If things go as planned, on February 17th, 2009, analog television, what we've all known since the early 50s, will cease to exist. The good news is, the fix is in. A new digital signal is out there right now. Question is, are you prepared to use it? Well, If you currently get your signal through an antenna and you have an older TV, you may not be ready. In that case, you'll need one of those converter boxes, you've probably heard about.
Joe Terrell puts two popular brands to the test, in a special edition of "Does It Work?"
If your VCR still flashes 12:00, yeah, you might be a little intimidated by these new devices on store shelves. But it's time to learn something new, otherwise, if your TV needs one...
"You will not be able to watch television without it."
You can do this, with a little help from TV engineer, Butch Adair.
If you are currently picking up an analog signal from an outside signal, come February 17, 2009 it will be as though you unplugged your cable. You will see "snow".
You'll have no signal to watch.
But, relax. Get yourself upright. With your new converter box, just change your TV's channel to 3 or 4, grab the wire you disconnected from your TV...
"There's a connector that says antenna," adds Adair.
Attach the cable. Then take the cable that comes with the converter, put it on the thing that says "to TV" and finally attach the other end to the TV "where you removed the antenna connector and there's your digital signal converted and operating on your analog TV set," explained Adair.
It really is that simple. Or is it? I've discovered my trusty remote control doesn't work anymore. So how do I change the channels?
"With the converter. With the remote control that came with the converter box," said Adair.
"So I don't need my old remote anymore? No."
And with your new remote, you'll find you can do and watch some new things. [
"With the analog system, a TV station could only run one program. With the digital a TV station can run more than one program at a time," said Adair.
Overnight, the number of channels you have now could multiply by 3 or 4 times. Still over the air. Still free. The digital signal also sends new information to your TV, like what's on now, what's on next and a brief synopsis.
The other good thing about your new digital signal is, if you've got it, you've got it. No more snow or audio trouble as you get farther from the the source.
"You can be 40 miles, 50 miles away from the station but if you've got enough signal to work, you'll have the same quality as the guy sitting right in town next to the station," said Adair.
There are about 70 different brands eligible for a coupon we'll tell you about in a second. The hook up's the same, but some of the features differ.
We liked the one from Zenith. It allows you to manually enter a station you know is in your area and gives you a little strength meter that will help you tune in that station by adjusting your antenna.
This is also possible with the Insignia brand. That's because it's the same exact box.
The RCA performed well, but manual tune-in was not possible this way, and if you struggle with eyesight, the channel number is much easier to read on this Zenith than on the RCA.
"Does It Work?"
Digital TV is better, offers more options and hook up's really a breeze. We give these converter boxes, a yes. All the boxes that we tested run between 50 and 60 dollars. At the request of the Obama administration, Democrats tried last week to delay the digital switch date to June 12. It did not pass. But another try is expected this week. We'll keep you posted.