Friday, June 12, 2009

The Switch to DTV 2

     A pretty significant technological change is occurring today and it is happening with basically no fanfare, which is the exact opposite of how it went down when we made the first attempt, or had the soft opening in February as you retail types would say. I am talking, of course, about the big switch from an analog to a digital television signal, or DTV.
     The idea here is that instead of all sorts of waves bouncing around through the air there are going to be billions of tiny 0s and 1s that will allow you to watch ALF in the highest definition with the greatest clarity possible. "Great. Fantastic. I love watching ALF, and I desperately want to see every hair on his chinny chin chin. But what does that mean to me?" Well, what that means is that the giant old Zenith with the remote control that is attached with a cord that you inherited from your Great Aunt Harriet isn't going to do the trick for you anymore. Even if you hook it up to your old rabbit ears. You've got to have cable or satellite or a new TV with a digital tuner and a special UHF antenna, etc. But that's not the big deal. That's not what has me all riled up right now. What riles me up right now is how this whole deal, this whole switcheroo, went down.
     Here is the deal. We got this all backward. Years ago, well at least longer than one year ago, some suits in Washington D.C, who all have cable or satellite I BET, decided that the FCC needed the analog channels for broadcasting porn or Senate Jucidial Committee Confirmation hearings or maybe pictures of the FBI Ten Most Wanted or whatever they are going to do with it. So they thought that it would be a good idea for everyone in America who wants to watch The Price is Right in the morning to have to buy a converter box so they could still wonder where Bob was and who was this fat guy who was in his place instead?
     This was a terrible idea. And it showed just how little the folks in the Federal bureaucracy knew or cared about their constituency, because first of all most people can't figure out exactly how the stuff they already have hooked up works, let alone can figure out how to add another box. We need to be honest here, Company, the lions share of people who are still pulling in broadcast stations with their rooftop antenna were born before TV even came out, and all they really care about it watching Wheel of Fortune after the local news and seeing Regis and Kelly in the morning. Somewhere on a cart below their television sits an old VCR with the clock still blinking twelve o'clock and every time they have to move things around or something breaks they have to call their 8-year-old grandson Kevin. In reality, that is the bulk of the people who are still not hooked up to cable or satellite systems.
     Oh, and here's another thing. This switch to DTV actually made it HARDER to get a good picture. Oh yeah. Sure, once you could actually bother to get a digital signal turned it was great, but getting that to happen? Good luck. To pull in the digital signal you needed a UHF antenna, which no one had, and which once you had it wasn't as good at pulling in stations. So unless you lived rather close to where the signal originated from you were tough out of luck, meaning that it pretty much screwed everyone who lived in a far-flung rural area, of which there are a lot in this country in case you haven't noticed.
     It actually screwed them doubly, believe it or not, because they generally don't have cable television available to them, so they more than likely had to sign up for satellite, which deprives them of all things local, like local weather, local news, and local emergency warnings like for tornadoes or nuclear attack. So I guess that the people in the cities will still be okay, and that's all that matters, right? Because that is where there the money is, that is where the campaign donors are, and that's where the companies that make the electronics equipment are headquartered. Okay, I get it now.
      So anyway, my big problem with this whole deal is that we knew for years, FOR YEARS!, that this was coming. And sometime during the summer and fall the people who keep track of the calendar, so basically every mom in the country, started telling people that we'd better get ready. Quietly at first they just sort of mentioned it in passing, maybe at the dinner table while we were just getting up after dessert, or while we were riding in the car towards Aunt Ginny's for birthday dinner. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around it was being talked about openly by people in suits, and by New Years it was being screamed at us from the mountaintop by everyone every minute of the day. So not a single person, unless they were the Unibomber or something, can really seriously say they didn't hear something about it. So we, as a nation had no excuse whatsoever to not be ready when February 19, 2009 rolled around. None. We had been hearing about it for years. All the television stations were ready. So the fact that there was this deafening public outcry was unacceptable.
     But there was a din. There was this incredible outcry from the general public. The government gave everyone a free converter box so that we could watch TV (if you could get your hands on one) and still no one was ready. So...the powers that be, the same suits that really did not care, let us have until today. That was nice of them. However, most of the TV stations around the country had already switched their equipment, so it was a moot point anyway. And that's why today came around, when the final day, when the final deadline came around, we haven't heard a peep. Haven't heard a word. And so it goes. We are digital now, we are firmly ensconsed in the digital age. So get yourself straight and enjoy your television.

1 comment:

bowler said...

it's nice to be using cable in the first place - if this is an option - definitely simplifies things