Sunday, August 10, 2008
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The United States is set to switch completely to digital over the air TV broadcasts as of February 17, 2009. When this happens, the analog signals that deliver most of the over the air TV content will cease. There will be a number of ramifications of this including the fact that a lot more electromagnetic bandwidth will be available for things like emergency services communications and municipal WiFi networks. These are definitely good things, but the transition won't be completely positive. The one major black mark making the transition to all digital TV signals is that the millions of analog TV sets- that lack digital tuners- will suddenly be unable to receive and display TV signals.
There are several remedies for this situation including the options of buying a new digital TV, subscribing to a satellite or cable TV provider (which will provide the necessary hardware to allow an analog only TV set to continue to function), but the most cost effective solution to this problem will be to buy a digital TV adapter box. Digital TV adapter boxes will receive the digital TV signals and then convert them to analog signals that the older TV sets can understand. This is clearly the option of choice for the federal government because of the fact that it will offer coupons that will put forty dollars towards the purchase of these adapters. A lot has been made of these digital to analog TV adapter boxes, but so far we only have a vague idea of what they look like or what they actually will do.
Now though, we have gotten a glimpse of what one of these digital to analog TV adapters will look like. That's because RCA recently unveiled an adapter box that it calls the RCA DTA800. The RCA DTA800 is basically a set top box that has connections for antenna inputs that will receive digital signals from over the air and analog outputs that will be fully compatible with older analog only TV sets.
The RCA DTA800 will also include a lot of extra features that you might be surprised to find on something that should be a simple conversion box. For example, the unit comes with what RCA calls a "SmartAntenna" that will supposedly help the unit to receive a coherent digital signal even in places where the signal doesn't come in as clearly as one might like. (This is an especially valuable feature because of the fact that digital signals will break up and become incoherent under conditions that would just make an analog signal unusually grainy.)
The RCA DTA800 also has a number of features that will make watching TV much more convenient. For example, this device will provide an electronic program guide that will make it much easier to decide what to watch than it is with analog TV. The unit will also provide various kinds of parental control software. In other words, this converter box includes many of the features that you might expect to find built into a satellite TV or cable TV converter box.
It's still unclear when the RCA DTA800 will be available or how much it will cost, but there's a good chance that the forty dollar government coupon won't cover the full cost of one of these units.