Wednesday, January 06, 2010


I follow Harry Shearer's radio show occasionally -- it's in my podcast queue, at any rate, and I'll listen to it if everything else is used up.

I was a little impatient with his seemingly endless negative harping on last summer's switchover from analog to digital TV transmissions. I am impatient no more. On this subject, the man was speaking the absolute truth. Over-the-air digital TV blows moribund ursine cock.

We supplemented our satellite television with a tiny little 13-inch TV in the kitchen. It was nice to have around while cooking and cleaning up. Having the news, or "The Simpsons" or "Seinfeld" on in the background while we were doing trivial tasks was a nice little treat, and I could follow football progress while checking something in the oven.

That, of course, went bye-bye last June, when the Big Switch happened. One day, just -- boom! Yer teevee don't work no more. We got used to not having it, of course, but deep down inside, we kinda missed it.

So this Christmas, our treat for ourselves was the smallest flat-screen I could find. Naively, I thought it would come equipped with an antenna for receiving digital signal. It sorta said it right there on the box -- "digital-signal ready," or some such. I was not so silly as to believe we would get hi-def signal -- I do know the difference.

So I opened it up, set it up in its spot, plugged it in, turned it on, and... Bupkis. "Searching for channels," it chirped onscreen. "Nope, not finding any! Wouldn't you just like to put your fist through my screen? [Y/N]."

Sighing about how nothing's ever easy anymore, I Googled up some info I perhaps should have known before buying the thing. We're 40 miles or so from most transmitters, and "digital-ready" televisions don't come with antennas -- the manufacturers assume most everybody's got cable or satellite reception. I would have to buy an antenna.


Popped into, ordered up a spiffy black plastic jobbie that sits flat under the set. Not much footprint, nice and sleek-looking, got great reviews from users, and looked like just the thing. Boom. Ordered. Done.

It arrived Monday. Whimpering quietly, I tore open the box, set it up according to the instructions, turned on the set, scanned for channels: "1 channel found... 4 channels found... 6 channels found..." Brilliant! I've solved it!

Not so fast, Chuck-o.

Channel 4 comes in for a couple of seconds -- pixellation all over the place, audio and video out of sync, and then: "Signal was lost." Channel 5 doesn't come in at all. Same for Channels 7 and 9. No PBS. A religious channel does come in, and I contemplate doing the dishes with a pious droner in the background. I likewise contemplate chucking the whole damned thing into the recycle pile.

But I'm nothing if not persistent when faced with a technical challenge. I reconfigure the antenna, removing the amplifier. Worse. I turn it various directions, rescanning for channels each time. Some improvement, but the core broadcast channels either break up immediately or are so badly pixellated that they're unwatchable.

I've got two options now: Get a bigger, outdoor antenna, post it on the roof, and run a cable through the wall into the kitchen. That stands absolutely zero chance of happening when we've got a satellite dish up there receiving perfectly good signal.

My other option is to chuck the whole thing.

Guess which one's going to happen.

Thanks, FCC!


roxtar said...

Hope all is well, Neddie. Speaking of podcast queues, Mike O'Meara of the lamented Don & Mike show is back with a new podcast at

"Live from the historic Radio District of Manassas, Virginia....."

It's a hoot.

Neddie said...

Way ahead of you, Roxtar: Been listening since Day One -- when they announced the podcast on Facebook, I was one happy puppy. I peed myself a little.

I was very flattered when Robb remembered me on Facebook from a Homemade Jingle I'd submitted in, oh, I dunno, 1996!

Tommy the Internet Radio Deejay is my new favorite character. Did you catch the show when he came to be invented?

Although Oscar's Girlfriend is a close second.

I have the last two days' shows cued up on my iPod for the ride home.

J. D. said...

If you decide to get a larger antenna, it doesn't have to go on the roof. Some people put the TV antenna in their attic.

Roger D. Parish said...

The attic is okay, unless your cabin has a metal roof!

Anonymous said...

Haven't had cable since 1987 when I called the company and, not so politely, insisted it be yanked from my life. We do have a couple of the new digital TVs. Tried one of the new over-the-air digital antennas on one TV, wasn't that great. Kept the old-style rabbit ears antenna on the other. Guess which one works best? Yup, the rabbit ears. I increased its efficiency by adding some tin foil for even better reception. So, Twentyfirst century technology was made better through a 1950s technique. Plus, you get that cool retro look so many strive for.


Will Divide said...

The old paradigm, dying in real time--and before your eyes. I loooove hearing stories like this, though I'm sorry you had to go through all the tsuris.

My impression is that many young people don't watch TV at all, at least the way you and I understand the concept.

thestoic said...

Best reception of all? RTS -- the Russian propaganda network! Now, tell me again who won the cold war?