How to View Digital Television
Consumers that experience the joy of digital television are watching their favorite shows - from sit-coms, to dramas, to sports games, and everything else - in high definition. But what is high definition television (HDTV)? Where does digital television come from? What do I need to view its contents? What are all these terms I keep hearing like "HDTV, "HD-Ready", and "HD Receiver"? Read on to discover what you need to know, what you need to have, and, most importantly, how to view digital television.
Background: The End of Analog
If you've ever had no access to cable or satellite television, you may know the experience of using a set top box antenna on a television (commonly known as "rabbit ears") or an outside t.v. antenna to receive local "over-the-air" broadcast channels. These are television channels whose broadcast towers are generally within 30 -60 miles (or less) of your t.v. antenna. Depending on distance and other factors, these broadcasts may be somewhat clear, but are often "fuzzy" and, at times, unwatchable. Until recently, all local television stations broadcast their local channels using these older analog signals. Analog signals are what you'll pick up locally using only a t.v. antenna (no cable or satellite connection). Analog signals have been around since the invention of television. However, because of government-based policy, analog signals will cease to exist effective February 17, 2009.
As of February 18, 2009, your television will not be able to receive any local, over-the-air broadcasts. By that date, everyone will need to know how to view digital television: that will be the only thing that exists!
The Rise of Digital
In sharp contrast to analog television, digital television will bring with it a number of enhancements. Most notably, image resolution and sound quality will be significantly enhanced. Compared to digital television, today's analog signals will appear dull and out of focus; digital television will be much more vivid and realistic. Digital signals can also be enhanced with additional streams of information, such as programming guides, displaying what is currently playing on a selected channel. In addition, digital signals are much more dense than analog signals and can carry up to six times as much information using the same amount of bandwidth as analog signals (think of a 6 lane freeway versus a single lane road). And, don't forget the sound! Along with digital images, digital sound - such as Dolby 5.1 surround sound - can be a part of the broadcast.
Greater image resolution and enhanced audio quality lead to a television viewing experience that is more intense, more enjoyable, and more satisfying.
How to View Digital Television
The above background information aside - what do you need to get started viewing digital television? You basically need three items:
1) A digital television (also known as an "HD" or "High Definition" television). The role of the digital television is like the role of your computer's monitor: it serves to display signals received from another piece of hardware (the Sharp Aquos LC52D92U 52" LCD HDTV is an example of a very nice HDTV). What is that other piece of hardware? Keep reading. . .
2) A digital receiver (also known as an "HD Receiver" or "High Definition Receiver"). The role of the HD receiver is to convert over-the-air (or "OTA") broadcasts into a format viewable on your digital television. Just as your computer creates images that are displayed on your monitor, the digital receiver takes captured over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts and displays them on your digital television (the ViewSonic HD10 HDTV Tuner is an example of an HDTV receiver). But how do you capture these over-the-air broadcasts? That brings us to. . .
3) An antenna. That's correct: a simple, run-of-the-mill set top box antenna will capture local broadcasts of digital signals, provided you are within range of local broadcast towers. Generally speaking, the larger the antenna, the greater the reception you can expect to receive. A powerful directional antenna, such as the Channelmaster 4228 can receive broadcast signals from up to 60 miles (or more!). Also, please note: there is no digital television antenna! If you have an ancient analog antenna on your roof, you can, in fact, use that same antenna to view digital signals provided you have a digital receiver and a digital television.
You will also need a local television channel that broadcasts digital signals (see Titan TV for what local stations are broadcasting in your area).
In many cases, an HD television will have an integrated HD Receiver; this simply means that the HD Receiver is included with the HD television, so all you'll need is an antenna to begin enjoying digital television. Buyer Beware: an "HD-ready" television means the television itself is digital, but does not have an integrated HD receiver. In order to watch digital television on an HD-ready television, you will have to purchase an additional HD receiver.
Using the above setup, it is possible to receive local, OTA ("over-the-air") digital television broadcasts absolutely free, minus the cost of the hardware. Imagine having 19 - 30 channels or more as many locations can, all channels are digital quality, with no cable or satellite bill!
Summary: How to View Digital Television
The glory days of analog television are limited; as of February 18, 2009, all analog broadcasts will cease to exist, ushering in the days of digital television. Digital broadcasts provide a much more efficient means of delivering high-definition video and audio into your home.
Remember, you need three things to receive digital television: an HD receiver, an HD television, and an antenna of some sort. Of course, you can take your television experience even further by using a digital surround sound audio receiver, but, as they say is an article for a new blog entry.