Sunday, August 3

hello, digital TV

News item:
"full-power analog (NTSC) signals cease in the USA on February 17, 2009"
Stuart Smalley would want to know how that affects him and the answer is "maybe not at all". If you have existing cable or satellite service, your analog TV will be fine. If you've bought a TV in the past few years, odds are it already has a digital tuner, so that's okay. The changes coming in February only affect those of us with an analog TV that gets over-the-air [OTA] signals.

The bulk of my TV watching is either via satellite or DVDs. I have an old TV in the bedroom that my dog used to watch, but I dropped the satellite feed to that set so it's now just a dust magnet. I decided to experiment with digital TV on that box, which means I need to buy a CECB - Coupon Eligible Converter Box.

Weeks ago, I ordered the (free) $40 coupon; a few days ago, I noticed the VALID THRU date (eek!) on my TV Converter Box Coupon, so I decided it was Time To Research. Ideally, my needs are simple:
  • perform the analog:digital conversion
  • have the analog pass-thru feature
  • relatively small
  • decent remote control
  • built-in antenna
  • not cost an arm and a leg
Turns out that NONE of these include a built-in antenna, so I'll have to spring for "rabbit ears" -- the cheapest/basic ones with a coax connector are $6.

Next, I quickly found that only 16 of the available converters have the analog pass-through feature -- which allows me to continue watching analog channels until 17/2/9. The first CECBs that shipped lacked the pass-thru. The list of CECBs that I would thus consider are on the website, but I'll repeat it here:
  1. APEX DT250
  2. Artec T3AP Pro
  3. CRAIG Electronics International Ltd. CVD506
  7. DISH Network DTVPal
  8. Insignia NS-DXA1-APT
  9. Magnavox TB-100MG9
  10. Memorex MVCB1000
  11. Philco TB100HH9
  12. Philco TB150HH9
  13. RCA DTA800B1
  14. Winegard RCDT09A
  15. Zenith DTT901
  16. Zinwell ZAT-970A
It turns out the only one that's readily available locally is the Zenith DTT901, and the various online reviews were generally favorable, so I waddled over to Circuit City and bought one. After the $40 coupon and sales tax, my out-of-pocket cost was $21.44.

According to I should get 26 stations - some with multiple digital feeds. So, I connected the cables, turned the CECB on and got exactly ONE digital channel (KTVT-11). Argh! In a way, this doesn't surprise me because I frequently drive past their station and see the antenna (even though most of the local stations planted their towers in Cedar Hill, Texas .. the highest elevation in the area).

It turns out the antenna coming from the wall (presumably hooked to the Giant Antenna in the attic) apparently isn't connected, and the rat's nest of wiring means that debugging could/would be a royal PITA. I decide "life's too short; I'll buy rabbit ears!" tells me that 21 channels will be available if I spring for a "small multidirectional antenna", so .. it's off to the B&M store (probably Fry's for the best selection) in the morning.

Alternate resource: Antenna

Abbreviations I encountered:
ATSC Advanced Television Systems Committee
CECB Coupon Eligible Converter Box
DTV Digital Television
EPG Electronic Program Guide
NTSC National Television System Committee
OTA Over The Air
PSIP Program and System Information Protocol
TVGOS TV Guide on Screen
useful: FAQ: The $40 Coupon Digital TV Converter Boxes

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