February 17, 2009 is just four months away. If you have any of your TVs connected to an antenna, you should be thinking about how you’re going to get a signal after the digital conversion. Your old analog set can have a long life after the digital switch-over, but you’ll need a digital converter box. (My old Almanac entry from a year ago still gets a number one position on several Google searches.) You may even still have time to get one or two of the federal rebate coupons from https://www.dtv2009.gov/.
If you do get a converter box — or know someone who is getting one — it’s easy to set it up. Basically, you connect it between your antenna and your TV. Like a VCR, you set the box to Channel 3 or Channel 4 (depending on which one is vacant in your market), and then tune your TV to that channel to get the digital channels. Zenith is one of the brands that is supplying a lot of the converter boxes, and they have posted a good video that demonstrates how to set up a digital converter box at http://www.zenith.com/dtv/setup.html. It glosses over a few points, but it is a simple and accurate explanation of the steps.
One of the lessons learned from the Wilmington, NC switch-over last September was that people needed a lot of help hooking up their converter boxes. The local fire departments had squads that would come out and make house calls to set up the boxes for residents — and give a free check of their smoke detectors while they were there — but not every community is going to be able to make such resources available. If you can be ready to help friends and neighbors, you can help provide a welcome service.
The other lesson was that the time to make sure you can get digital reception is before they turn off the analog broadcasts. Get your converter box as soon as you can, and hook it up. Weak reception of analog signals results in a snowy picture; weak reception of a digital signal results in a blank screen. You may discover that you’ll need to upgrade your antenna in order to get adequate reception.
So for the digital transition, follow the Boy Scout motto, and “Be prepared!“