In case you’ve been out sailing around the world without a radio or hiking the Appalachian Trail all summer and haven’t heard about the big upcoming national switch to digital television, you may not be aware that many of the electronics in your house may not work after February 17, 2009.
On the day of the switchover, TV stations will no longer transmit their analog signal that many old TV tuners use to receive programming. To make it possible to use devices that only work off the old analog signals, our government is providing a $40 coupon to help defray the cost of a DTV converter box which you can buy now for around $59.
Here’s a rundown of some devices that won’t work at all or without a converter box.
1. Portable TVs
If you own one of those battery powered, portable TVs that you use when the power goes out, on your boat, or at the ball game and it is more than a few years old, there is an almost 100% chance it has an analog tuner and won’t work. These TVs will still work if you hook them up to a cable TV connection but that sort of defeats the purpose of these. Word is that Winegard (www.wingard.com) will offer a battery powered converter but the whole system won't be as portable as it once was.
2. Old TVs That Are Hooked Up to Antennas
That TV at grandma’s with the set of rabbit ears antenna on top will probably not work after February 17th. The best bet is to get the grandkids together and buy her a new 19” LCD TV with a digital tuner. You can get a decent set for around $300. It will be easier on her eyes and better for the environment too.
*note these old analog sets will most likely work with a TV converter box, which is affordable and easy to install
3. Those Old Rabbit Ears Antennas
The new digital signals will be transmitted over the air on both the VHF and UHF bands. Rabbit ears which are tuned for VHF may work but you may need to add a UHF antenna too. You can buy antennas which are designed to receive digital signals for around $30.
*note A reader pointed out that if you are close enough to the transmitter (i.e. an urban area) your old rabbit ears antenna might be perfectly adequate to receive the digital signals coming in over VHF and UHF.
4. Multiband Radio TV Receiver
Do you have a shortwave or multiband radio in your house? If so there’s a good chance it has a TV audio receiver for “listening” to TV programs. If you use that feature a lot and want to keep using it after February 17th you’re going to have to replace the radio with a new model that receives digital TV signals.
5. Old VCRs
If you have an old VCR that you use to record different programs on different channels and you receive this over the air, you’re out of luck. Even buying a converter box won’t help since the VCR would most likely have no way of changing channels on the converter box. Your best bet would be to upgrade to a DVD recorder which you can buy for well under $200.
If you've been looking for an excuse to replace your old TV, the DTV switchover is as good an excuse as you're going to get. You can get an LCD HDTV set for well under $1,000. Another option is to get the converter box and move the old TV to the back bedroom and get a new HDTV set for the living room.
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