Keep your old TV
How to go digital but keep your old TV


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2009 switchover

Don't worry about the switchover to digital TV

Don't get in a panic about the switch to digital TV. If you are one of the millions of Americans getting their TV shows only over-the-air, you can still get all your TV shows AND view them on your old TV set. Don't let anyone tell you that you have to get Cable TV or Satellite TV in order to see all your TV shows after Feb 17, 2009 cause it just ain't so.

Your local TV stations ARE going digital on Feb 17, 2009 BUT nothing much will change for you IF you get a converter box. What is a converter box? It is a small electronic device which is placed between your antenna and your TV. The converer box will receive the digital TV signals, convert them to the old style TV signals and pass them to your old TV set for you to see.

The U.S. Federal Government will even help you to pay for the converter box if you apply for the $40 coupons available for American households. The converter boxes cost around $50 to $60 and are available at retail electronic stores like Radio Shack, Best Buy and other stores like Target, Sears and Wal-Mart.

Converter boxes and $40 coupons > Where and how to apply

What do I need to do?

STEP 1 - Apply for your $40 coupons, online, by phone, by mail or by fax.
STEP 2 - Wait for the coupons to arrive in the mail at your home address.
STEP 3 - Go to a retail store and purchase the converter box using the discount coupon (actually a credit card).
STEP 4 - Take the converter box home and connect your antenna to the box and connect the box to your TV.
STEP 5 - Setup the box using the instructions provided by the converter manufacturer.
STEP 6 - Watch TV shows just as you did in the past on your old TV.

This is what the 'coupon' will look like when it arrives in the mail. You must redeem it within 90 days from the time it is mailed out, or it expires. This should be plenty of time to get to a store to purchase the converter and save $40.

How to Hookup Digital Converter Box to Analog TV

Digital to Analog TV converter box (REAR PANEL)

Digital to Analog TV

Connecting the digital TV converter box to your older analog TV involves plugging in the antenna cable to the converter box input jack for ANTENNA and connecting the converter box OUTPUT to your TV INPUT. If your TV is the type without Audio/Video input jacks and only has a VHF 75ohm RF input jack, then use a RG-59 or RG-6 coaxial cable to connect the TV to the converter box. This cable is the same as those used in homes with cable TV or satellite TV. You will get only MONO audio from a coaxial cable connection.

If your TV is somewhat newer and has RCA audio/video input jacks (yellow, red, white) then you can get stereo sound if your TV has stereo sound capability. Use a yellow RCA cable for video and the two (red and white) RCA cables for audio. Use only the white RCA cable if your TV is not stereo sound capable.

You will change channels on the converter box with the remote control. Your TV or VCR will remain on channel 3 or 4 (or Line).

Hookup Diagram for TV with only an RF antenna input jack. Set TV to channel 3 or 4.

Hookup Diagram for TV with Audio/Video input jacks. Set TV to Line input.

Hookup Diagram for VCR and TV. Set VCR to channel 3 or 4 and TV to channel 3 or 4.

If your TV is decades old or does not have a 75 ohm coax input jack, never fear. You can still connect the converter using an adapter. The adapter will take the 75 ohm coax cable input and convert it to 300 ohm twin lead for connection to your TV terminals. These little adapters should be available at Radio Shack.

TV Converter

You should recognize your local TV stations and in addition you may see a little more program offerings. With Digital TV, your local stations have the option to send out multiple TV shows. PBS for example may broadcast a children's show on channel 9.1 and also be broadcasting a documentary on channel 9.2. This is called multi-casting and it allows the TV station to send several shows at once in lower video resolution. The sub-channels display as a smaller number next to the main channel. Some TV stations have up to 5 sub-channels with different programming.

Main TV channel (12) with sub-channel (1)

The Analog to Digital TV Switch

For over 50 years, over-the-air (OTA) television signals have been broadcast in analog format (NTSC). Everyone used to own an analog TV set up until 1998. The TV sets all had NTSC analog tuners built-in and all could enjoy TV shows broadcast over-the-air for free. Now a federal law in the U.S.A. mandates that full power television stations must broadcast in digital format only (ATSC), beginning February 17, 2009.

If you have an older TV with an analog tuner, AND you use an antenna to receive over-the-air signals, you ARE affected. If you get your TV signal from a Cable, Satellite or Fiber-Optic service provider, you are NOT affected, even if you have an analog TV. If you currently receive analog cable service (with no set-top box) you can continue to do so for at least three years after 2/17/2009.

If your television has a digital tuner, you are NOT affected.

How can you find out if your TV has a digital tuner? Usually, there will be some indication on the TV itself, or in the TV owner's manual. Look for the words "Digital Tuner" , "DTV Tuner", "HDTV Tuner", "ATSC tuner", or "Digital Receiver".

The U.S. government has required that all televisions shipped into or within the United States after March 1st, 2007 must contain a digital tuner. Another requirement states that all TVs sold after May 25, 2007 must have a digital tuner, or be clearly labelled as not having one.

Many TV stations are already broadcasting in digital, on the UHF band (channels 14-69) at the same time they are broadcasting in analog on the VHF band (channels 2-13). Some TV stations broadcast on UHF in analog and broadcast on UHF in digital as well. For example, channel 60 could be their analog signal and channel 62 could be their digital signal. Contact your local TV station and find out what channels, if any, contain digital broadcasts.

For example your local channel 5 may be broadcasting a digital TV signal on channel 55 UHF. If you can tune into those UHF channels and see the same programs you would normally see on channel 5 on an old analog TV set, you've got a digital TV tuner, and you don't need to do anything after Feb 2009. If all you get is snow on the channel that is supposed to be digital, then you most likely do not have a digital tuner. Get the make and model of your TV and check it out on the manufacturer's website to see if it has a digital tuner.

Will I Need a New TV?

Not necessarily. You can keep your old analog TV as long as you install a digital-to-analog converter box. (This is NOT the same as a cable set-top box.) The digital-to-analog converter goes between your antenna and the TV, and will convert the new digital broadcast signal to an analog signal that your analog TV can understand.

You can still use those old TV's with a VCR or DVD player hooked up to watch movies.

How Do I Get a Digital to Analog TV Converter?

Your local electronics stores such as Radio Shack, Best Buy, Circuit City, Wal-Mart, Sears, Target and others will start selling these converter boxes in March 2008 for $40 to $70 each. You can apply for a $40 coupon from the U.S. Government to help pay for the box.

Do I need to buy a new Digital Antenna?

Not if you have a good VHF/UHF antenna now. Your existing antenna should not have to be replaced, as long as you are currently able to receive UHF channels.

Can I still use my VCR, DVD Player, Game Console?

Your VCR, DVD player, camcorder, gaming systems and other equipment that interfaces with your television will continue to work, no matter what kind of TV you have.

Why The Switch?

There are many reasons. Some more valid than others. First, digital TV allows much better video and audio than analog. With digital TV, video can improve up to what is called High Definition TV. Video much sharper than analog. The Audio or Sound part of the TV program can also improve up to, not 2 (stereo), but 6 channels of sound called surround sound. In addition, TV stations can do what is known as multi-casting or sending out multiple TV programs at once on several sub-channels. So instead of just one TV show, a station can broadcast 5 programs at once (not High-Def). Other reasons include using the freed up analog TV frequencies for police, fire and emergency personnel. Also, wireless companies will buy from the government, parts of the freed up spectrum to use for newer services for their customers. And part of it is keeping up with the times. Many countries in the world are digital already.

Is Digital TV the Same as HDTV?

No. HDTV is just one form of digital TV. Digital TV can be lower video resolution (SDTV) or High resolution (HDTV). To be HDTV the signal must be 720p, 1080i or 1080p resolution and you need a High Definition TV display to view HD. Most big screen digital TVs are capable of High Definition but it depends on the source signal coming in to the TV. Blu-ray disc movies for example can be 1080p, currently the highest resolution video available for consumers, but your TV station can transmit less than HD at times or can transmit High Definition shows such as prime time viewing or certain sporting events. You DON'T have to subscribe to cable or satellite to get HDTV programming. There are many TV stations that broadcast HD signals over the free public airwaves.

What are Analog and Digital TV Signals?

An analog signal is a continuous electrical wave that varies in response to changes in the sound or image being transmitted. A digital signal is a sequence of pulses. The original information is converted into a series of two distinct levels (digital bits like ones and zeros) before being transmitted.

Why is digital TV better?

Digital signals can be sent for longer distances and are less prone to interference than analog signals. And since a digital signal is just a string of numbers, it can be reproduced exactly. By contrast, analog signals cannot be copied perfectly. Each copy of an analog audio or video recording will have deterioration. With digital TV there is no snow, although you can have picture distortion if you have a weak signal. With digital TV there is more flexibility such as sending out digital data as well as video and audio. With digital TV you can get a wider view of the action and a picture over 6 times as sharp as analog. Six channel surround sound is also possible, putting the audience right in the middle of the action. The new TV displays are designed to work with digital TV. These screens can be hugh, some more than 60 inches and can be mounted on the wall since they are flat panels. Digital opens up new horizons for advanced technology.

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