To HD or not to HD? TV changes in the United States

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Like it or not, it is time to make a choice. TV in the USA as we know it go 'dark' 17 Febuary 2009. If you have not purchased a TV with a HD tuner, and you use an antenna (cable and satallite TV is Not Affected) your TV will no longer work.

The shortest and simplest answer is to get a Digital Converter. The goverment is issuing a $40 coupon upon request (one per address). The cost of a converter starts at about $50 USD. A little more for some feature laden converters.

This is the least expensive solution. And while it may be OK for you, there is another possible 'gotcha' in the mix. That is your antenna.

The way TV has been sent for 50+ years in the USA is an analog VHF signal. It is going away because it is not a very efficent system, from the view of using the 'lanes' for the signal. It's sorta like each lane on a highway is 20 feet wide, with a 6 foot spacer between each lane.

The new approach is more efficent. And here comes the gotcha. It is further up the radio spectrum, meaning the broadcast signal is not a capable as 'bending' around things like hills. This means for many folks, a lower signal.

Unlike the older analog signal, digital TV is less forgiving. The old system would weaken and just have a picture with more 'snow'.

No so with digital TV. Yes, you can have a less than perfect picture, and still see the broadcast. However digital TV is much less forgiving about a poor signal. For example, my TV will simply show a nice solid blue on the display if it does not have a signal the electronics deem suitable.

Because digital TV has been moved to UHF, your antenna may not work, At All. There was a number of antennas made that are VHF only. BTW, FM radio is VHF too.

For digital TV you need a UHF antenna.

There are both indoor and outdoor antennas available for HD (digital) TV. Some even offer 'electronic' aiming. That means no fussing with the antenna positioning. The electronics of the antenna automagically 'adjusts' itself.

Please note if you are going the converter box route, you will NOT be getting a picture with more detail than you are getting now. This is because you are only getting 1/3 of the entire HD signal, and your older TV wouldn't know what to do with the other 66%, even if you could capture the signal.

Selecting a digital TV antenna is beyond the scope of anything I can write. Each area has multiple considerations. For example at one place I lived in Seattle, I was only 10 (as the crow flys) miles away from 3 of the 4 National broadcasters at the time. And I couldn't see a thing over the air. My place had a Huge Hill as part of the backyard. Yup. The transmitters we're on the other side of the hill.

Assuming you are willing to go with an external antenna, Http://www.antennaweb.org is a pretty good guide on what you are looking at. They don't even attempt to offer guidence on indoor antennas due to factors they could not possibly know.

Please note that all this applies to you even if you are not getting a converter and you are getting a new TV.

The advantage of a new TV (assuming you have the signal), is you will get a much sharper picture (at least some of the time). I say some of the time because as of the end of 2008, only about 1 in 4 TV shows are in HD. That will change rapidly however.

If you are on the fence about what to do, I will tell you I am going to wait on a new TV.  The reason I am waiting is the research firm DisplaySearch is projecting a decline in overall TV sales (for the first time in the history of US TV), as well as a drop in prices (for LCD TV's).

The electronic makers are looking to boost sales by moving into high-performance offerings. This will force down the price of "average" HD TV's. So my game plan is to go with the digital converter and wait to see what kind of deal I can get, later in 2009.

Everyone's needs are different, so as the saying goes, "Your Milage May Vary" (YMMV).

Tcat Houser is a trainer in Information Technology as well as assisting people understand the most complex computer all, the human brain. This necessitates his being a professional Road warrior.

As A Certified Technical Trainer and Subject Matter Expert (SME) @ TRCB.com it can be difficult to figure out what Tcat is currently researching.

See my lastest work at TRCBVideos.com - Convert Articles, Reviews into Videos Automagically.

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