Thursday, November 29, 2007
There's a good chance that a lot of people who have heard about the mandatory transition to digital TV for over the air TV broadcasts that's scheduled for February 17, 2009 is confused about it in any of several different ways. The first thing to be confused about is what will actually be happening with the transition. Fortunately, that's relatively easy to understand. Basically, there are two different formats in which TV programming can be transmitted. The older format is called the analog format and it doesn't make use of computer technology in order to encode or decode the TV programming. TV broadcasters have been using the analog format to send TV programming over the air ever since TV was first introduced back in the middle of the twentieth century.
Digital TV is them more modern and higher tech method of transmitting TV. With Digital TV, all of the video and audio that makes up the picture and sound of the TV programming is converted into digital computer data before being transmitted. Once the digital TV programming has been received, a digital tuner converts it back into the TV programming.
The next thing that many people are confused about is why anyone would want to bother converting from analog TV transmissions to digital TV. After all, if it means getting a new TV set or having to buy a special converter box in order to keep watching an older TV set, why would anyone want to spend the money. Actually, in answer to that question, money is exactly one of the reasons for the conversion to all digital transmission. The consumer electronics industry stands to make a lot of money from people buying new TV sets and digital receiver boxes in preparation of the conversion and has been lobbying Congress for years in an attempt to mandate the change.
In addition to the fact that the consumer electronics industry stands to make a lot of money from the change, the adoption of digital TV stands to provide a lot of technical benefits as well. For example, there are a lot of things that can be done to a digital signal that simply can't be done to an analog one. For example, it can be compressed so that it takes up less bandwidth. Digital TV tuners routinely clean out any interference that crops up during transmission (at least to a point), and that makes the sound and picture quality of digital TV programming much higher than that of analog TV. The fact that most TV stations are transmitting both digital and analog signals right now also means that converting everything over to analog TV will free up a lot of the broadcasting frequencies. The FCC will then designate some of those frequencies to emergency response to that authorities can more effectively respond to terrorist strikes and natural disasters.
Of course like anything else, digital TV has its downsides as well. Besides having to buy digital TV's and digital receivers, more Americans might also have to buy TV antennas if they want to keep watching TV over the air. That's because, while the quality of an analog transmission fades with distance, but can still remain watchable long after it has started to fade, digital TV signals will be crystal clear and then just turn into noise almost right away. Digital TV simply requires better reception to view.
Hopefully this article clarifies many aspects of the conversion to digital TV transmission.