Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Switch to DTV

Well, it's here kids. The biggest day in the history of history is upon us as, as usual, nobody has their shit together. What I am talking about is a vast and sweeping government mandated change in the single most important area of life that we have in this country. I am talking, of course, about our televisions. The plastic box of wires and tubes that allows us to watch beautiful people act in ways that would make them outcasts in regular society. It also allows us to expand our horizons, keep track of what is happening globally, and learn new and exciting things about areas as diverse as Antarctic deep sea ecosystems and how shovels are made. But we are too busy placing bets about who is going to get kicked off of Survivor or who is going to be the next to give an STD to Brett Michaels or watching Japanese tourists get electroshocked for giving a wrong answer on a game show to do any of that stuff.
But it's not going to matter. In case you haven't heard, and unless you live under a rock of maybe have glaucoma and can't read the scrolls at the top or bottom of your TV screen, the nation soon is going to cease to broadcast in the old, reliable, perfectly fine analog signal and commence broadcasting in a scary, unnecessary, expensive new digital signal. What does this mean to you? Well, to the typical American, absolutely nothing. Most of us are hooked up to a cable system or a gaudy satellite dish so we won't have to worry. But for Aunt Esther and that weird guy Rick who lives in the one-room apartment above your dentist's office, it means that they won't be able to pick up TV stations with their regular old rabbit ears anymore. They would have to get what is called a digital converter box for their Curtis Mathis. And that's fine. But what we have done is make what should really be a relatively simple thing into the most complicated thing in the history of man.
First of all, let's be honest. This is a blatant and sickening example of how the government is in bed with the electronics and television industries. And they aren't even being discreet about this. I know, I am getting political and whining and making broad assumptions based on nothing but heresay and conjecture. And that's true. The government may very well not be in league with the good people at Sony, Panasonic, Comcast, Dish Network, etc. But it does look awfully bad. The government suddenly decides that they want control of an antiquated technology that they haven't cared about at all for the last seventy years? And this decision causes tens of millions of Americans to go out and buy converter boxes at $40 per pop, or new TVs with digital tuners, or to hook up to cable or satellite systems. Gee, strange how that works, isn't it? You know, if the mayor of your town suddenly let a contract out to his best friend's construction company to reconstruct a road that really didn't need it, they lynch mob would still be chasing him out of town. Yet this digital conversion is still on. I think.
I don't know for sure because no one in the government or the industry seems to be able to agree on when this is supposed to happen. First of all, years ago Congress, that is the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives for all you out there who don't remember your civics lessons, decided that this was going to go down today. And since that time, especially for the last six months or so, commercials and advertisements and whatnot have hammered the date and the specifics into our minds. So we all knew this was coming. Remember that for later. Anyway, while the good members of Congress were kind enough to mandate us a date, they apparently broke for lunch and neglected to give us a time. And so it fell to the stations themselves. In just the area where I live, they are performing this switch on Feb 16 at 11:55 pm, Feb 17 at noon, Feb 17 at 6 am, and all sorts of times. And the crazy part is that they don't have to anymore. Wait, what?
Remember how we were talking just a minute ago about how we have had literally YEARS to get ready for this thing? Well, apparently some people just woke up and realized this was going down. Because converter boxes are pretty much impossible to find as they fly off the shelves. Apparently the problem is so bad that Congress has now pushed the deadline for the switch back to June 12th. How nice of them. Unfortunately they have forgotten to tell everyone. Because here is the deal: this is expensive for the TV stations to do. They have to pay money for new equipment and engineer things differently. And since most of them are ready for the switch today, and don't want to spend the money to put their analog equipment back online, most of the TV stations around the country are doing the switch now anyway. Follow? So you are still screwed if you aren't ready.
Wow. This is all very confusing. And all I want to do is watch Dick Van Dyke after The Price is Right is over. I don't think that's so much to ask. Well, you'd better get your shit straight or you will have nothing but static and maybe a Mexican TV station you can pull in if you live down by the border. Because the US is jumping onto the digital age. And of course we are doing it in an area where it doesn't need to be done. Genius! So get ready and learn about your new digital box. Oh, and if you've already made the switch, after today you are going to have to rescan all your business again. So look forward to that. Enjoy!

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