The Benefits and Pitfalls of Switching to Digital Broadcasting

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Digital TV Broadcasting

By now you’ve probably heard that TV broadcasting will switch over to digital (DTV) on February 17, 2009. You’ve probably also heard Cassandra-like warnings about everything you’ll need to be prepared for this event. The great likelihood, however, is that you won’t need anything, and that if you do, the effort and cost on your part will be minimal. With the help of a few Web resources, you can find out what, if anything, you need to be prepared.

The Switch from Analog to Digital TV

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What You Will Need: Digital Televisions and Signal Converters

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The Benefits and Pitfalls of Switching to Digital Broadcasting

Any new technology—especially one that’s mandated—has its cheerleaders and detractors. More often than not, the truth lies somewhere in between. In this section we’ll explore both sides of the argument.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • In general, digital TV provides a much clearer picture quality than analog TV, especially when dealing with long distances from transmitter to receiver. Since digital technologies are, in essence, either ‘on’ or ‘off’ type signals, weak pictures and sound will be a thing of the past—in other words, it works or it doesn’t. Proponents claim digital TV can offer DVD-quality pictures with CD-quality sound. Of course, such quality will be dependent on the source material—you're not going to get DVD-quality images from a bad print of a 1930s movie.
  • Broadcast stations will also be able to “multicast.” That means that each local channel will be capable of sending five to six separate programs at the same time, providing you with more over-the-air programming venues. For example, station WKWK may offer one program on channel 3, another on channel 3.2 and so on.
  • DTV allows for interactive services ranging from viewer polls to enhanced captioning or Second Audio Program (SAP). Broadcast on-demand services (such as those already available or new subscription services) are likely to appear, though they may have a limited market. Of course there will be new ways to spend money on-air.
  • DTV is “backward compatible” with other video technologies that may work with your video system, including VCRs, Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) such as TiVo, camcorders or gaming consoles. These will continue to work and interact as they did before.

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The Rationale Behind Digital Broadcasting

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The History, Science and Politics of Digital TV

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