DTV Transition in Action

Mari Silbey —  September 9, 2008 — 8 Comments

My next-door neighbors spent their DTV transition coupons for a pair of converter boxes to go with their analog TV sets.  As I watched the set-up process of one of their Magnavox converter boxes (purchased at WalMart) I contemplated the absolute horror that likely awaits us on February 17th.  My neighbors did get the box working eventually, but it wasn’t painless, and they’re left with some irritating quirks on their new digital-via-analog kitchen television. For example, they now have silly station numbers like 45.2.  And for some reason my neighbors can’t access any digital PBS channels – a critical problem when you have kids and no cable programming.

On the good side, the picture reception on the channels they do get is awesome, and they get some new digital channels as part of the deal. There’s even a basic EPG.  Will the good outweigh the bad?  For some people, yes. But there are going to be an awful lot of busy customer support folks getting these converter boxes to work in Grandma’s house early next year.

8 responses to DTV Transition in Action

  1. Hehe, I’m amazed at the look of HDTV as I pass by them in Best Buy, but the prices make me turn my head away and a tear to slide down my cheek. I’m going to pretend that my TV is high def. No really it is. It’s suppose to look like I’m watching through a window that hasn’t been cleaned in 10 years. That’s the look I like. I’m into it.

  2. Your neighbors are ahead of the game by trying the stuff in advance. It appears that the biggest news coming out of the Wilmington trial is that many people didn’t realize that they could begin using their converter boxes and digital tuners before the cutover. There was procrastination, too, but many people didn’t understand that many digital signals were already available.

  3. I’m curious about what kind of antenna your neighbors used?

    I suppose there will be some stations that may require larger (possibily outdoor) antennae, else they’ll experience the digital drop off (or whatever the buzz word is for it).

  4. @Tom It’s an RCA antenna, but I’d have to research it to know more. The PBS station *should* come in, but you may be right. I’ll look into it more when I have a chance.

  5. @S1 Apparently in Wilmington they actually had volunteer firemen helping people set up the converter boxes. Fascinating customer support system.

  6. @Mari Back before cable was widespread, I did some work at a suburban police department where official policy was to dispatch an officer if elderly people called complaining about their TV reception. They didn’t go so far as to get up on the roof, but it may be no coincidence that at least one cop there had a side business putting up antennas.

  7. @Tom The antenna question is pretty meaningless without knowing how far one is from the transmitters, whether you have any obstacles like power lines or tall buildings around, etc. Try a site like http://www.antennaweb.org to get a better idea where you stand. To give you a general idea, I’m about 35 miles away from the mountain that has all of our local digital transmitters. I would have a line of sight to it if not for a few trees in between. I can get all of the stations with a 40 year old set of rabbit ears, although one of the stations cuts out now and then. When I revived my 30 year old roof antenna, even that one marginal station came in fine on it. No matter what antennaweb tells you, try any rabbit ears and/or old rooftop antennas you have available before you go buying anything.

  8. I’ve had two digital stream dtv converter boxes, purchased at RadioShack for about 2 maybe 3 months. I think they’re great. Although I must admit it took some time to understand what I had to do to make them work correctly and how they’re supposed to work. First, in my area, channel 4 is a popular network station, so the box must be set to channel 3. Thus the tv must be tuned to channel 3 for the box to work. During setup, all channels are scanned. I’m not a subscriber to cable or satellite so I’m dependant on an antenna. Since the digital stations are broadcasted on ultra high frequencies (UHF), the cheapo bow tie loop works just fine. I’m now recieving an additional 8 stations plus reception is phanominal. Just remember, if your tv says “weak signal”, try moving the antenna. I mounted it on a wooden rod, standing vertical. When the reception isn’t good for the selected station, I simply rotate the antenna about 90° and viola!
    My 25 yr panasonic and 11 yr jvc never looked so good. Picture is perfect; no ghosts or shadows.

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