Friday, June 27, 2008

Does Anyone Understand This...??

For a while now, I have been wondering about the decision of the government to make it mandatory for all analog T.V. service be changed to digital signals. I don't have a problem with digital service at all. In fact, I have digital service myself and am very happy with it. The part of this that I have a problem with is the fact that the government is making this mandatory.

Why? That has been my question since I heard about the change. Why was the government getting involved with this whole thing? Why the change anyway? What good reason could there be for a mandatory change of this magnitude? I searched all over the Internet for answers but could come up with nothing. No one seemed to know.

Yesterday, I saw an article in the Houston Chronicle written by Barbara Parrott McGinity. This is the only explanation I have found anywhere about the upcoming change so I thought I would pass it on to you.

"The federal government initiated this change to free up existing analog signals to provide more airwaves to police, fire departments and other emergency personnel."

Now I'm sorry, but this just doesn't make any sense to me. I guess I'm just thick-headed or something, but it just doesn't make any sense. How do you fill up the airwaves? How is that possible? Shouldn't we have some type of warning signal when the airwaves start to get full? Isn't there a siren or warning bell or flashing lights? How do you go about measuring the airwaves to find out how full they are? What agency of the government is in charge of all this nonsense?

Perhaps the biggest two questions that I have are ... how many Millions of dollars are going to be made from the sale of converter boxes and digital television sets that everyone will be forced by law to have by February of 2009?? And how much of this money is going to find it's way into the pockets of politicians that passed this law??

I can't help but wonder what else the government is going to take from us in the form of mandates that smack of profiteering. Scary times, my friends! Scary times indeed!

Man, I need some fortified coffee now...want to join me?


sinip said...

Hello, Hermit, as a telecommunication technician I'll try to explain this digital thing to you. That comment by Barbara Parrott McGinity almost got it right. Almost. :) The reason is scarcity of frequency spectrum, which is not unlimited. In VHF/UHF band there is only certain number of channels that can be filled up by analogue signals. And then you hit the wall. While one analogue TV signal takes one channel of 7MHz bandwidth (less in USA I think due to 525 vs 625 lines issue), if you use digital transmission you can put many more TV channels through the same bandwidth. And that makes TV station owners and advertisers very happy, as you can imagine. :)
I hope this doesn't sound like Chinese to you. :) And BTW, the body in USA that takes care of frequency spectrum is FCC. I think is the site.

Anonymous said...

So, Bubba, youve got some new admirers out there, or at least some new responders. Kinda neat that you can get an "official" response, Huh? Way to go, bro!

HermitJim said...

Hey, I appreciate your explaination of this whole thing! I hate to show my ignorance about such things, but how else are you going to learn if you don't ask? Like most people, I was under the immpression that the airwaves would never get "full." I only wish that somewhere the explaination had been given in some fashion when this whole thing got started.
Thank goodness we have readers like you that are Tech Savvy enough to explain things so that even an old Hermit like me can understand it!

Now I feel better about the whole thing...!

HermitJim said...

Hey Sis...that was a good explaination by sinip, don't you think? I'm amazed every day with how much I DON'T know! I'm thankful that we have readers that don't mind taking the time to share their knowledge with those of us that need it.

Thanks again to Sinip...and thanks Sis for dropping by! I appreciate it!

sinip said...

You're welcome. :-) And you know, you can't know everything. I never learned how to drive a car, for instance. ;) Only thing that surprises me is that the whole issue is already well explained in Europe, where EU member countries are also switching completely to digital terrestrial TV either by 2009 or 2012 the latest. Other than that, with digital, you win a lot but you loose some as well. I could now go into great details explaining differences between analog and digital broadcast, but don't think that it would be of so much interest to general public. :) But here is one peculiar thing for you and the readers, did you for instance noticed, compared to let's say TV broadcasts 20 or 25 years ago, how much more difficult it is NOW (when most of signal processing is already digital) to figure out if it rains or not when there is some outdoor sport event going on, until the camera zooms in to close up? :)

HermitJim said...

Hey sinip...Thanks, I was wondering about whether or not Europe was switching over. I'll make you a deal! You handle the tech stuff...and I'll be your driver, OK??

Have another blueberry muffin on me!

sinip said...

Ok, Houston we have a deal. :)

Noki said...

I get it, really, the whole "freeing up frequencies" thing, but does this mean that television will no longer be "free" in the US? Currently, it's supported by advertisements, and people only pay for cable service. So if radio-based service is no longer available, anyone who wants to watch television will have to start paying.

In at least some European countries, you have to pay a special tax in order to watch television, so it makes sense in places like that. But here, that means it's completely no longer free.

I'm glad I don't watch television. And I feel sorry for all those who liked broadcast service because they noticed that Time Warner and certain other companies had service failures nearly 50% of the time, and were glad they didn't have to rely on them.

HermitJim said...

Hey Ashley...thanks for dropping by. Good question...but I have no answer, sorry!

My guess is that if there is a way for the government to levy another tax, they will find it! They seem to be pretty good at that!

But what do I know? I'm just an Old guy!

sinip said...

Ashley, there is a place for concern. When everything goes digital it is basically piece of cake to scramble (code) digital TV signal so unless you have appropriate code in your digital TV receiver, or special smartcard, you can't unscramble the broadcast. That will probably be the case in case of some commercial TV stations (big sport events, concerts and such). Also, "Pay per View" will be easy to implement. Also, a TV station can "talk" to your receiver, without your knowledge. I don't think that public broadcast service will be scrambled, but here where I have a misfortune to live ;-) it is "normal" to pay so called TV tax even nowadays. But with full digital broadcasts you will have no more "ghosts" or "snow" in the picture, no interference from car ignition systems, Hi-Fi digital sound and many more channels (and commercials) to watch. And TV broadcast will continue in VHF/UHF bands, but in digital form, so you'll still need an (outdoor) antenna to watch the TV.

If anyone have some other questions/concerns, be free to ask. I don't charge for answers, yet... ;-)

Cat Melton said...

I have had the same questions as you, Jim, about the digital tv changeover...and I really got an education today...thanks, sinip, for the explanations.

Ya'll keep smilin',


HermitJim said...

Hey Cat...nice to learn something new each and every day, huh? I'm glad that there was someone out there that could explain all this in a way that we all could understand.

Thanks Cat, for dropping by!


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