From Engineering on July 01, 2009 in Electrical
Photo credit: striatic
As of June 12th all analog broadcasts from television have been eliminated. This long awaited switch came after about two years of planning, debating, and educating the public. Yet even after that much time many of the results and implications of the DTV switch are unclear.
What this change really amounts to is a sort of concrete, all inclusive transformation to the new digital age; a societal switch in which our most basic information and entertainment infrastructure officially joins the internet, mobile electronics, and the entire new wave of technology.
The main reasons for the switch are practical, with benefits for both consumers and government. Digital signals are much more efficient than analog ones. They provide clearer pictures while taking up less space. That is, a broadcaster can fit several digital channels in the space required to send just one analog channel. That opens up airwaves for governments to use for emergency services as well as commercial communication services.
What It Means For You
The time of the rabbit-eared antenna is gone. In many cases so will be the channel numbers for your local television stations. Rather than UHF numbers like 12, 24, even 47—just for the three channels you get with an old antenna—you’ll find digital numerics reading 5.1, 7.2, etc. You might find the same station broadcast over two or more channels. Typically at least one of these is high-definition (HD).
If you haven’t already, you will need to pick up a digital converter box (or new TV) from a local retailer. Best Buy, Target, other department stores and online sites like Amazon.com all carry them. The federal government has also been offering coupons to put toward purchasing a digital converter, find out more at www.dtv2009.gov. Boxes range in price from $40 to over $100 depending on its features.
The Digital Home of the Future
This rather historic switch to digital will have permanent implications, paving the way for the digital home of the future. Televisions, home stereos and entertainment systems all will now wholly embrace—both in design and function—this new age.
Surely we are already well on the path to an interconnected, smart and digital home—remote control ovens and smart meters are just two existing examples of that trend. Yet the symbolism and real effect on many U.S. households of the digital switch cannot be denied. It literally paves the way for automation of home technologies, likely leading to some (once) very science-fictional outcomes—already we have wireless Hi-Def stereo systems on the market.
Not only that, it will also change the face of electrical work in our country. It’s not going to put electricians out of work or anything, but it may create a new niche of jobs in the related field. Look for digital home entertainment systems to be hardwired into new homes, as well as digital home conversion becoming a big part of remodeling. At the least we will find a new skill set for the electrical contractor today and in the future.
Out With the Old
As hundreds of thousands of families make the switch to digital TV it will create a mass of old, analog televisions heading to dumps and landfills. This however can be easily prevented by recycling your old TV. There are plenty of resources available for this, including one in almost every community. Check out Earth 911 or My Green Electronics to find recycling programs in your area. For a more comprehensive list, see EPA.gov to find out where you can donate or recycle your old computers and other electronic devices, including TVs of the analog age.