A Requiem For Analog TV

Imagine if you will. It is February 18, 2009. A television viewer receives TV over the air through a roof antenna. On awakening, instinctively the TV is turned on only to find snow-not outside but on the TV screen. Switching to another channel, snow… and another. Snow. Our viewer begins to fear that aliens really have landed in New Jersey as Orson Welles announced over 70 years ago.  Panic sets in as the radio is switched on, to just catch the news announcer saying “Analog TV died today. Film at Eleven.”  Nothing seems real. There is a sign post up ahead. It reads — You have reached the end of the Analog Zone.

Why Wasn’t I Warned?

You were warned. Didn’t you see the signs? Says the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on their Website, “At midnight on February 17, 2009, federal law requires that all full-power television broadcast stations stop broadcasting in analog format and broadcast only in digital format.”

Broadcasters have been gearing up for this cutover for a long time. Unfortunately getting the word out to the public seems to be slow. Some sources say that only 20% of American viewers have heard about the end of analog TV.  Some people in the broadcast and television profession are even uninformed when asked about the digital transition.

What is the Digital Transition Date?

The digital transition date is the deadline for all US broadcast television stations to broadcast exclusively in a digital format. This means analog signals will no longer exist.

Will I Need a New TV set?

You should not, but if you receive your television stations only with an antenna you will need a converter box to convert the digital over the air signal to an analog signal so your TV can receive it. Alternately you will need a TV receiver with a tuner built-in that is capable of digital reception.

If you are old enough to remember when UHF stations with channels 14 and up started broadcasting but your television receiver only received stations from channel 2 through 13 on VHF it will be like Deja Vu. If you wanted to receive the “new” UHF stations you purchased a “Converter Box” which was attached to the antenna inputs on your TV and you tuned the higher channels with it. You should be able to procure a similar converter box to convert the new digital channels to your existing analog television receiver, attaching it either via your antenna terminals or your audio and video input.

If you rely on cable or satellite then the digital transition probably won’t affect you as much. 

Caveat Emptor

When purchasing a new TV from now on you should be sure it has a tuner capable of receiving digital television transmissions. Insist on it! If it does not it will not receive over the air, digital broadcasts when the day comes. Many televisions today have dual tuners for receiving both analog and the digital transmissions.

You will begin to find all kinds of great buys on TVs. Just be sure the set you purchase will not obsolete itself in a few short months. The old saying “Caveat Emptor” or Buyer Beware should be foremost in your mind.

Above all, don’t panic! It is not the end of the world, just the end of analog television. Knowledge replaces fear. Do your research. Ask questions and above all, be an informed consumer. -33-


One response to “A Requiem For Analog TV

  1. This isn’t the first time the FCC has threatened to make existing TV sets obsolete (or at least incompatible). This happened before with the development of color television when the CBS color system (aka field sequential color system) was slated to become the national standard. There were 2 major hindrances to the acceptance of the CBS system (which many say was a far superior system). Firstly, the system required synchronized rotating color wheels be used in front of the TV camera as well as the TV receiver’s screen. I’m sure that if this system had been put into use nationally, an all electronic version would have come about in short order. The other and possibly bigger hindrance to the acceptance of the CBS color system was the fact that the system wasn’t compatible with the existing NTSC system. The CBS system would necessitate that a fairly inexpensive converter be used in order to see television images on “old” B&W TVs. This incompatibility was touted aggressively by David Sarnoff/RCA/NBC as they tried every way they could think of to stall the coming of color TV (even taking things to the Supreme Court). The FCC had initially decided that the field sequential color system (aka CBS color system) would be the accepted standard for the US in 1950, but with the stalling tactics of Sarnoff et al, they were ultimately able to have their inferior, though compatible, dot sequential color system (still the current standard) made the standard by 1953. This was due in large part to the fact that by this time there were so many B&W sets in use that the FCC was reluctant to make all of these sets obsolete.

    Now existing analog TV’s are being made obsolete with the coming of digital TV and no one’s squawked. Hmmm…….

    BTW, the decision to use the RCA color system I feel also helped to significantly hinder the spread of color TV. After the initial excitement of color broadcasts in late 1953 and sales of color TV sets beginning in 1954, the spread of color stalled and actually declined somewhat even with yearly predictions by David Sarnoff of the bright future of color TV. In reality, the RCA color system was inferior and sets were very costly (“mechanical” color sets using the CBS system would have cost less). It wasn’t until the late 60’s that network television had completely converted to color.

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