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What Digital TV Means

You’ve probably heard about the switchover from an analog to digital.

What Digital TV Means

By Katie Hoyt

Good-bye bunny ears, hello digital tuners. Whether you watch hours of TV a week, or seldom tune in for one favorite show, it is certain you’ve probably heard about the switchover of broadcast TV from an analog signal to a digital signal, set to happen in 2009. So what does this mean for the future of your TV viewing?

Many people fear that this forecasts a future where the only way to view TV is through the purchase of a new HDTV, or of cable or satellite through a network provider. No need to fear. Your TV signal is not going to be revoked if you have chosen not to make that technological move into the 21st century. Here are the details of what digital broadcast means for you as compiled by Hiawatha Bray of The Boston Globe:

• First and foremost, consumers who have cable and satellite are already set to receive digital signals through the boxes that their service providers have already installed. So, if you currently have cable or satellite and plan to continue your service in 2009, there is no need to worry.

• For those of you who still receive analog signals (i.e. antenna), you also don’t need to worry. When the digital switchover is made, cable companies are going to offer adaptor boxes that downconverts the digital signal into an analog signal for older TVs. These devices sell for about $50 or more, but the government is going to offer $40 coupons to customers in need of the adaptor boxes, as reported by David Colker of the Los Angeles Times. So you should be able to get an adaptor box for roughly $10.

• If you have an HDTV set, you also most likely have a high definition digital signal, but even if you don’t, all HDTV’s are equipped with a digital tuner.

So it is safe to say that digital delivery does not mean you have to invest in an HDTV or cable/satellite provider. The term “digital TV broadcast” refers to sending out the television signal in a stream of ones and zeroes (similar to binary code), while an analog signal is delivered through radio waves.

Why a switchover to digital? The analog signals transmitting through the airwaves take up a substantially larger amount of space when compared to digital signals. The space freed up by digital delivery will hopefully open up the airwaves for more channels as well as other communications traffic.