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Digital age perks up rabbit ears

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Old 01-31-2008, 08:31 AM   #1  
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Default Digital age perks up rabbit ears

Retro antennae deliver stations with great reception to new TVs

CLIFTON PARK -- Remember rabbit ears, the low-tech gadgetry once attached to every television?

They're back.

Attach an antenna to a so-called digital television and you'll receive nearly 20 stations here in much of the Capital Region, each with crystal-clear reception. For free. Without a cable subscription.

"When we plugged it in and turned it on, I was absolutely floored," said Richard Puig, who last month bought a 32-inch digital Magnavox.

Granted, Puig and his wife Judy are not exactly high-level TV aficionados. Their previous television was 20 years old. And for years, the Clifton Park couple, refusing to subscribe to cable, watched TV through fuzzy reception.

But they're hardly alone in noticing the dramatic picture quality now provided by a lowly antenna and a TV that can handle digital signals.

John Lawson, CEO of Washington-based Association of Public Television Stations, has even proclaimed that "free, over-the-air television may be set for a big comeback" and opined that broadcasters should rebrand antennae as "wireless TV."

This apparent re-emergence of the rabbit ear would not have happened without a 2006 congressional mandate that television stations abandon their analog broadcast signals in favor of digital signals.

All over-the-air stations are under orders to end analog transmission by February 2009 -- which means your traditional analog television will not work after that date, at least not without a digital converter.

The changeover, which does not affect cable or satellite dish subscribers, has sparked significant hand-wringing from folks annoyed they'll have to buy new TVs or modify existing ones.

But receiving less attention is the improved picture quality potentially available to the 40 percent of American households without cable, or to those that have cable but still have TVs dependent on over-the-air transmissions.

In the Capital Region, every major television station now broadcasts digitally. Many broadcast more than one digital signal.

Albany station WTEN, for example, offers its usual ABC and local news programming on digital station 10.1 -- but also offers round-the-clock weather programming on subchannel 10.2, and broadcasts the Retro Television Network, which shows classic TV shows, on 10.3
Public broadcaster WMHT, meanwhile, offers three digital stations.

Moreover, many of the stations offer a high-definition digital picture that Rick Klein, chief engineer at local Fox affiliate WXXA, and Fred Lass, chief engineer at WRGB, both said is better than the HDTV offered by cable or satellite television.

And what is needed to capture that sharp-as-a-tack picture? Just rabbit ears.

Still, the 18 or so channels available over the air here digitally would seem like slim pickings to anyone who has grown used to the dizzying multitude of stations available on cable.

Sorry, sports fans, but rabbit ears won't get you ESPN. Nor will they deliver CNN to news junkies.

And over-the-air reception has its difficulties. Live in a valley or a rural hamlet and you might get fewer stations. And your digital picture might freeze if your dog decides to lie near the antenna.
Pete Taubkin, spokesman for Time Warner Cable of Albany, didn't seem particularly worried that consumers would drift from his company's service.

"The genesis of cable was to improve signal quality," Taubkin said. "Obviously, we've ratcheted it up much more than that."

But for people like the Puigs, at least, over-the-air digital TV is more than good enough.

Richard Puig has nestled his Magnavox into a corner of his cozy family room. He paid $730 for the set, although smaller digital TVs can cost as little as $200.

Flipping through his array of stations Tuesday morning, he seemed pleased by his new reception -- not possible, of course, without the homely old pair of rabbit ears positioned nearby.


By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
First published: Wednesday, January 30, 2008
http://timesunion.com/ASPStories/Sto...08&BCCode=MBTA
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Old 01-31-2008, 08:50 AM   #2  
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That is very good to hear. I am an Albany native(go Falcons!) and immediatley noticed the strong over-the -air signal strength when I purchased and installed my mother's Sharp Aquos LC-46D62U and Wineguard antenna before Christmas. With the quality of HD reception in the capital region people may consider dropping cable and satelite.
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Old 01-31-2008, 11:34 AM   #3  
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I have pondered the though of dropping cable.
It would sure be nice to put that 70 bucks a month back in my pocket.
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Old 01-31-2008, 03:13 PM   #4  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluto View Post
I have pondered the though of dropping cable.
It would sure be nice to put that 70 bucks a month back in my pocket.
I am beginning feel the same way brother! I mean do we really need all of these channels?!
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Old 02-01-2008, 01:21 PM   #5  
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I am beginning feel the same way brother! I mean do we really need all of these channels?!
I always wonder the same thing when flipping though 250 channel and canít find anything to watch. But as soon as you get without it, you always wish you had it.
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Old 02-01-2008, 01:29 PM   #6  
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A lot of people end up paying for a handfull of channels that they can't get OTA. I think I watch less than 6 on Uverse, but the wife watches a lot more than I do. I could easily get by without the cable channels.

When we switched from Directv we lost a couple like RFD TV and Sprout. Sprout is available on the next package up, but that was the only channel we (grandkids) would watch so I recorded about 90 hours of Sprout onto DVD for them.

I did pick up some HD channels I watch occasionally. ESPN, FOXSW, Discovery, etc.

Last edited by rbinck; 02-01-2008 at 01:33 PM..
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Old 02-01-2008, 11:23 PM   #7  
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Dump the cable, grab a Zenith Silver Sensor antennae and point it at the local HD broadcast tower. The picture beats cable or satellite HD signal quality.

Besides, until I can purchase the handful of stations I want, the simple thrill of NOT giving my money to a cable provider is sheer joy.
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Old 02-01-2008, 11:28 PM   #8  
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I have to admit, I was really really surprised when I put that UHF antenna on my roof and plugged into my TV. I get 13 to 15 stations in HD for friggen FREE! and it works perfect with not one glitch. I'm a little lucky though, Where I live all the major network antenna's are all in the same direction so my antenna never has to move! I've thought about dropping cable but like the other poster said, I'll wish I had it once it's gone.
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Old 02-02-2008, 12:11 PM   #9  
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Besides, until I can purchase the handful of stations I want, the simple thrill of NOT giving my money to a cable provider is sheer joy.
Try building a car by buying the individual parts. It will cost you more than the price of a built car. Similar thing would happen with the pricing for individual cable channels. Plus on the analog side they don't have the equipment for this option.
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Old 02-04-2008, 05:23 AM   #10  
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There are cable companies that offer a la carte (per mandate by the local government). They charge $1 per channel added. Only $1.

Even if that doubled to $2 in the future, it's still a bargain for those who think cable's mostly junk & only watch a few channels. $20 for ten channels is a hell of a lot better than the current $50.
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And what is needed to capture that sharp-as-a-tack picture? Just rabbit ears.
They lie. Indoor antennae don't work for me. They do okay for analog but not digital.
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Old 02-04-2008, 10:14 AM   #11  
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And what is needed to capture that sharp-as-a-tack picture? Just rabbit ears.
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Originally Posted by rrrrrroger View Post
They lie. Indoor antennae don't work for me. They do okay for analog but not digital.
I wouldn't say that they lie.
The indoor antenna may not work for you, but i will certainly work quite well for millions of people.

I rather think that the author had his tongue only slightly in his cheek, by taking small licence to avoid the discussion of rooftops, rotors, and the like.

Furthermore, if the antenna can receive the signal, it is likely that the quality of the digital reception will be superior to that of analog, whether rabbit ears or rooftop. Why?
- as an analog signal becomes weaker (distance from transmitter) the quality of reception undergoes "graceful degradation" resulting in snowy pictures, ghosts, co-channel interference, and the like.
- as a digital signal becomes weaker, as long as it remains above a certain "threshold", the picture will remain "sharp-as-a-tack".
Of course, once beyond the "threshold" the picture simply is not there any longer.

What's the consumer to do?
Give it a try!
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