Saturday, August 9, 2008

DTV Primer

Or "What the heck is the deal with my TV?"

In February of 2009, all television broadcasters in the United States are required to stop broadcasting in standard format and only broadcast a Digital Signal.

If you have a traditional TV and you have cable service or satelite, you should NOT have to do anything. They should be making the transition themselves. Your old analog TV should be fine.

If you use an antenna to receive the local stations, you will need to do one of of the following:
Buy a "digital-to-analog converter box" available for $50 - $60. There is a $40 coupon available from the government website (thanks, Uncle Sam?) at It hooks in between the antenna and TV and allows you to view your local channels.


Purchase a "digital-ready" television set from a reputable dealer. Plug in antenna, watch your local stations.

Now HDTV (High Definition TeleVision) is a DIFFERENT issue!

While digital is the means of sending the signal, hi-def is a type of signal. It is a wide-screen (16X9 vs 4X3 standard def), high-resolution picture. True HD can only be viewed on a HD television set. On a standard set, the side edges will be cut off, the resolution average.

Currently, the broadcast networks are airing some of their programming in HD. The local stations pass it on. As time goes on, more programming will be produced in HD.

Cable companies and satellite distributors are putting out more and more HD channels - seeking to have upwards of 150 channels by the first of the year!

So, a converter box is fine for casual viewers of local stations.

An HDTV set will allow the viewing of high-quality images. Smaller HD sets are very reasonably priced. Good-sized (36" or so) flat-screen, LCD or plasma sets begin around $600. Large sreens can be had for around $1,000.

Now, you can view your old VHS and DVDs on any set. Recording HD programming is a different issue altogether!

And "Blu-ray" won the DVD format battle (HD-DVD meet Betamax) so to watch HD DVDs you'll need a new DVD player...

This will take years to work itself out!

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