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What I Really Know About Television: Digital TV Conversion Woes - AARP Bulletin Skip to content

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What I Really Know About Television: Digital Conversion Woes

Analog television, my faithful companion and window to the world, was recently replaced by digital television, source of frustration. My outdoor antenna and rotor, perched high atop a tower next to my home, provided me with a banquet of free viewing options—stations from Detroit, mid-Michigan and Canada. Now, with digital television, the menu is sparse and unreliable and the “No Signal” message is all too familiar.

I used a coupon to purchase a converter, attached it to my set and eagerly awaited the promised wonders of digital television. Instead, I received smaller pictures that were often split into lines and little pieces, sound burps as the pictures flipped in and out, and the “No Signal” message.

True, analog signals from Canadian stations will still come in—until they change to digital in 2011. Many familiar shows are broadcast by Canadian stations, but being warned about storms that have already passed through my area, closed roads that I don’t travel and local news of no relevance to me limits the value of these stations.

To get useful information, I can listen to the radio for weather reports and local news, pay for cable or dish TV services, or join the computer generation. Getting information, however, can be costly for a 72-year-old widow living alone on a fixed income.

Some residents of this digital television desert near Lake Huron on the eastern shoreline of the Michigan “thumb” have purchased expensive digital television sets in an effort to receive signals that still do not come in. To add to the confusion, many Detroit stations come in on different digital channel numbers.

I suspect that people elsewhere may be experiencing difficulties with digital television. While in Chicago recently, I turned on a television at a major hotel in the Medical District. What did I see? The “No Signal” message!

I felt right at home.

The AARP Bulletin’s What I Really Know column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Gabriela Lams is a reader from Carsonville, Mich.

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