Thursday, July 21, 2005


I've gotten my hands on one of these. A set top box that allows me to recieve digital over the air broadcasts. If I had a high definition TV, it would give me that too.

Primer: Digital is the method by which the next generation of over the air television is being broadcast. Soon, broadcasters will no longer have to broadcast in analog, and everyone will have to buy one. Or a new tv.

Primer2: Standard tv is 480 lines of resolution at 30 frames per second, interlaced. That means that the TV draws the odd lines first, then the evens. So you are actually getting 60 half-frames per second. Interlacing was originally introduced back in the day to reduce flickering and motion errors. That because by the time the tv drew the bottom of the frame, the top would be dimming, and if there was a lot of quick motion in the image, that motion would be jerky. This is the only kind of TV that regular analog tv can broadcast in.

In the digital world, this is called 480i. This is also what format DVDs are in. The high definition standards are 480p. The p stands for progressive, which is the opposite of interlacing. Full frames are drawn 60 times a second. This leads to a feeling of smoothness, like a computer screen. More HD standards are 720p, 1080i, and the theoretical 1080p.

Anyhow, why would I buy this box? Here's why: all tv that I normally get, in varying degrees of awful, is now DVD quality. Complete with 5.1 digital, of they're broadcasting it. No static, no weird lines, no nothing. Absolutely beautiful. Unlike regular TV, where a perfect picture is practically unheard of, and the majority of viewing is done at some level of poor quality, digital tv is either perfect, or completely gone. There is a very narrow band of blocky weirdness that you could call static or interference, but it has been rare so far. Downside? I cannot get channel 2, CBS, and I get the blocky weirdness on 5, NBC. I'll have to find a way to improve that.

Another reason why is that each station can actually broadcast a number of different subchannels. See, in the digital realm, they have it set where each broadcaster gets a certain amount of bandwidth that they can split how they like. What the networks are doing is broadcasting their main feed in high definition, and a second or third standard definition channel. Almost always a weather channel clone and a news rebroadcast. PBS does a second stream of more old scholl PBS stuff, like the animal stalking shows and so forth. I think I'm going to enjoy that. My UPN station broadcasts it's sister station, which plays nothing but old tv shows (Honeymooners, Lucy, The Monkees, Bewitched and so on). And the religious channel, in an unexpected but completely in character and unsurprising move, is broadcasting six channels of adoration.

So, I'm almost completely happy, as far as my tv watching goes. The box was $129 on ebay.


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