America’s Digital Television Transition
Today’s post comes from a very special guest. Some whisper he is the only person ever to outsmart Chuck Norris – and live. Whatever the truth, his name is Zach and this is his story.
I’m not sure if the rest of the world knows, but for the past decade the American government has been trying to convert all televisions and stations to run only in digital. We’ve been bombarded with the ever-approaching deadline (Feb. 17th) when this change will be final and no stations will broadcast in analog ever again. On a personal level, I’m pretty sick of hearing about it.
If you haven’t heard of this bullshit, I will briefly summarize. Everything’s going to digital. If you have cable or satellite, you’re fine. If you bought your TV in the last two years, you’re fine. Really this only affects you if you watch the free signals you get through an antenna.
So here we are about ten days from this cataclysmic reshuffling of our World Order. And the government has now decided to delay this magical date until sometime this summer, because they fear that some people, somewhere are not prepared. Okay, I’m imagining the 14% of Americans who don’t have cable or satellite (according to the FCC’s numbers in 2006). Now I’m imagining the 2% of those who haven’t watched TV in the last year (guesstimate). Hmm, what will they do? I’m imagining them calling the television manufacturer, the TV station, or going to Best Buy or RadioShack and asking what the deal is, and within five minutes being explained the whole situation.
So I was wondering – why is the government doing this? I understand ‘advancement of the society’, but honestly the American government doesn’t give a shit about that. Well, it was finally explained to the American public in an interview with Amy Schatz.
She explained that analog signals take up more space (bandwidth) of the frequency range than digital signals. The hopes are that these frequency ranges that are abandoned by television can then be used for police and emergency services communications, or for cell phones. Also, and what I find way more likely – the government plans to auction off these unused bands to the highest bidder.
Confused by all this frequency bands and signals and how the size of the signal could matter when you can’t see any of it? Frequency refers to the pattern made by a signal as it occurs on an oscilloscope. Signals tend to bob up and down in energy, giving them a wavy pattern, and the frequency is how many waves pass in a certain amount of time.
Signals like television, radio, cell phones, satellites, garage door openers, wi-fi networks, all of these work on different frequencies that are divided into bands for specific use so that you don’t inadvertently open your garage with your BlackBerry. Or, as I learned in my career as a radarman in the U.S. Navy, if you don’t shut down certain bands of the defense radar when you get too close to land, you can knock out a whole island’s ability to receive the World Cup Soccer game, and they can get mighty pissed. So by getting rid of these analog TV signals, which take up a large amount of the frequency ‘real estate’, we’re ‘clearing the land’ for new signals.
Well, I still don’t see why this has to be a pressing issue on the Senate floor, but since I reprogrammed my TV just this month and found that I now have three PBSs and four other channels I didn’t have, I’m growing to like it. The thing that drives me crazy though is when the signals get interference. In analog the picture gets snowy but the sound is still there so you don’t really miss what is going on. But in digital, if the signal messes up it skips like a DVD – sound included. It makes me want to burn this muthaf$cka to the ground.