Posted by: nickgerlich | April 15, 2008

Let’s Get Digital

It may only be April 2008, but February 2009 is right around the corner. And unless many households make some quick changes, they won’t be able to watch television starting the 17th of February next year.

That’s the day the analog signal dies, and if you don’t go digital, another generation of folks will be singing American Pie all over again, but perhaps with different words.

The change has been a long time coming. In fact, it was originally slated to arrive in 2006, but the indnustry and consumers were so slow to embrace the technology that it was destined to fail from Day 1. The FCC wisely padded the horizon with three years, a grace period if there ever were one, for everyone to get up to speed.

DigitalThe only problem is, I think there is still going to be a significant number of people blindsided by this enormous change. In spite of frequent news stories, the word is not getting out.

To wit: Many of our nation’s largest electronics retailers were fined this week for selling analog TV sets without the “warning” sticker advising customers that their sets will be obsolete in a few months. Wal-Mart, for example, was fined over $900,000 for trying to unload its inventory while it still can.

All is not grim, however, for customers. They won’t have to run out and buy new digital sets. Converter boxes will be available (the federal government has even sent out rebate coupons to the tune of $40 each to help offset this cost). But without the converter box or a digital TV, all over-the-air programming will be unavailable. Cable customers will need a converter, while satellite TV users are the only ones to remain unaffected (unless they try to receive their local stations off the air, in which case they will need a converter).

You know what? I see next February as being a good time to consider another switch. Just as many folks are now dropping land lines, maybe it is time to consider dropping cable as well. After all, many TV shows are now available on the internet. And few could argue that less TV in our homes would be a bad thing.

So when it’s time to go digital in 2009, the best bet may very well be to just cut the cables that bind us, freeing ourselves from feeding at the trough of mediocrity.

And maybe, just maybe, Idiocracy won’t come true after all.

Dr “TV or Not TV” Gerlich

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