Top 25 things vanishing from America: #2 -- Analog TV


This series explores aspects of America that may soon be just a memory -- some to be missed, some gladly left behind. From the least impactful to the most, here are 25 bits of vanishing America.

I'm young enough that I didn't have to take directions from my dad on just how to arrange rabbit ears in order to pull in a static-filled station; in fact, I barely knew the analog signals of my childhood. We have had cable for as long as I can remember and other than the antenna at my grandparent's, analog television has just been a footnote in my illustrious life. It's been a side project for broadcasters too. Over the years, stations upgraded to digital technology, and eventually to HD, but still maintained broadcasting in analog to cater to those on "farmer-vision" -- too far out for the reaches of local cable companies. But even those people are tuning out, opting for satellite instead.

And so the move away from analog broadcasting is quickly being ushered into its finale as the government prepares for the big switch to digital in February 2009.

Most of the public, even those with old TVs, won't notice any change in the way they get their in home entertainment since, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, 85% of homes in the U.S. get their television programming through cable or satellite providers. For the remaining 15% -- or 13 million individuals -- who are using rabbit ears or a large outdoor antenna to get their local stations, change is in the air. If you are one of these people you'll need to get a new TV or a converter box in order to get the new stations which will only be broadcast in digital.

Stations are looking forward to the switch because it will allow them to save money by only broadcasting in digital, which allows for better sound and a clearer picture. The government wants to get its hands on the analog spectrum to auction it off for hundreds of millions of dollars.

On the consumer side of things the information about the switch has been anything but clear, leaving many at the hands of corporations and salesmen who are trying to push new TVs even to those households who don't need them for the switch. When the transition actually takes place even more problems could occur as the new digital broadcast signal may not be able to reach the same areas as the old analog signals. A similar problem occurred when the UK transitioned, requiring many households to purchase new antennas, both indoor and outdoor models.

I can't say I am sad to see analog television go. The new digital technology doesn't just provide a better picture but more possibilities for mobile television and allows broadcasters to focus the analog resources on cool new ventures. I am, however, concerned that the actual transition will result in many angry TV watchers who can't get any of their favorite shows. It seems that even the most tech savvy individuals are having trouble understanding the ins and outs of the digital TV transition as it pertains to consumers. If that is the case then what is the rest of the population to do?

Are you worried you'll lose out during this transition to digital TV?

Read the entire series