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All About High Definition (and how to get it for free!)

So Santa brought you a shiny new big screen for Christmas, but you're still watching standard definition television? It might be time to take the plunge. By February of next year, the FCC has required that all of the networks will be required to shut off their current analog signals and begin broadcasting digital signals exclusively. 

What does this mean to you? It means 100% free, crystal-clear television. I'll explain:

With analog television (what you get when you hook up the rabbit ears to your old tv) the signal was subject to a lot of noise and signal loss—that's why you would find yourself wrapping aluminum foil around a coat hanger while making your little brother stand on one foot and hold it in the air just to watch The A Team

But with digital television, it's different—hook up those same rabbit ears to a new digital TV, and you either get the signal clear as day, or you don't get it at all. There's no snow, no interference, no static. In other words, it's just as good as the signal you get from satellite or cable (actually, it's better, but that's another discussion altogether).

All you need is a television with a "ATSC" tuner (a.k.a. high-def tuner), and a UHF antenna. Where you live will dictate what you can receive for free "over the air." Currently, only FOX-31 and WB-2 are the only networks broadcasting from the towers on Lookout Mountain. Broadcasts from that location will reach as far north as Ft. Collins, and as far south as Colorado Springs. PBS-6 broadcasts from Squaw Mountain near Evergreen. The remaining channels (4, 7, 9 and 20) are broadcasting from downtown Denver, so unless you live IN the city, you're probably out of luck right now. However, this spring they will all be moving to the new super-tower on Lookout Mountain. Then, anyone in the metro area will be able to get free HD programming.

If you're like me, you are cheap, impatient and live in Boulder. I want all of my local channels in HD, don't want to wait until this spring to get them, and can't get a signal from the towers in downtown Denver. Well, I have a solution that covers most of that. If you have a TV with a "QAM" tuner (a slightly fancier version of a high-def tuner) you can get Comcast's most basic cable package for $13 a month, and get all of the local HD channels for free.

Just plug in the cable from the wall (no converter box), turn your TV over to digital mode and scan for the available channels. My set picked up 355 channels, though all but two dozen were not broadcasting anything. BUT, I am getting 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 20 and 31 in high definition. Comcast generally charges $10 a month extra for the HD channels (on top of their $50/month 'digital' cable package (which isn't really digital)). 




Anonymous said...

Guess who's a big nerd?!

Anonymous said...

Word up. Stick it to the man! Nerd.

Anonymous said...

Why would it be better than cable or satellite signal?

Woody said...

OTA signal beats cable/satellite because it is uncompressed. Signal providers compress their signal to save bandwidth, but that compression is not will inevitably have dropped info or artifacts as a result of compression.

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