your digital future

Remember rabbit ears? On the television I mean. Actually, I’m sitting here looking at a pair right now. I’m sure there are others of you who have one or more sets that depend upon over-the-air broadcast signals. If so, then you need to understand the significance of this date: Feb. 17, 2009. That is the last day that broadcasters may air programming via an analog signal. On Feb. 18, 2009, all broadcasts must be in digital format. Ah, you think, but they are already airing digital programming. Yes, that’s right, they are. The date to provide a digital signal has come and gone with little fanfare among anyone but those in the television industry. But until 2/17/09, those stations must also provide an analog signal to ensure they are providing a usable signal to the largest possible audience. On 2/18/09, the analog television signals are going away.

What does that mean to you on a personal level? It means as of February 2009 if you are getting your television over the air, you’ll need either a television with a built-in digital tuner or you’ll need a digital converter box for your older analog TV. If you get your TV via cable, you will likely not notice a change … there may be a few quirks or changed channels, but cable will probably absorb the impact for you. It’s likely the cable company will convert digital signals for their customers with analog televisions. For how long? Who knows. My recommendation is that if you could use a new TV, look for a digital TV. Within the digital TV category, you can then go for standard definition or high definition. Be aware that not every HDTV (high definition television) has a built-in digital tuner (which you need only if you want to get the over-the-air signals; you don’t necessarily need it for cable).

What does this mean for you at University of Kentucky? If you have a cable connection that you use in your building, classroom or office, you will continue to receive UK’s cable television channels.

If you are in the market for a television right now, avoid those sets that have signs that say “attention: this television receives only analog transmissions” or some such. Instead, look for these initials: ATSC (digital tuner), ATSC/NTSC (digital tuner plus analog tuner – the best of both worlds … for now), QAM (pronounced “quam,” will pick up unscrambled free cable programming); ATSC/NTSC/QAM (gets it all, baby). Also, keep in mind that digital does not equal high-def. But, trust me, over-the-air digital looks great even on a standard def TV.

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