TV’s from their inventory, but had to do so with a disclaimer that told customers of the upcoming switch to digital.
For those folks who own digital-ready television sets and receive their signal via cable television or other pay services, there should be no changes that you need to make.
If you have an analog television, whether using those rabbit ears or an outside roof antenna or some combination, you will have to purchase a digital converter box in order to receive programming once your locality makes the switch.
It has been estimated that approximately 14% of American households continue to receive their TV signals exclusively ‘over the air’ for free rather than through these pay services.
The government has provided that each household with analog televisions be allotted two $40 coupons towards the purchase of these converter boxes, which are estimated to cost between $40-70 dollars per box.
By the summer time every house in America with a television will be receiving better picture and sound, and air space will have been freed up for vital services and even more technological advancements.