digital hoodwink

i feel like i’ve been had, big time. i like to think of myself as a pretty savvy consumer. i’m cynical of “new and improved,” i don’t usually believe the hype. when a skin cream hints that it will make you younger, i know that they only mean it will possibly make you look younger, tho not everyone believes that wrinkles are a bad thing.

but this switch to digital tv that has been pushed on us – the ads say that because digital is so much better, all broadcasters are being required to switch from analog to digital (and i have to say i don’t really know what that means), but i know that’s not why they are being forced to switch. so i went out and dutifully bought three little set-top boxes to convert the signals from my rabbit ears (yes, i still use rabbit ears) to digital. i got the discount cards from…the government? whoever, thanks for the $40 off each box. and installed the boxes. not as simple as they say in the instructions, but not a big deal.

so now i have yet another remote control – one to turn on the tv set and control the volume, the other to work the set-top box and change the channel, a third for the dvd player. the picture isn’t noticeably better, and i find that even getting the channel at all depends on how the antenna is positioned – it is very sensitive. if it’s not pointing in the right direction for a particular channel, that channel won’t come in at all – the set-top box won’t be able to locate the signal. used to be we’d get all of our local channels just fine without having to adjust the antenna. plus, the image, if the antenna is not in exactly the right position, gets pixilated (i think that’s what it’s called), like what they do when they want to hide some naughty bits or the face of someone who doesn’t want their face on tv.

all very annoying. there is one local channel we don’t even seem to be able to get any more. which means that either i have to invest in some sort of new better antenna (which means buying one, trying it out, and probably returning it to try another), or, gasp, getting cable tv.

which i think is the real reason behind this switch. i think it is a move to get hold-outs like me to pony up and buy cable tv. i have cable internet in my house (my wife’s home business pays for it), but a check last night revealed that adding cable tv to that will be an additional $60 (sixty dollars!) per month. satellite was not much less. so i think this whole switch to digital was a collusion between congress and the cable tv providers to essentially force us to buy their services. sure, the antenna will work, sorta, but you’re really gonna have to buy cable tv.  the digital signal is not better with the antenna, like they said it would be – in fact, i think it is worse, and brings with it a whole host of issues i didn’t have before. but, apparently, my only choices are to

  1. pay for tv that i was getting for free,
  2. keep getting it free and just deal with suddenly much worse reception or,
  3. stop watching tv.

#3 might be the best solution in the long run.  i’m sure i can find better uses for my leisure time.

what a scam. and who am i supposed to complain to? write a letter the the fcc? yeah, like that’s going to make them sit up and take notice. argh. i guess i’ll put up with lousy, pixilated reception until i can figure out some better solution.

but i really feel like i’ve been had.


Author: Stephen

Stephen Harris is a writer, painter and a photographer who lives with his family in Maine.

2 thoughts on “digital hoodwink”

  1. There was a small article today in the Boston Globe about just this. They did have a recommendation. Couldn’t find the article on the website [maybe it was in Sidekick?] but if you don’t subscribe, I will be happy to find it and write up a synopsis. Just email me.

    And yes, 50 is approaching quickly!

  2. i think i know just how this guy feels…..i’m part of the ass-end of ‘generation x’, the age when back-yard bomb shelter salesman came to your door as much as the jehovah’s witness people do now (no offense..) (?)……….back then, rabbit ears were the only way to get reception….eons before the cable was invented…used to see cartoons, where someone was standing on 1 leg, 1 arm doing a ‘john travolta routine, and the wife is saying…..”just stay where you are…I think I can see johnny carson….”

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