TechPublishing Now MS Certified

TechPublishing Now MS Certified
Professor Robert McMillen, MBA Microsoft Certified Trainer and Solutions Expert

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Digital TV- It’s Going to Happen. Your Questions Answered Here

Digital TV- It’s Going to Happen. Your Questions Answered Here

By Robert McMillen, Koin’s Tech guru
            The most questions I’ve received this year have been about the digital TV switchover. I have done countless interviews on the subject, and there has been a last minute push to move the date. As of now, the House of Representatives has blocked the attempt to move the date into June. The switchover is on!
            It is possible that the bill could be resubmitted, but only a herculean effort could make that possible as we are just a couple of weeks away from the big day. You can even see the countdown on the home page of the Koin website as a reminder of what little time there is left for the millions of people who aren’t yet ready for the switch (Its very ominous looking). Many of the questions I received are the same ones over and over, asked in slightly different ways, so I will attempt to answer them all in this one column.
Question: Who is affected by the cutover?
Answer: Everyone who uses an antenna to get television signals. If you have cable or satellite you aren’t affected. There will be some changes in the future for cable since they use an analog spectrum internally. They want to eventually use this to expand their internet and other services, but for now there will be no change. Satellite TV is 100% digital already, so that will not be affected now or in the future. 6.5 million people said to be affected by this cutover are still not ready for it. They don’t have a convertor box or a digital antenna. I don’t think there’ll be rioting in the streets, but some congressman will get a nasty email or a box of Valentine’s day candy that has all the ones with the really unsavory centers (Life is like a box of chocolates).
Questions: What do I need to make my TV work properly after the cutover?
Answer: You’ll need a digital convertor box if your TV is not digital ready. You’ll also need a digital antenna. The convertor box usually runs from $50-$60. If your TV is already digital, then you don’t need it. The easiest way to find out if it’s digital would be to look for your model of TV online. Go to the manufacturer’s website and type in the model number. You can also choose the menu option on your wireless remote. If it’s digital, you’ll see an option for it. If the TV is less than a year old then it’s definitely “digital ready”. Once you get that information, you’ll need a digital antenna. You can buy them from the same place as your convertor box, but they are very ugly little devices. Some are sharp enough to cut bread and have prongs going every direction.
Question: Which direction do I point my digital antenna?
Answer: Digital signals are a bit funny, and not in the way that makes you laugh about what you serve a dinosaur in a bar (anything he wants). Digital either works or it doesn’t. Analog signals are clear when they’re strong, but even when they’re not you can still see something. Digital signals are all or nothing, for the most part. You’re either going to get a really great picture or a black screen. You’ll also occasionally see a screen that’s made up of broken squares which is not pleasant. So which direction do you point your antenna? It depends on where you live and what hills are in the way. Most antennas will come with the ability to check signal strength as you move the antenna in different directions. There are both internal and external antennas. The bigger external models cost a lot more but will get a much better signal than the internal ones. Also the higher up your antenna goes the more likely you’ll get a good picture (and really annoyed neighbors). If you’re lucky enough to get a good signal, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how great the picture looks. If you don’t, you will be extremely frustrated. To see which direction you should point your antenna to see Koin TV stations, click on this link: .
Question: What does it mean when we say the government is retiring the analog spectrum?
Answer: The FCC has already sold the wireless signals that you currently get TV on with an antenna. Those signals will be used by wireless companies to make some amazing new products that will be coming in the next few years. There are a limited amount of airwaves that can carry a signal, and TV takes up the best ones that can travel through walls. When the TV analog spectrum can no longer be used for sending TV signals, it will be used by these new companies.
Question: How do I get a coupon for a free convertor box?
Answer: You used to be able to go to, but the money earmarked for the coupons ran out a while ago. You can be put on a waiting list to see if some people who didn’t use their coupon within 90 days of expiration will free one up for you, but the waiting list is longer than the unemployment line. The government is trying to allow more money to be available for the coupons, but unless the date gets moved, there wouldn’t be any time for you to receive them.
Question: Does Koin run any tests to show whether or not my TV will still work?
Answer: Yes, and the schedule should be posted soon on the link provided above. Again, if you have cable or satellite you don’t need to worry or do anything to be compliant. Try to be a good sport and not mock the people who aren’t ready for it yet, OK?
Question: What’s the difference between digital and high definition?
Answer: This causes the most confusion to television watchers. Digital TV sends a signal in 1’s and 0’s instead of in a wave. Because of this it can carry more data over the same spectrum. You’ll see that you now have a lot more channels in digital than you did with analog. You may even be able to avoid cable and satellite altogether if you get a good digital signal. High definition uses more lines per inch than regular TV does. When you see more lines you see more detail. The bottom line is that digital TV is a way of sending you a picture, but HD is a way of viewing it with more detail. Some TVs are HD capable while others are not, whereas all new TVs are capable of receiving a digital signal from your TV station. Some antennas are digital and some are both digital and high definition. If you have an HDTV, then you should get one that does both.
Question: Will the cutover date be delayed?
Answer: As of right now the answer is no. The cutover will happen on February 17th unless a new bill is proposed and passed. Currently your TV station is broadcasting in both digital and analog. After that fateful day, they will only broadcast in digital. According to the acting FCC chairman Michael Copps, “At this point, we will not have -- we cannot have -- a seamless DTV transition.” In other words it will be ugly for those poor people who don’t have cable or satellite and rely on TV to receive news from the world. We have a TV we’ve done digital testing on and it’s hit or miss with an internal antenna. I’ve been hearing that from most people who are already using digital as well. The external antennas are pretty reliable, especially if installed by a pro, but I believe the cable and satellite folks will be getting a lot of new business on February 18th. Copps is also rightly worried about people climbing on their rooftops in winter to place an external digital antenna on their roof. He says June would be a better time for that and he’s right, but there is a lot of money that has been spent to make this happen in February. And we all know how important money is in these trying times. I suggest you help your family and your neighbors get ready in the next few weeks so there will be as little pain as possible during this historic change.
For more great tips, check back here and listen to me on the All Tech Radio show at 9:00 Sunday mornings on AM 1360 KUIK, or listen online at

If you would like your technical question answered here, just email Even if it doesn’t get answered in the column, I will always answer by email.

Published Monday, February 02, 2009 2:38 PM by Katatkoin