Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Analog TV

After the turn of the year, normal television will stop broadcasting. That means that people who don't have the money or the inclination to pay for cable or buy a new flat-screen digital TV are out of luck. For those people, coupons are being given away towards the purchase of a converter box that will enable their old analog TVs to receive signals. The ailing, broke-down US Government has provided $990 million to supply these coupons.

(I just bought mine and it's already proven to be a giant pain in the ass, bringing more clutter and crap into my life. Also, they don't tell you that you also need to buy a digital antenna if you want to actually get reception.)

The whole thing is called the Digital Transition and it's a Congressional mandate. They keep telling us, "It's better. You'll like it." It's like those HDTV pushers who are constantly insisting, "You can see the pimples on his face! You can see the dirt in her pores! You can see the hair in his nostrils!" I want to see all this because?

Bottom line: Television was once free and now it's not. Luxury, consumer spending, and waste is being mandated.

So what happens when the entire country is forced to dump their analog televisions? Take Back My TV calls it "the largest government mandated obsolescence initiative in U.S. history," one that could create a toxic "e-waste tsunami."

In the city, we will most likely see our few existing TV repair shops vanish completely, without analog TVs to tinker with.

my flickr

my flickr

colur's flickr

TV antennas, bringing to our urban rooftops all the spindly grace so lacking in satellite dishes and bulky cell-phone towers, will follow, vanishing into memory as piles of tangled metal, like broken umbrellas cast away in a fierce wind.

my flickr

And what will become of the great old tradition of taking a trashed TV and plugging it into a sidewalk lamp post? Bob Arihood captures such a moment and writes, "Folks, especially on hot summer nights watched TV by street light. Often they had a beer or two with their tube-time. They even gathered on the sidewalk in front of the tube while casually playing cards or dominoes... This was when we still had a neighborhood and a sense of community."

In the words of Joan Didion: Goodbye to all that.


NYCDreamin said...

How long will it be before they do this to broadcast radio as well?

How long until we are FORCED to "subscribe" to our currently free radio waves? When this occurs (and it will) the general populace will forced to "Subscribe" or you will have NO WAY of receiving ANY information (Local news and events, weather alerts, news on the latest "Terror Threat Assesments", etc.)

I'm sure this will be touted as "better" with "more choices and thousands of stations" but for those who wish to keep life simple (they ARE out there)this will mean the end of "free" information.

Unless you go to the local library and read the newspaper there. OH! Wait...newspapers will be gone soon enough also and state governments are looking for budget cuts, meaning libraries, those money-sucking repositories of free knowledge, will probably scale back their hours or just close altogether.


Anonymous said...

given the economy, the price of new digital tv's and the current landscape of really really crappy tv, like most things american, people will wait till the last minute to get their converter boxes or a new tv. (the government was betting on the x-mas holiday spend-a-thon to bring on the change)

frankly, with so many people out of work, no one is going to go and plunk down a huge chunk of dough to for garbage.

I see a minor resurgence in radio listening, that is until the economy picks up...that is of course if it ever does.

we are living in interesting times.

Jeremiah Moss said...

this digital converter will bring several additional wires into your life, one requiring yet another electrical outlet (my apt suffers from an outlet deficiency), and one more remote control.

it's also another one of those electronic devices that is perpetually "on," sucking electricity day and night.

and, without cable, my reception is WORSE than it was with rabbit ears.

this conversion is an abomination.

Jeremiah Moss said...

one more thing: don't expect the wires that come with the converter to fit the fixtures on your old TV.

it's utterly useless.

Bob Arihood said...

But ...if you have a new digital TV you can still plug it into a street light base and beer-in-hand watch the Yankees with your friends out on the sidewalk on hot summer nights .

Paul said...

While I agree the digital transition is a huge debacle which has never been handled correctly (and is probably entirely unnecessary), I find your analysis of the consumer side of things lacking.

Yes, converter boxes suck, and so do the antennas (especially since they're not considered in the "coupon" program - another failure).

But this is not the end of free television (or free radio as NYCDreamin mentioned). It's a change (one that I, myself, would question the necessity of), but that's all. A step sideways at the worst, but not backwards. It's not as if one will need to subscribe to TV, or radio for that matter (digital HD radio is free, and will remain that way).

The transition itself (the period during which there will be people who need to invest in new hardware to receive OTA TV) is going to be terrible, and cost money. But really I see this as no different than when TV first began in the last century. There was a cost of entry then, just as there will be now. Arguably, the cost will be considerably lower now (a current analog TV can be converted for under $100 - including the antenna- far less than a new set costs, either now or in the past). Television is not a right, I'm sorry to say.

Saying "Television was once free and now it's not" is just wrong. It's not like OTA digital broadcasts will cost anything...at least not anything more than the hardware one needs to buy to see TV. Just like it always has been. I'm not arguing against the asinine nature of FORCING this switch to happen. I feel bad for those who will be left out in the cold. But to say it was once free is just wrong. There's always been a cost of entry.

TV Repair shops are not in any more or less danger than they have been. All that's changing in February with new sets and converter boxes is the tuning mechanism...from analog to digital. The tuner has never been the part of a TV prone to failure, rather the Cathode Ray tube and it's delicate nature. That's a TV Repair shop's bread and butter, and it's been at risk for years anyway with the popularity of flat screens increasing. If they want to survive (and I would like to see that very much...if only for their great store fronts), they need to adapt to the new screen types, not the new tuning technology.

You're right, we do risk an "e-waste tsunami" if only because of how uninformed the public is on the issue. Far too many people are throwing away perfectly good TVs thinking they'll no longer work. It's a shame.

When it comes down to it, a CRT TV with a built-in ATSC digital tuner and antenna will work just like an analog set has for years...without extra connections or complications.

The transition sucks. The converter boxes suck. The price sucks. I agree on all those fronts. But the basic system and process by which the American public receives over-the-air TV broadcasts will remain virtually unchanged. In the long run (once we get past this ludicrous transition period) TV will still be the same. Albeit with irritating digital skips instead of snow.

Marlie said...

You need a s-video connection input on the tv or an rca input on the tv

Anonymous said...

This is sad and ridiculous. "Boohoo, I have to update my 1970s lifestyle!" Seriously, welcome to the 21st century you crybabies. Enjoy it.

Mark said...

the new digital TV's are not strong enough to pick up the digital service without a "smart" antenna anyway. either way, you're screwed.

Anonymous said...

If you don't want to spend money on a HDTV antenna, you can make your own:


Silence said...

Um dude

Roof Top Antennas are even more necessary for digital signals.

Due to the cliff effect (with analog you would get a fuzzy station digital it is all or nothing)
Most people will find rabbit ears wont work of them, hence the best solution for the strongest signal will be the roof top antenna.

on and also
New York City is over 400 years old
Change is the definition of the city, hence this sentimental blog is an insult to the very essence of New York City.

Jeremiah Moss said...

that homemade antenna looks amazing. my HD antenna stinks--all my digital channels skip and stutter constantly. it's so much worse than watching regular bad reception. time to hit the hardware store. thanks.

chris flash said...

Interesting and well-informed dialog here -- I love it!!

I for one, do NOT plan to participate in the gov't corporate media-mandated switch to digital.
Considering the mindless crap (the worst programming ever, coupled with endless commercials geared toward consumptive morons) they bombard us with, they should be paying US to watch!!

So, if we don't pay them for either cable, satellite, or conversion equipment and related hardware, or better yet for them, BUY a brand new tv made by slave laborers overseas, we don't get to watch their unfunny sitcoms, their propagandizing "news" broadcasts, or their commercials attemptng to sell us garbage that we don't need -- who will THAT inconvenience? Not ME!!

After February 17, I will keep my television that is connected to a VCR and DVD player and continue to enjoy watching my thousands of video tapes and DVDs of movies, documentaries and televeision shows from a time when programming was intelligent, funny and thought-provoking.

By the way, is anyone wondering WHY they're so desperate to get us to go along with their program? Think about it: is it for our good or for THEIRS??

Anonymous said...

The end of free information? Are you kidding? Hello and welcome to the internet!

Bob said...

Change is the essence of this city, Silence. But this city used to change as a matter of necessity and due course, not this contrived, shoved down our throats nonsense. The digital transition is a microcosm of what's happening to this city - it's a change that's unnecessary, frivolous, and trivial - an entirely cosmetic overhaul that embraces form over function. And just like the hypergentrification that's plagued this city for the last decade, the worst part is that the digital transition does more than just aesthetic damage, it also has a financial toll. It unnecessarily burdens working New Yorkers with yet another considerable expense and forces them to shell out money for something they could previously get for free. This is the most blatant, bald-faced example of the government colluding with big business to twist peoples' arms into buying their products. I personally have cable already so I won't be victimized by this but I'm highly skeptical of the assertion that my picture is going to be any better come February 17th anyways. We'll see, I suppose.

And if you tried to plug your TV into a lamppost these days in Bloomberg's super-sanitized, super-chic New York you'd get arrested for tampering with it. And forget about those cold beers unless you want an open container summons. Ah, aren't you glad New York has changed "for the better"?

Bob Arihood said...

the police force is shrinking and they won't be able to worry about the likes of those watching digital TV on the street . Real criminals will be out on the street working hard in the new financially more difficult future to just pay the rent and put a potato or two on the table every day . these folks will keep an over whelmed and outnumbered police force busy .Build that digital antenna ,plug-in, hide your beers and watch digital TV by street light .

JackS said...

In July 2006 I became one of those "weirdos" that doesn't own a TV. I'ma tech and a programmer, but going through all of the HDTV stuff is nothing short of bullshit. So I sat down and figured out that outside of Law & Order and NY1, I really don't watch TV that much. Looking past that I actually didn't watch as much TV as I thought as a kid either.

So I carted off my old analog TV to the Salvation Army and have been tons happier. And thanks to online streaming video I don't feel out of the loop.

Also to the commenter who was talking about change being part of NYC, c'mon. London has been around longer than NYC. Ditto with Paris. But both f those cities preserve their history. NYC is just selling its soul for minor trends. THAT'S the issue.

Anonymous said...

as i understand it the tranisition from analog to digital tv is being done to free up broadcast signals or something like that for police and firefighters.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with you about the converter box. We've already put one in an old RV with an old antennae and it worked perfectly. The tv and antennae date back to early 90s. Now, how many channels we'll eventually get, that's still to be determined. But no special digital antennae is needed. The only thing is that your tv must be "new" enough to accept coaxial. Thus there's a nice old b/w one in a spare room that will be going to the recyclers. Would I be happier without tv going digital? You bet, but it's happening and there's no sense in making people think it's going to be worse than it already is.

joseph said...

The answer is simple. Read A Book and get over it.

Swati Hingorani said...

you write really well. we just went through the same problem in my country – India, where we now have to pay for all our channels. we had an even more ridiculous concept of 'baskets' introduced where you paid for a certain set of channels eg: 2 entertainment, 1 news etc. judging by the fact that our news channels are the only things keeping our inane government in check it was a big blow to the free media because now people dont have the benefit of diverse opinions as its too expensive!

prodigilson said...

While I don't totally disagree with you, I have to mention that converter boxes allow you to use your existing TV for over-the-air television. I'm currently using two boxes, and it works beautifully--the picture is clearer than analog ever was, and I receive more content, all for free. Granted, it does take another piece of electronic equipment--which is, in and of itself, wasteful and expensive--but it doesn't mean we must trash all of our televisions.

Eileen said...

Chris Flash made me laugh with his sage comments.

I think this is a conspiracy by the Feds, FCC and the Dolans/Time Warner Cable to scare people into having to get cable.

I think folks resist anything that is "government mandated", as the government has done such a fabulous job of late.

Next up? Perhaps bailouts for Time Warner if not enough people are scared into subscribing to their service.

I pity the elderly, living on a fixed income in NYC, perfectly happy with that tv they bought 30 years ago. Things like this are terribly confusing to the mainstream, let alone some 80 year old who doesn't have the internet to get their coupon. Once having secured that coupon, they are now forced to find a place to redeem it and then pay the difference.

Does anyone ever think these things out?

Anonymous said...

I have cable and an older model tv--I will go with the flow--nuttin different if you have cable--
perhaps a digital one is in my future--when prices decline more-

Anonymous said...

I'm very unhappy with digital tv because ever I live 30 miles from Philadelphia and can't get a single channel with my digital converter and antenna. With analog I used to get around ten channels. I don't watch tv anymore because I literally can't. ANALOG WAS BETTER BECAUSE IT WORKED.

ShatteredMonocle said...

Also this:

Jeremiah Moss said...

of course! what an improvement over analog.