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When is an improvement not an improvement?

Posted Monday, January 14, 2008, at 7:12 PM

Back in 2005, I was shocked to read an article in the Southeast Missourian about some cockamamy scheme called "The Digital Switch," whereby the entire nation is going to be switched from analog to digital television. According to the article, some 70 million analog TVs are still in use in the U.S., and their owners will have to either 1) go buy a new television, or 2) buy a digital converter -- or they will be SHUT DOWN when the switch-over happens in 2009.

I'm trying to remember if I read the REASON for this catastrophic event, but - try as I might (maybe my brain rebels against this knowledge) - I cannot find a good, logical reason for this assault against the institution of AGING TELEVISIONS!

The only reason I hear for the switchover is "Wow, we'll get a much better reception!"

Surely, that can't be the REAL reason! You can't tell me that the United States Congress is THAT concerned about whether the U.S. population is able to watch its reality shows in crystal clarity.

This has to be some sort of sinister plot by hidden forces of evil, bent on destroying the security of the over-50 generation, most of whom (if they're like me) couldn't care less about whether "The Power of 10" comes into their living rooms in glorious living color. Who needs to see Drew Carey in super duper clear definition?

Something else is going on, I just know it.

Perhaps a powerful electronic lobby is pressuring Congress to make this move, under the threat of a world-wide blackout?

Perhaps a conniving Dr. Evil is gearing up his forces to obliterate the entire over-50 generation if they will not convert from their backward lifestyles and cross over to the evil techno lifestyle of the under 30's...

From what I gather, the government, in its great wisdom, is offering coupons for $40 off converter boxes. However, rumor has it that there will not be enough coupons to go around (at 70 million, I don't doubt it), AND the coupons have to be used within 90 days of receipt.

So.....what happens if the retail establishments of our great nation fail to have these illustrious converter boxes in a supply ample enough for all of us?

I can see Mr. I-Went-Online-and-Got-my-Coupon-Early arriving at Best Buy, only to find that they have not received their shipment. So the coupon expires. Uh, oh, can we spell M-A-D C-U-S-T-O-M-E-R???

Speaking of Best Buy: I called them today to ask about the converter boxes. Well, I'll tell you - That's an experience, in itself. It took me 2 hours to get anyone to answer the phone! I'm not kidding! I tried all four lines: "Push 1 for our hours, Push 2 for a sales representative; Push 3 for the Geek Squad; Push 4 for an operator." There was nobody home for TWO HOURS! When I finally did get someone, it was some poor little floor clerk who said she was just being nice by answering the phone. She took a message for the manager, who did call me back, but he directed me to the 1-800 number, where I reached another answering machine.

I think Best Buy is operated by robots, so I foresee another sinister plot to conquer the world...

I'm serious - Can anyone explain this cataclysmic decision to jerk the population of the United States into the 22nd Century??

This is your confused rural reporter Madeline, signing off from the ancient, backward hills of downtown Tillman, Missouri, population - 25 - 30 humans, nine goats, and numerous hound dawgs...

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

From what I understand,you will not have to buy the converter box unless you are using the ole rabbit ears. I went to RTNDA(Radio,Television News Directors Association) in 1999 and they had all the new equipment then and told us that everyone would have to switch in ten years. I guess they were correct. The frequency used now is analog and is going to digital which will free up more broadband for things like cell phones (no more dropped calls) or so I have heard. I am not an expert, these are just all things I have heard from various sources. I heard that several companies are going to buy the freed up analog as one big company (google, att, among others.)

-- Posted by collegegirl on Tue, Jan 15, 2008, at 10:03 AM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Today I managed to reach a Best Buy rep, who explained to me about the freeing up of broadband space. He said that some of the space will be used for emergency services.

He also said that Best Buy pulled all their analog TVs in 2006, so that the only ones being sold last year were digital.

They plan to have the converter boxes by the time the government coupons come out on Feb. 17 of this year. He said that the converter boxes range from $50 - $75, and there will also be digital television sets for about the same price as analog.

That SOUNDS reassuring......unless the robots get control...

It may sound outlandish to you that people would still be using TVs with rabbit ears, but in 2005, there were an estimated 70 million of them still out there. I haven't found the new figures, yet.

Here's another issue (quoting from an internet source):

"Don't Forget Your VCR and/or DVD Recorder

Since VCRs and DVD recorders also have built-in analog NTSC tuners, they are also subject to the effects of the analog cut-off date. However, this is only if your VCR and DVD recorder receives television signals over-the-air. In this case, you will need a digital-to-analog converter box for each VCR or DVD recorder in your household - or each VCR or DVD recorder and TV pair.

In other words, you can connect a digital-to-analog converter box to your VCR or DVD recorder, then route the signal from there to your TV, much the same way many do with Cable or Satellite Boxes. Starting in 2007, DVD recorders will start to be equipped with ATSC tuners."

Sounds like a BIG MESS to me!

You are right,since the technological explosion,if all rural areas are to go broadband,instead of dial up.

Think of it like this,when a town grows in population, like Dexter,there are only so many numbers for the prefix 624. Instead of limiting phones, a new prefix 614 is used.When cell phones are introduced,you are using even more #'s,so 421 can be used for cell users,but the amount of #'s for the 573 area code cannot be infintisimal.

Broadband is not without limits,but cell phone usage,especially with Go phones or tract phones,you can change #'s as often as you please,is limited.

Now I'm confused-lol.

The one thing we can be certain of is the vast majority of computer geeks firmly believe the air and ideas should be free,so they will find a cheaper way,or a way to use rabbit ears,to offer service to the rest of us.It is their sworn duty in life to upset the apple cart,in this case-thank goodness.

I see no bigger waste than throwing out working TV's,think how much landfill space that will occupy!

-- Posted by Yellow Rose of Essex on Tue, Jan 15, 2008, at 5:44 PM

I think it is absolute crap. Yes, you can buy a converter, for a fee, of course. Or you can buy a new t.v., and I, for one, don't feel I need one. I'm lucky to have a BIG antenna outside, and I'm even luckier to pick up four channels, haha, and I have to change direction, by hand, to get them. But at least I can afford it! Cable rates are going up, up, up as it is...imagine how high that's gonna be when they have to go all digital. Again, I think this is a load of crap, and, in some ways, against my constitutional rights. These already big-headed CEO's of the companies who build these t.v.'s and converters are getting even richer. While people like me are stuck paying for their personal jets and $50,000 cars and can't even afford to buy a converter. This is great. It's a wonderful topic, MD. I'm interested to see how many people fight it, and how much it will actually matter.

-- Posted by mrsdolphin on Tue, Jan 15, 2008, at 9:30 PM

It seems that our Congressmen are a bit out of touch with the reality of life down on the goat farms of America.

I bought a new TV back in 2003 (ah, that rhymes!) when something happened (lightning, no doubt) to my electric line - and I had to pay an electrician $800 to have a new one put in, after which I discovered that the low voltage had ruined the TV, the VCR, the dishwasher, and the washing machine. I had to replace all of them. I had to live w/o hot water for 3 months, while I waited on the electrician. (That was no fun, I'll tell you...)

Now, our great leaders in all their wisdom are telling me that I have to replace a 4-year old analog television? I didn't even KNOW about the issue when I bought the TV.

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, Jan 16, 2008, at 11:39 AM

GL and MD (since you seem to be of one mind about this), the conversion to all digital TV broadcasts is as certain as the tides, because them there analog broadcast bandwidths are like Gold -- they are worth billions. Several countries have already fully converted to digital TV, so the US is not on the cutting edge of inconveniencing and otherwise causing severe gastronomic consternation to the goat herders of the world. GL, I don't think Congressman are "a bit out of touch with the reality of life down on the goat farms of America." They just don't care about "constituents" who use rabbit ears to watch television and who connect to the Internet with dial-up. They represent their donor base, not the people who vote for them. I recently saw Bullworth with Warren Beatty for the first time since it was in theaters about ten years ago. It may be the single best movie ever made about the reality of the political process in the United States -- and it doesn't have a very happy ending. Just as Beatty's movie, The Parallax View, may be the best movie ever made about how politics in this country is manipulated behind the scenes by people and organizations we never see, and we may not even know who they are.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Wed, Jan 16, 2008, at 6:19 PM

Wow, that is so cynical and true.

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, Jan 16, 2008, at 7:04 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Well, this morning on KFVS, we were hit with more of the cruel realities of the digital switch-over. It seems that the new television sets are much wider than the old ones, so consumers with expensive consoles are going to have to find another use for those big pieces of furniture!

"Oh, no problem!" say the vendors. "You can now hang your TV on your wall!!!"

Isn't that peachy keen? I'm out of luck on all counts, as I have a living room full of windows and very little wall space. I barely have enough wall for furniture, much less room to hang things up.

Boy..... Do I feel like a dinosaur or what??????

Madeline dear...

I believe also that this is yet another conspiracy, like bad hair days and loss of memory...there is some group out there determined to do us under...they seem to be doing a pretty good job! But like the price of oil, Wheaties, milk, Honey-Mustard dressing and asparagus, we'll all get used to it in a few months!

-- Posted by bringwine on Thu, Jan 17, 2008, at 8:54 PM

Since broadcast digitization is being rammed down peoples throats, and the previous analog broadcast bandwidths are going to be auctioned off for many billions by the government, it only seems fair that everyone who needs to buy a converter should be reimbursed 100% from the auction proceeds, and not merely given a time limited coupon that only covers part of the cost.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Fri, Jan 18, 2008, at 6:19 PM

Truer words were never spoken! The expenses of this digital switch over just keep building up, from what I'm hearing. By the time all is said and done, that $40 reimbursement is gonna be a drop in the big technological bucket!

I think a college professor of mine was right: The opposite of "Progress" is "Congress"!!!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Sat, Jan 19, 2008, at 8:16 AM

MD, you should be ecstatic! Your share of the economic stimulation package might cover your cost of getting hooked up to watch digital TV!

-- Posted by FJGuy on Thu, Jan 24, 2008, at 7:25 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Naw...I'll have to use my economic stimulus package to build a new pump house. The flying squirrels have taken over the one I have.

The economic stimlation package is probably just "sound and fury, signifying nothing." We may never see anything if Congress has it's way.

Isn't it strange that one mention by the president about giving us money back has completely taken the entire national attention? Gee, do you think it's a coincidence that this is the countdown to the election? Not.

-- Posted by Ducky on Tue, Jan 29, 2008, at 12:52 PM

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Madeline DeJournett
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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