Yes, the day has finally arrived! It’s the great Digital Television Transition! The greatest excuse to go out and buy yourself a fancy schmancy flat-screen TV ever! Tonight at 11:59PM is when the age of analog television broadcasts comes to an end. Are you ready?
The government estimates that there’s around 14 million households that still get their signals over the air (as opposed to cable or satellite) of which there are between one and three million that haven’t picked up a digital converter box yet. They’ve been handing out coupons reducing the cost of the converter boxes by $40 to make the transition a little less painful. There’s still time to get a coupon and pick up a converter box if you haven’t already, but it does mean going a few days without TV. If you’ve been dragging your feet and aren’t sure which converter box to buy the folks over at Consumer Reports can help you out. They reviewed several converter boxes so you can make the best choice.
Those of us with HDTV’s that have digital tuners in them or who get their TV through cable or satellite will largely be unaffected by the transition. Around 35 TV stations will be shutting down instead of switching due to the expense involved, some of which are affiliates of the big networks. A full list from the FCC can be found here *PDF File*. Michigan has one station in Marquette that won’t be broadcasting after tonight.
I’m obligated by law to repeat the factoid that this is the biggest change to television since the introduction of color back in the 1950’s. A change which took quite some time compared to the digital switchover. It took until around the time I was born for sales of color sets to start taking off and color sets weren’t standard until the 1970s. Of course it helped that the color broadcasts were backwards compatible with black and white televisions. That’s not the case with digital broadcasts hence the need for a converter box.