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.
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.
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.