The February 2009 shutdown of analog TV is approaching fast so I am actually starting to prepare for it. I previously wrote about this topic in Here Comes Digital TV. The FCC has asked the ARRL (really the amateur radio community) for help in getting the word out. This request emphasizes information sharing, not hands-on installation and troubleshooting of DTV systems. This is going to be interesting to watch….people that are served by cable or satellite are likely to be buffered from this change. The Over The Air User may have a different experience.
The FCC is pushing these settop converter boxes that allow people to convert their old analog TVs to digital. They will probably work fine for many people, especially if they have some technical knowledge. I really wonder about the less sophisticated consumers that are already struggling with their VCR and TV combo….now with a converter box in the middle of the system. “Let’s see, to record off the air I set the VCR to Channel 3 and the converter box to Channel 8 and then….” I am thinking there will be quite a few analog TVs headed to the trash heap. (Please recycle responsibly.)
An additional wrinkle that I just realized is that many of the VHF television stations are are moving to UHF for digital….but they will keep their existing channel designator. It turns out that the DTV system is defined such that the channel number that the user sees has nothing to do with the actual over-the-air channel that is used. For example, an analog TV station on VHF Channel 4 might move to UHF channel 35 for DTV but still be called “Channel 4″ on the DTV screen. This is supposed to keep things simple for the consumer. This will work out OK if the consumer has a TV antenna that handles both VHF and UHF. However, in some regions VHF is so dominant, people may not have bothered with a UHF-capable antenna. They will have to make an antenna change to receive the new DTV signals.
In Denver it is going to be even more interesting. Channels 7 and 9 are starting out on UHF for their digital broadcasts and then will move back to VHF after the analog signals go off the air. This leaves them on their original VHF channel after the dust settles. So a viewer watching digital Channel 7 needs to view them on UHF Channel 17 right now, but it will be referred to as Channel 7. Later, their DTV signal will move over to the “real” VHF Channel 7.
This is going to be interesting.
73, Bob K0NR
Update 22 Dec 2008:
Take a look at this humorous video about the Digital TV transition: