Sunday, June 7, 2009

Agog over the end of analog TV

A few years ago, we were riding the bottom loop of life's roller coaster and had to give up several luxuries, including satellite TV. Our digital set wouldn't pick up stations off the antenna, so we hauled an old Montgomery Ward set out of storage and hooked it up. With some coaxing, it pulled in one station; an NBC affiliate that I hadn't watched since I was a kid and getting three stations on your TV was the norm. The picture was fuzzy, but we had TV! I remember how much I looked forward to the earthquake miniseries, '10.5,' that year because it offered a brief respite from the endless Law & Order and Dateline episodes. Having that old analog set was also valuable because we had several close calls with tornadoes that year and seeing up-to-date radar maps kept me calm through many bad storms. We could use that set because with an old tuner, you can inch through a signal and receive something. With our digital set, it's all or nothing; you either have a digital lock on the station, or you don't. I kept the old set up and running even after we subscribed to satellite again, because we still couldn't receive local stations.

That's why I have more compassion for the three million people who haven't made the switch to digital TV. June 12th is fast approaching, and I've seen so many impatient, rude comments on forums like the Consumerist about these affected people. According to the latest survey, most of the sets due to go black on June 12th are owned by the elderly and the underprivileged. Far-flung rural areas and jam-packed urban areas will both be affected. Yes, there's been a non-stop campaign of information for more than a year. There are commercials by the government, plus spots by cable and satellite TV companies which seem to tout their own wares as a solution. There are coupons, true; there's also been coupon shortages, converter box shortages, and people taking advantage of the situation by selling folks equipment they don't need. That's a lot of confusion for people who have depended on the same basic technology in the same basic format since the 1950s or 1960s.

Here's what I'm asking from all those tech-savvy complainers who insist that the remaining three million are morons or just lazy: get off your own butt, use your own smarts, and help. Ask your elderly neighbors if they're ready for the digital switch, and explain exactly what they do--or don't--need. Help them set it up. Check with local senior centers, food banks and community centers to see if anyone needs assistance in getting a converter box. Television provides news, weather and even company to a lot of solitary souls out there, and I can tell you from experience that it can give you a much-needed diversion from your problems.

Have some compassion, make a difference and be part of a positive solution.

(And thanks to my Plurk buddy RS for making me think--and act--on this matter. A mental poke with a sharp stick is sometimes what we all need!)


RenegadeScribe said...

Glad to have helped inspire you. I agree with the points that you've made on helping others get ready. Especially those that need the help. But we do need to move forward with the transition and free up the bandwidth for better things.

Amy Mullis said...

Yep, preach on! Do you realize there's whole generations of people who have never seen a test pattern? They'd probably think it was a strange intergalatic communication.

Unknown said...

Renegade, I agree, the bandwidth will go to good use, such as the needed space for emergency services. Thanks for providing an energetic and open discussion of the topic! You're such a gentleman!

Amy, so true! They'll never know the joys of standing out in the rain turning the antenna pole and hearing 'Almost! Almost! Whoa, go back! There!' ;)