Just Do It

It is, in some ways, about time the U.S. caught up with the rest of the world. so let’s just get on with the switchover to digital television.

In an article from the Associated Press and Att/Yahoo Tech we find that the House of Representatives has defeated an attempt to delay the transition from analog to digital television. Good for them.

This has not only been a very long time coming. We have known for a very long time it was coming. It has been very well advertized for over a year, and notices have been readily available to anyone who frequents public places for far longer than that.

Will it be an inconvenience? Yep. For over a quarter of a century I have lived in the Houston media market. My over-the-air access to that market will be lost. Period. I live just over eighty miles from the complex of transmission towers that send out virtually all Houston area channels. Even with my new digital boxes and a sixty-foot-tall aerial I get nothing from any broadcaster but College Station (CBS and The WB). I'm not paying for satellite or cable, so it's off to a new paradigm- shows delivered over the Web, where I get most of my news anyway.

That is what this is all about- the new paradigm. Don't get stuck in the technological mud of an old time that has bound us to inefficiencies born of the baling-wire electronics of the twenties, thirties, and forties.

It is time to be liberal in the best possible sense. Let us launch into the new and embrace what we find there!

Posted by Lee Emmerich Jamison at January 28, 2009 4:51 PM
Comments
Comment #274497

Lee,
Why going digital is already 3 years behind the original schedule of 2006, I see no problem in given the American Consumer 3 months. However, anymore time than that and I have to wonder who Congress is protecting. For why the Cable TV Shows may not care about losing over 6 million viewers in one day, I wonder how many locally owned and operated Free TV Stations could say the same.

Yes, America needs to go digoital as a matter of economics; however, seeing that the Republican lead Congress gave Cable an extra 3 years to CYA I see no problem in a Democratic lead Congress given the American Consumer an extra 3 months knowing of the economic hard times. For doesn’t such a move keep the Labor and Management of the program employeed for the next 3 months.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at January 28, 2009 8:13 PM
Comment #274501

_http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/P/htmlP/publicaccess/publicaccess.htm

_http://www.governing.com/articles/0802tv.htm

_http://www.gfem.org/node/266

These links are pointing out a battle between the cable and the telephone industries.

The local community is not represented in this debate. The agreements with local communities and cable companies that layed the groundwork for cable access is being erased.

Public access channels as they are should be considered in this debate. Heaven forbid we end up paying a long distance charge and taxes on our email accounts.

Posted by: Weary Willie at January 28, 2009 10:43 PM
Comment #274504

I agree with Henry when he says the economy should be considered but, waiting would create more lack of confidence. Get it done now and see what happens. Radio Shack will provide what’s needed to make a converter box. Also, smaller stations are exempt from converting to a digital format. There will be analog stations on broadcast, just not the big 3 or 4 we are all used to.

Posted by: Weary Willie at January 28, 2009 10:52 PM
Comment #274507

I’m not sure what Henry is worried about on “cable access”. Cable channels are not affected at all in the change to digital. If you are served by a cable TV outlet you don’t even need a digital converter, for example.

The people who really are affected are people like myself who do not have cable or satellite and live too far away from broadcast towers to receive digital signals (which, unlike old analog signals are “line of sight”. They can’t go over the horizon.) and people with older TVs who have not tried to get, or applied too late to get, a coupon for a digital converter box.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at January 29, 2009 12:27 AM
Comment #274510

Lee,
Who do you think is paying for the Cable and Satellite Companies converting to digital? How many advertisers and customers will lose chanels or services due to the higher fees and change of packages.

Yes, everybody should have gotten a coupon for a converter by now; however, given the argument of spending $40.00 on a piece of electronics or the food to feed your family which one do you pick.

So why you may cry over a 3 month extension, think about us who have waited 3 years because the CEO’s of Cable and Satellite would rather have a million dollar bonus instead of opening up analog channels for the expansion of broadband transmission which includes more Free TV Stations.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at January 29, 2009 12:52 AM
Comment #274516

Lee,

I am assuming that you aren’t connected to the Internet via dial-up.

IMHO, this is more about the fight for cell phone frequency access than it is about analog TV.

Back in the late ’80s early ’90s I was a high end car stereo installer. During this time I installed my first car phones. They were very rare and quite expensive. They were also huge and clunky, taking up tremendous amounts of real estate in a cars trunk. Strangely enough these first “cell phones” were also able to provide true hands free operation in the car. Those of you old enough to remember, would have also seen the other mobile phone available at the time were the Motorola “brick” phone. So called because it was the size of a brick and weighed about 6 pounds.
Anyway, my point is that with the explosion of cell phone use (260 million in the US as of 2008), the introduction of the Blackberry and Internet access for cell phones, the bandwidth for each channel at the high end of the FM spectrum, meaning TV, needs to shrink. Going digital is the only means, at this time, to free up more channels for everybody to use. Digital channels take up less bandwidth per channel.
Where the US government truly screwed the pooch was that they sold frequencies that weren’t yet available, and they sold some of those frequencies to, you guessed it, AT&T, and Verizon.

FM radio frequencies, which the current TV channels are a part of, are line of sight. What that means is if your antenna isn’t in a visual straight line with the TV transmitter, you’re going to get a crappy signal, or no signal at all. That is why those that live in out lying areas get little or no signal unless the TV station has paid to install a repeater in your area.
At this time, I don’t beleive “going digital” will change this.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at January 29, 2009 8:44 AM
Comment #274519

Lee Jamison-
This is actually right up my alley. I’m not only degreed in this particular field, I also attended one of the colleges that was on the forefront of research on HDTV. I saw my first HD presentation around 2000, and I never had much love for standard definition again.

All Radio signals are line of sight. Quantum Physics dictates, though, whether the signal can, say, bounce that line of sight off the ionosphere, or by dint of quantum physic’s strange rules diffuse its way around an obstacle. Generally, the longer the wavelength, the better it’s ability to pull this trick.

However, TV and HDTV signals tend to deal in the higher frequences of the Radio Spectrum, so they don’t bounce off the ionosphere or diffuse around obstacles as well. The added liability of digital broadcast is that it’s all or nothing. That’s also the beauty of it. If you can get the signal, and get it well, you’ll be watching a perfect digital image with CD quality sound.

And of course, if you don’t get it, you’ll be watching blocky, pixellated images with frames dropped, or nothing.

We have Satellite at my house, though we’re looking into AT&T’s U-Verse package. Only problem with this internet based system is that it more or less requires them to upgrade the network, something they’ve been loathe to do over the years.

We had a deal with them a while back that we would do away with some of the regulations that required them to charge certain rates for their add on packages like call waiting and the like, and in exchange they would supercharge broadband, and extend their high capacity networks. Of course, the oh-so-business friendly Bush Administration let that slide, and so now we get slower internet feeds than the average person in East Asia and Europe.

The irony here is that a business friendly approach hasn’t been good for business. We’re falling behind other high-tech nations in internet speed, and thusly in development of goods and services which such broadband internet service could feed.

Further irony here: I was getting ticked off about it three years and a half years befor you! I think the Bush Administration also made the mistake of getting too business friendly there as well.

It allowed so much laxness on so many fronts, from the transmission standards (way too many combinations of resolutions and frame rates, not to mention splits between progressive and interlaced scanning), to the broadcast technology (the much less robust 8-VSB, as opposed to COFDM) and so on and so forth that it really failed to present the clear picture of the change required to properly motivated risk-averse broadcasters, content generators, and TV manufacturers to take the chance early on for moving Digital television forward.

Ultimately, the question here is one of whether the government applies its regulations and legislation in an organized, purposeful way, or whether it instead muddles things in a vain attempt to please many different special interests. The transition, long in coming, seems to me to have been muddled, just as the transition from low-end broadband to high end broadband has similarly become muddled, thanks to the lack of strong leadership in creating effective regulation.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 29, 2009 11:15 AM
Comment #274520

Rocky,

You’re right about the cell phone use, but there is more to it than that. My cousin, who used to teach English to Japanese university students in Kobe, could use a cell phone to buy from a vending machine via a secure account had he chosen to do so. Such has been the case there for well over a decade. Our hi definition TVs have developed overseas because they already had the digital over-the-air bandwidth available, so their broadcast standards had protocols for images with thousands of scan lines.

We have been captives of broadcast standards defined in a relative horse-and-buggy technological environment. We can’t be competitive with the rest of the world if we find excuses to cling endlessly to the enormous inefficiencies of those old standards.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at January 29, 2009 11:15 AM
Comment #274537

AM Will travel much farther when all things are equal, You can skip or bounce a signal all over the world on a 500 watt Ham Radio It sounds like crap though .

Posted by: Rodney Brown at January 29, 2009 4:02 PM
Comment #274545

Lee,

Stephen is correct. But all things being equal unless there is a repeater in your area you’re not going to see much of an improvement in your TV signal.
You are also right in that we have been stuck with the NTSC format since the forties, and the broadcasters have drug their heels in moving forward.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at January 29, 2009 5:34 PM
Comment #274566

I don’t think the HD converter will enhance the picture, it will just make it available. Without the converter the picture will cease to come through.

Posted by: Marysdude at January 30, 2009 6:10 AM
Comment #274570

Actually Mary, the digital transmission are on a completely different set of frequencies, so it is not just that you need the box to make it from analog to digital picture, it is also used to receive the new frequencies.

I have to agree with the HoR. It was postponed from 2006 to 2009. Would 3 months make a difference probably not, but what happens in 3 months when there are still people not set, delay it another 3 months.

Let’s get it done.

KT

Posted by: KT at January 30, 2009 10:43 AM
Comment #274593

The digital signal is great on an old television in the basement with rabbit ears, but CBS, NBC, and ABC are not available via the convertor box yet. We also have Dish, with hundreds of channels of worthless programming, unless you think that Keeping up with the Kardashians is something you would like to watch. There are plenty of illiterate newsreaders, freak shows, and other foolishness available, with plenty of commercials to educate people on the newest drugs available. Our elderly cat likes being brushed on a chair by the television in the kitchen, so I try to find something to watch sometimes, and end up looking at people catching eels and flounder on Korean TV. The best of broadcast television is third rate, and that’s being charitable. You have to pay a premium to watch almost anything worthwhile. I agree that we should get what we want via the internet, and the more content should be made available there.

Posted by: ohrealy at January 30, 2009 4:56 PM
Comment #274631

Thanks Kitty, for the enlightenment…

Posted by: Marysdude at January 30, 2009 10:31 PM
Comment #274667

KT-
They’re different frequencies, but not THAT different. I found my area’s channel were mainly up in the UHF band, with the exception of PBS.

Marysdude-
You’re right that it won’t really make the image better; it’s a down-converted signal, so by definition, it’s making it worse. However, if you CAN pick it up, it’ll likely be the best picture you ever got on that set. I think DVD quality would be an accurate description.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 31, 2009 8:53 AM
Comment #274755

Stephen different enough the the FCC is auctioning off the ones they are leaving, and big corps like Microsoft and Google are trying to land some of the vacated freq’s.

The picture will be a little better but on a analog TV you will not notice a big difference.

Big difference go from analog to HD, there you can tell the difference.

Posted by: kt at February 2, 2009 7:22 AM
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