Category Archives: Digital TV Conversion

Digital TV Conversion Update

Talk about history!  Well I found this missing blog too….enjoy!

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As you all know by now, the new date for the switch to digital TV is June 12, 2009.

At that time, all old TV’s now using an antenna will lose their signal.

To try to help, the Tracy VirtualOffice is offering free hands-on sessions for people who may need help connecting their converter box.  Or understanding their options.

The picture at the top shows my two old TV’s on the same channel.  The old TV on the left is connected via analog, while the TV on the right is digital (see the converter on the bottom right).

Quite a difference, as long as the signal is strong enough to grab the digital signal.  ‘Cause if it ain’t strong enuf…..there will be no picture.

I am using the cheapo rabbit ears on the right here in the TracyVirtualOffice (I’m on the second floor).  At home, I had a really hard time getting good signal with these ears.

If you know anyone who has an old TV and use an antenna…please make sure they know their options.

Comcast Buys NBC

Interesting development this morning as Comcast purchased NBC Universal from General Electric.

The technology mergers continue.  In recent weeks we have seen the marriages of Tandberg and Cisco, Logitech and Lifesize, and now Comcast and NBC.  Very interesting times…

A NY Times article says:

“Almost immediately, the transaction reshapes the nation’s entertainment industry, giving a cable provider a huge portfolio of new content, even as it raises the sector’s anxieties about the future.”

Click here for the full NY Times article.


Digital TV Conversion Delayed

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According to this CNN article, it appears that the digital TV conversion has been delayed until June 12, 2009.

Check out my Blog entries on this topic, especially the installation of a converter box on a very old TV (with twin antenna inputs) and a newer TV with a coax antenna input.  

There are three ways you can go:

1. Get the converter box and hook  it up to your old TV (you may need to replace your existing antenna)

2. Subscribe to cable or statellite service.

3. Purchase a new TV that has a digital tuner already installed in it (you may need to replace your existing antenna).  

Concerning the possible antenna replacement, be aware that the digital signal may not reach as far as the old analog signal did.  Sooooo, if you are farther away from the TV Stations transmitting antenna, you may not have digital service.  If you signal is weak now, you may not recieve the digital signal.  

For example….in my installation using the old TV’s rabbit ears…I had some issues getting a signal. We are about 60 miles from Sacramento.  

In short:  If you have an antenna on your roof, and the signal is strong you “should” be ok. But there are no guarantees. 

If you buy a new TV your antenna may also need replacement.  If you get a converter box, again your antenna may need replacement, and you may be left with wire mess. 

My advice?  If you can, subscribe to Cable or Satellite.  I know this may be expensive, but, there are basic packages that are relatively inexpensive and they future proof your old TV.  At least for now.  

Digital TV Conversion Feb 2009

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Assuming the change does not get delayed (see this NY Times article), in about a month, the analog TV signal from TV stations will be turned off.  

If you have an old TV connected to an outside antenna or rabbit ears, you will need to make some changes to prepare for the change. 

I have written several artricles on this subject and have completed an installation of a converter box on a newer TV with a coax cable connection, and a VERY old TV with twin screw antenna connection.  

Read my Digital TV Conversion articles.    Don’t be left without a TV signal!

Digital TV Converter Installation

Prologue
It is Halloween and I have set up my candy delivery station in the driveway. The station includes pumpkins, our dog dressed up in his Halloween costume, several well placed boxes to be used as tables, blankets, several layers of clothing, and, most importantly, my 30 year old TV so I can watch TV while delivering candy to the dwindling number of monsters, super heroes, cowboys and cowgirls, fairies, and walking dead coming by our neighborhood.
This Halloween, I’ll be golden, but, in 2009, my (then 32 year old TV) will need help decoding the new digital TV signal.
But….like a good Boy Scout / Navy Veteran….I am prepared, now, to continue my TV watching at Halloween. My TV is ready for the switch to digital!

Digital TV Conversion
As described in previous blogs and in the Tracy Press. Feb 2009 will see a dramatic change in the way the TV signal will be delivered to your television. It will be digital. This means that older televisions that do not have a “digital tuner” and that use an external antenna or rabbit ears will no longer be able receive the signal. To keep as many people as possible connected, the Government has a program in place that provides a solution. That solution includes a specially designed digital converter box that, when placed between your antenna and TV will allow you keep watching your favorite shows after the switch (and, as it turns, out before the conversion as well…like now!).

Contents of the Box: Converter Box, 3 foot long coax cable, remote, batteries for remote, a quick start guide, a user manual.

Back connections of the converter box
Result Summary
So you do not have to suffer thru the details if you do not want to, here is what I found out.
  1. Stations in our area (Sacramento stations) are transmitting digital TV signals.
  2. I get marginal reception in Tracy, CA with my rabbit ears. This means I get digital TV reception, but, it is not strong and I need to move the antenna around as I change channels. If you have a rooftop antenna….YeOldeTechy will go out on a limb and say that that antenna should work fine in the Tracy area, since it is much better than the rabbit ears I am using.
  3. I get more stations than I have ever gotten on my 30 year old TV! Channels that transmit in digital send multiple channels so I have more options. For example, KCRA transmits 2 channels and I can also call up a TV Guide for each channel…how cool is that!
  4. When I get a strong enough signal (the signal strength meter has to be “orange” to get a picture), the picture is the best I have ever seen on my 30 year old TV!
  5. I had a problem with the “auto sync” with the DigitalStream converter box during installation. You may or may not see this problem.

Advice
OK, if you were to ask me my opinion on what you should do to prepare, here is my best advice.
  1. If you can afford cable or satellite TV service…..get it.
  2. If you can afford to buy a new TV with a digital tuner included….do it.
  3. If you really want to keep your rooftop antenna ….make sure it is in good shape and the received signal is strong
  4. If you use rabbit ears and live in Tracy, CA…..switch to a rooftop antenna. We are in a marginal zone being between 40 and 60 miles from the antennas in Sacramento.
The digital converter box is a solution, but it is not an ideal solution. It adds complexity that you may not want. You need deal with yet another remote control, it adds wires and a box to the top of your TV, there is a new set of menus to go through, you may experience installation issues, and you may have reception issues. If your antenna is marginal now……it won’t work for the digital signal. The digital signal is either very good or it is breaking up badly or gone, there is no tweaking this box to find the best picture.

Cost
In January 2008, I applied for the Gov’t issued $40 digital TV converter coupon that allowed me to get $40 off the converter box. Radio Shack on 11th Street took this coupon and charged me $20 (well…..$19.99) for the converter box. If I did not have the 30 year old TV, all I would have needed to spend was that $20. However, since my 30 year old has other obsolete technology associated with it my total cost, to make everything work, was $53.00.
Ouch. I can buy a new small, non-HDTV, with a digital tuner at Best Buy for less than $100.00.

The Basics and Installation
I have two TV’s that would need a converter. My trusty Halloween partner and a newer 1996 TV I got for free after I bought something at Fry’s 12 years ago.
My 30 year old TV has internal rabbit ears and twin wire antenna connections. See the picture to see what the twin wire looks like.

Antenna connection for “30”

Since the digital TV converter box is based on the newer coax connector technology (see picture below of my newer TV, “1996”), I had to do some conversions to make the connection work on my 30 year old TV.
Antenna connection for “1996”
Here what I needed to do to make “30” work.
  1. Disconnect the rabbit ears from the TV’s input.
  2. Insert one end of a male-to-male coax adapter into a matching transformer.
  3. Connect one end of a short coax cable to the exposed part of the adapter.
  4. Connect the other end of that coax cable to the Converter Box “Antenna In” connector.
  5. Connect one end of another short coax cable to the “TV Out” connector of the converter box.
  6. Connect another matching transformer to the free end of that short coax cable.
  7. Screw the matching transformer tips into the TV input terminals.

Increasing wire mess

Final look
After this was complete, I was rewarded with a “Welcome” screen from the digital converter box. You could, using the remote control, select the language (English or Espanol), then move to the next screen and run an “auto scan” to find the digital signals. I found ZERO stations.
Yikes!
I then spent the next 30 to 45 minutes testing every part of my installation…all was fine. I turned off the converter box and then got a “Weak Signal” error message. Arrrghhh. I finally was able to get into the “Menu” where, after a few more minutes figuring out how to navigate through it, I ran another “auto scan”. Finally, that one worked…Yippee…..and the digital TV converter box started to find TV channels. Whew. See the picture of Dirk Verdoorn from KCRA Channel 3 below.
Screen shot
Okay…..was this worth all the extra cost and effort??? Not really.
Would I pay someone to do this for me, if I were technologically challenged??? No, I would buy a new TV for $100 or so.
Here is the installation process for my newer 1996 TV with the coax antenna connector:
  1. Connect the included coax cable from the converter box “TV out” into the coax connector on newer TV.
  2. Connect my new $19.00 rabbit ears antenna (which works terribly by the way) into the converter boxes “Antenna In” connector.
Is this worth the effort? Yes…but now I have that extra remote control and a box sitting on top of the TV, and a badly operating pair of rabbit ears on top of all that.

Moral of the Story: If you have a really really old TV….time to buy a new one. If you have a newer TV, you can spend the $20 on the converter box and have a decent experience…maybe.

Summary
Transitions to new technologies are not easy. I know from experience as an engineer when we transitioned customers to IP videoconferencing and many years ago to ISDN. It took a year, or more, to get everything right. The digital TV conversion is a much larger scale…..so the issues are, and will be, daunting.
Is the switch to digital needed? Yes.
Will it be “painful” to some customers? Yes.
Is the digital TV converter box solution ideal? No.
Does the converter box solve the problem it was intended to solve? Yes.

Update Feb 1, 2009: KCRA TV in Sacramento, CA has an ad stating that their digital signal will not reach everyone getting the current analog signal. They are building a new antenna and when that is complete the new digital signal will reach more people.

Digital TV Conversion Coupon

I applied for my Digital TV conversion coupon in Jan 2008.

I received it yesterday, April 8, 2008.

The point here is: It would be good to read my other blogs on Digital TV conversion and order your coupon as soon as possible.

With the coupon comes a list of stores in the area you can purchase a Digital TV Converter Box. My list includes Wal-Marts, Radio Shacks and Best Buys in Tracy, Livermore and Manteca.

Shortly, I will get the converter box and write an installation procedure for it.

Stay tuned….

Best Buy Prepares for Digital TV Conversion

YeOldeTechy received an email today from Best Buy.

They are preparing for the conversion of television to digital in the following ways:

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-Beginning in early 2006, Best Buy began providing consumers with in-store and online information about the DTV broadcast transition including brochures and a dedicated page at BestBuy.com/DTV.

-In October 2007, Best Buy was the first CE retailer to exit the analog business, pulling all analog tuner products from store shelves.

-Best Buy has launched a dedicated hotline – 877-BBY-DTV9 – where consumers can call and speak with a trained home theater specialist to ask questions about the DTV transition and to learn about their options to get ready for the switch.

-Customers will also be able to redeem their DTV coupons and order converter boxes through this hotline if they are unable to get to a Best Buy store.

-Best Buy store employees across the U.S. have received training on the DTV broadcast transition and the options available to consumers. Store employees in positions that are most likely to assist consumers with DTV broadcast transition inquiries have participated in an additional series of in-depth training sessions since June 2007.

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Note: When I went to Best Buy about two months ago to inquire about their plans for the conversion, they helped me a lot (as did Radio Shack). I received an application form for the Converter that I could Fax in, and saw several really nice TV’s with digital tuners to, possibly, replace my 35 year old TV. Very cool.

Less than one year to go to digital…pass the word….if you or your friends use an antenna to receive your TV broadcasts, you will need to read my Blogs on this subject and take action.

Television Broadcasting Changing to Digital

 

For all the latest blog articles related to this subject click here.

Before you read…here is an NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) YouTube snippet explaining very nicely what this switch to digital means.

 

If you have an antenna on the roof, or use rabbit ears, and have an old television, February 17, 2009 may be the last day you can watch TV.

This is happening because TV broadcasting is changing from the original “analog” signal to a much more efficient “digital” signal. The change to digital has significant benefits including freeing up frequencies for use by fire and police, providing a clearer picture, allowing the broadcasters to send additional information over the same channel, and greatly improved sound. The disadvantage is that millions of people may lose service as their older TV’s will now become obsolete.

 

Note: If you currently subscribe to cable or satellite, or own a newer TV with a built in “digital tuner” (even if you are connected to a rooftop antenna or use rabbit ears), you do not need to worry, your service should continue.

 

If you are among the millions who use an antenna and have an old TV, do not despair, there are several options to keep your TV reception.

 

You can purchase a new TV with an included digital tuner and connect that to your antenna or rabbit ears. I saw some very nice TV’s at Best Buy with digital tuners. The cost was size dependent ranging from $99.00 to $299.00. The picture quality was very good on each of these sets.

 

You can keep your TV signal by subscribing to cable (Comcast in Tracy) or satellite (DirecTV or DISH) or other service. This, however, will require a monthly payment that varies depending on the type of service you subscribe to.

You can purchase a “converter box” (see picture at the top of this blog) that will be available soon at stores such as Best Buy, Circuit City, and Radio Shack. This box is installed between your TV and antenna and allows you to use your old TV after the transition to digital. The box will cost between $70.00 and $100.00 but, you can sign up for a coupon worth $40.00 off that price. Your cost will then be between $30.00 and $60.00.

 

Andrew Lehwalder, Home Theater Rep at Best Buy in Tracy, tells us that Best Buy should have the converter box available in June or July 2008 and that it is expected to cost $49.99 (preliminary information subject to change) with the coupon. Barry Kinmore, Manager of Radio Shack on Tracy Blvd, says his store expects the converter box in February or March of 2008 but does not yet have cost information. Radio Shack will also honor the coupon.

 

Here is what you can do to get the $40 coupon for the converter box (there is a max limit of 2 coupons per household).

 

  1. You can call 1-888-388-2009.
  2. You can go on-line at http://www.dtv2009.gov and click on the “Apply for a Coupon” link.Once you fill out the form you will get a reference number and the coupon to be sent you in the mail in late February or early March.You then have 90 days to use it.
  3. Best Buy has a copy of the coupon form to fill out.You can send that in by mail to: P.O. Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208-2000 or Fax it to: 1-877-388-4632.Radio Shack, on Tracy Blvd., will help you go on-line, in the store, to fill out the on-line coupon request.

Installation of the Converter Box

 

Best Buy will have help available via the Geek Squad or trained sales people. Radio Shack is not yet sure what assistance they would be offering but the sales people in the store will be trained and should be able to assist you. YeOldeTechy can also help and I am sure other technicians in Tracy will know how to complete the installation.

 

I hope to write a follow-up to this article after I get the converter box and install it. How the installation is completed, and what parts you may need, depends on your TV and antenna configuration. For example, my 35 year old TV with rabbit ears needs a “matching transformer” that will connect the TV’s two wire antenna connection to the coax cable connector on the converter box, and I will also need a short coax cable to complete the connection.

 

If you have more questions, I will post additional information on the YeOldeTechy Blog and Web Site. See the Tracy Press Blog section for a link. Or you can call me at 836-0472.


Caveat: This is preliminary information and may change as the year progresses.

 

FAQs

Is Digital TV the same as HDTV?

 

Not necessarily. High Definition TV is digital, but, digital TV may or may not be High Definition.

How can I find out if my TV has a digital tuner?

 

Not easily. If you have the owners manual, look in there. There may be a label on your TV telling you that is has a “digital tuner”. If you purchased the TV after 2004, chances are good it has a digital tuner. Before 2004, chances are it does not have a digital tuner, but, it might. My 35 year old TV definitely needs a converter box, as does my newer Sony Wega 35” TV. You may be able to find information on the web for your specific model. One sure way to find out, if you use rabbit ears or an antenna, is to see if you still have TV reception on Feb 18, 2009, but, that is not the wisest choice. J


Do I need to buy a new antenna?

 

No. But, be aware that TV reception in Tracy may be on the fringe. If that is the case, the digital signal will not work. If you have a nice clear picture now, it will probably work fine. If your picture is fuzzy now, you may need to upgrade your antenna if you decide to stay with an antenna.

 

Digital TV Conversion, Part 2

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For all articles related to this subject click here.  See my Blog detailing the installation of a converter on two TV’s (one really old) here.  

As I have previously written, on February 17, 2009, those of us who have older TV’s and use a roof top antenna or rabbit ears to receive our television signal will lose our signal.

There are several steps we can take including:

  1. Purchase a new TV with an internal “digital tuner”
  2. Subscribe to cable TV or satellite service,
  3. Or, when they are available, purchase a “converter box” to connect between the antenna and our old TV.

Choosing the last option is, in the long run, probably the least expensive option especially since the Government is giving out a $40 coupon that can be applied to the cost of the converter box (expected to cost about $70 when available after Feb 2008…next month).

Start now.

I have signed up for my coupon online here. It took only a few seconds to fill out the form and get my reference number. My coupon will be sent to me at the end of February 2008 and will be valid for 90 days after receipt. I will then take this coupon to either Best Buy or Radio Shack to get my converter box. After I get the box I will install it on my oldest TV which has been with me since I was in the Navy in the early 70’s.

I will provide installation information here as soon as I get hands-on experience with the installation. So keep checking this blog.

Note: To get a coupon by telephone you can call, toll free: 1-888-388-2009.

Digital TV Conversion

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See the latest updates on this topic here.

Update: You can apply for one or more $40 converter box coupon(s) at this web site. Or you can call: 1-888-388-2009. Do it soon. There is a limited amount of money for the coupons.

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I was watching KCRA Channel 3 this morning when they had a report on the impending switch over of Television broadcasting service. Although the report was interesting, I was still confused.

Here is the deal:

On February 17, 2009 the broadcast TV service will change to a DIGITAL format.

1. If you have an old TV and have an antenna on your roof, or use rabbit ears, you will need to purchase a converter box (or a newer TV with a digital “tuner”) to change the digital signal from the antenna to one that your TV can recognize.

2. If you have an old TV and use CABLE or SATELLITE service, you may not need to change anything. If you currently use a set-top box provided by the provider, you are golden. Also, cable companies are not required to change to digital and may keep analog signals flowing to your home. So if you are like me, with an old TV with the cable plugged directly into it, I can still watch many channels just fine. However, the cable companies can decide to change to digital, if they do, then your old TV will have to use a set-top box. Confused?

3. If you have a digital tuner in your TV now, or an HDTV, you will not need to change anything.

NOTE: HDTV is digital but digital is not necessarily HDTV.

Here is the main FCC web site that may help answer some of your questions, but, also YeOldeTechy will be taking a closer look at this in the coming months and will post more information here and on my web site. I’ll draw some pictures to make this clearer and post them on my web site….