February 17, 2009, 6:49 PM — Tonight is the night all TV stations across the country were supposed to go digital, but as we know, the deadline for the transition got pushed back to June. Still, about 400 broadcasters opted not to wait, and so in some parts of the country the transition is still going to occur at midnight.
If you happen to be in an affected area, the LA Times has a nice "how-to" piece on dealing with the transition and getting the most out of the digital TV stations available to you. In fact, these tips can be helpful for anyone trying to get OTA (over-the-air) digital TV now, regardless of the transition. One tip I plan on trying? "Skip the automatic scan: Some converter boxes scan too quickly for digital channels." (We have cable at chez Smith, but one small TV in front of the treadmill only has an indoor OTA antennae.)
In order to make the switch early, broadcasters had to get approval from the FCC, and not all of them got the go ahead. Why? Because the FCC sees television as an emergency response tool and if all the broadcasters in a given market were to switch, people who still haven't gotten converter boxes would be without TV, and so without access to public safety information. When I read this, the words "This is a test. For the next sixty seconds, this station will conduct a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test." immediately jumped into my head.
Why do those words evoke a feeling of nostalgia? I suppose because these days the internet is my first source of information. Sometimes it's good to be reminded that not everyone lives online. There are still plenty of homes out there who turn on the telly to find out what's going on with an impending storm or other emergency. And what happens when the power goes out? Do you still have a battery-powered transistor radio tucked away in a closet somewhere? I sure don't. Maybe it's time to get one.
Here's hoping you still have access to your favorite channels after tonight. Good night, and good luck.