Tuesday, February 24, 2009, posted by Q6 at 5:28 AM
Mine isn't going to be the most popular opinion regarding the nationwide transition from analog to digital TV, but it's going to be the most practical and hassle free:

Anyone who wants to watch TV will need either cable or satellite. Period.

This is what happened back in the day with 8-track tapes. It happened to Beta video. Leaded gasoline. Eventually, it'll happen with gasoline-powered cars and snail mail. Something better comes along, and it phases something else out. Completely. (Better for who? The majority, I suppose. Supply and demand are symbiotic, but demand tends to have the upper hand.)

Nothing makes this point better, I assure you, than this whole analog-to-digital thing. They'd been planning for this to happen on February 17 for almost a decade. A decade. Hundreds of thousands of people couldn't get converter box coupons; then again, those weren't even offered until the tail end of this ten-year plan. I guess the higher-ups thought more people would be on the cable/satellite TV bandwagon by now. (The big digital switch has been pushed back to June. More on that in a minute.)

And it's not like these converter boxes that everyone is clamoring for are doing very well, anyway. Many TV stations shut off their analog towers as planned last week, and those with converter boxes couldn't get a decent signal--in most cases it was either pixellated or it didn't come in at all--which isn't a surprise. Why? The long answer includes a lot of detailed explanations of signal wavelengths, terrains, and limited ranges (the same answer tells you why you lose AM radio when you go into a tunnel). The short answer is this: the digital signal is information heavy, which is why it has to be sent via digital cable or satellite; if it could be sent through the air, they'd be doing it already. It can't be done, not even with $40 off the price of a converter box. It's the ultimate exercise in futility.

What does the delay to June 2009 tell us? It tells us one of three things. Maybe it means that someone came up with this converter-with-a-coupon idea WAAAAY too close to the deadline (if you buy the idea that the converter boxes will save us--which I don't--then the postponement makes sense); or it tells us that the technology isn't ready for the conversion yet, that they can't provide the aerial signal on their own timeline (and it's the government and the broadcasting industry we're talking about here, so who's surprised?); or it could tell us that we are all hell-bent on prolonging the inevitable.

Yes, we're addicted. In this, the "Information Age," we are addicted to the mediums which provide us with that information. And those who control the feed--our "dealers"--are only going to provide it through cable and satellite. Government approved, quality merchandise. When June comes, there will still be those who aren't ready to make the switch. There will ALWAYS be those who won't be ready. When push finally comes to shove, cable providers will win; they'll have the extra burden of making sure they can deliver their product to everyone, but they'll win. (Sidebar: Up until now, cable tv hasn't been considered a "utility" proper, but it's teetered on the edge; in this, the 21st Century, and most certainly after analog goes dark for good, cable tv will be considered a utility just like water and electricity. It will be a utility in both the colloquial and literal senses.)

If you're still relying on broadcast channels (and you're reading this on the Internet so, let's face it, you're not), you need to do one of two things: either contact your local satellite of cable provider and get hooked up, or detox from TV altogether. And let's face it: you're not going to go without the feed.

Of course, there's a larger irony here that everyone's ignoring: any forward-thinking media executive will tell you that the Internet's going to take over our media needs in the years to come. Right now, broadcast customers are on the low end of the spectrum; twenty years from now, cable subscribers will be on the low end of the spectrum and everyone else will be getting their shows on the web. Consider that networks are trying to lower costs by replacing expensive dramas with more talk shows (see "Jay Leno"), then take a quick look at Hulu.com. The Internet has all but killed the CD for music, it's quickly killing newspapers, and it's trying to put your local library on the Kindle.

My grandchildren won't even know what a television set is.

At 11:25 PM, Blogger Mark

Analog television stopped in Sweden last year, it's only digital now. It works fine sent through the air.

My experience, though, is that digital TV is LOWER quality to watch than analog. There's lag, interference, artifacts...

I predicted digital TV would be worse than analog - in exactly the same way GSM telephones are worse than old fashioned analog phones, or CDs are worse than LPs.