Dithering over DTV transition


POSTED: Friday, November 21, 2008

Hawaii's digital television conversion is just less than two months away and if national studies reflect any consumer sentiment locally, confusion will reign come noon on Jan. 15.





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On Jan. 15, local full-power TV stations will turn off their analog signals and go all-digital—a change that will not affect Kauai.

Regular readers of this space know that homes receiving TV signals over the air without cable or satellite will need a converter box, and that discount coupons toward those purchases are available from the government.

Other types of products are also available, though not specifically for your TV set.

California-based Advanced Micro Devices Inc. is touting its ATI TV Wonder tuners, ranging from $49 to $159. The tuners convert personal computers, either desktop or laptop, into high-definition televisions with digital video recording capability, an integrated program guide and other features.

The government discount coupons do not apply toward purchase of the AMD devices.

Also, one must realize that not all computer monitors are created equal, so results may vary.

“;These devices take video signals, through F-connector (cable TV), RCA, S-Video (for things like DVDs and VHSs) and over the air and play them on a PC or Mac,”; said Jared Kuroiwa, director of interactive strategy at KGMB-TV.

The station uses AMD devices for its streaming video.

“;You can connect a PC or Mac to a TV or really large monitor, but it wouldn't save you money over buying a new TV,”; he said.

If you're on the road with an ATI-rigged laptop, there is “;no need for Internet access, (you) just need to be in an area with a DTV signal,”; Kuroiwa said.

As for the public awareness factor, broadcasters are concerned.

A recent survey by research firm Frank N. Magid Associates found that 29 percent of respondents believe all television programming will be presented in high-definition TV after the transition.

That is false.

Digital TV technology allows for transmission of HDTV signals, but HDTV is a higher tier of signal and an HDTV set is needed to watch it.

A household may get HDTV signals over the air, but Hawaii's island topography makes it likely that HDTV service from a cable or satellite company will also be needed.

Kuroiwa recommends people check to see if they can get over the air signals.

The word “;technology”; is enough to make some people's brains glaze over, while others recoil emotionally, remembering the horror of the VCR that never stopped blinking 12:00.