On Friday my family lost an option we've had for as long as I can remember, and as a result we may have to quit TV, at least as a regular thing. Last fall we did as we were told, ponied up for top-of-the-line DTV converter boxes for both of our home televisions. We had the government coupons, but didn't want to go the cheapest route, and paid about $70 extra for the ones we got. When they didn't work just right, we sought expert advice. For the last eight months, we've tweaked and adjusted, moved the TVs around to different places in the house, in hopes of better luck. Sometimes it works. But for the last eight months, it's been a relief, when it doesn't, that we still had the analog option.
It was especially true in the last week or so. During the evening storms that roared through East Tennessee this past week, analog worked. Digital didn't.
I know analog's old-school, unfashionable, embarrassing, just not happenin' anymore. But for us, where we live, between some hills like a lot of Knoxvillians, and in a region known for its spring and summer storms, analog was just better. Digital gives us unpredictable glimpses of a better picture than we used to have. Analog actually lets us watch whole TV shows.
Maybe it was a little fuzzy around the edges, now that you mention it, but with Analog, we never heard the beginning of a sentence but not the end. We never heard question but not the answer. Jeopardy, which I listen to when I'm fixing supper, is maddening when the audio's going blank every three to 30 seconds. Alex Trebek becomes a sadist. He'll get you interested in guessing the correct response, but he's just not going to tell you what it is.
We've never worked cable into our household budget--with kids and dogs and an old house, etc., we've always had, believe it or not, other priorities. We have relied on rabbit-ear antennae, and have never had much to complain about.
Now the country's gone digital, they're telling us we need to be sure we have "a proper antenna." And it turns out a "proper antenna" for the digital era may be several hundred dollars more than a "proper antenna" for analog. Some might suggest we just do what we're told. A new outdoor antenna is on the list, but pretty far down in terms of priorities. We have kids in college.
I'm told the DTV switch is driving people to get cable in droves, which suggests to some conspiracy theorists that maybe cable-industry lobbyists snuck the mandatory digital change through Congress. I don't know. But the other day, I was watching CBS Sunday Morning, when the signal kept winking out, in a pattern I've come to associate with a large car driving by. I had the impression the same vehicle was passing back and forth in front of our house. And, yes, it was a Comcast truck ruining our signal. Maybe he was just lost.
I'm trying to see it as tough love. The government requiring us to spend a few hundred dollars for adaptive equipment is the equivalent of New York's punitive tax on cigarettes, which has forced many people to, finally, quit.
Maybe DTV is the same sort of thing. Congress loves us and wants us to stop watching TV.