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Mary Robinson is all about real-world information on the switch to digital television signals. The success of the DTV switch will depend on regular folks understanding new technology and getting it running in their homes. Ms. Robinson is weighing in on those nitty-gritty details, sharing her enthusiasm for TV-signal technology with those who are less technically inclined. She’s developed an expertise through years of hands-on experimentation, pulling in signals from the rooftop of her Texas home. Now she’s a resource for consumers struggling with the digital switch. We discovered Mary right here on TVWeek.com, where she reliably dispensed information in the comments section of this story, First Digital TV Converter Box Wins Government Approval about the digital switch. Let’s keep the conversation rolling!

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Digital Transition Answers


December 2008 Archives

Your Christmas Present: Help With Your Digital Set-Up

December 8, 2008 9:12 AM

The season of gift-giving is coming, and no doubt many of you will be receiving equipment for the reception of digital broadcast signals in the form of converter boxes, digital recorders, standard-definition televisions with digital tuners or, for the lucky ones, HDTVs.

Many of you will hook them up to antennas you already possess, or those "digital antennas" that are sitting on the shelves of the big-box stores. After dinner on Christmas you'll fire them up and get a whole plethora of channels that you didn't even know were out there. Others will do a digital channel scan and get one or two digital channels where you normally get six or seven analog channels. Others will do a scan and get the dreaded "no digital channels found." What to do now?

You get on the computer and call on your friendly Mary ... the Cat Lady. That is what you do. And rest assured, I will help you determine what it will take to get all the channels you can get. Or possibly determine that it is a lost cause. Either way, we will try to work it out together.

But it will take some help from you. In the past, I have had posters write in and state that they can't get channel 9 or maybe channel 17, and they want to know what the problem is. That won't help me help you very much. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of stations on channel 9 or 17 across the country.

I will help if I can, but I need a bit more information from you.

I need the answers to the following questions:

1. What are the call signs of the stations you get on analog that you want to get on digital? You know, those four-letter (for full-power stations) IDs that you hear all the time, like KXXX or WXXX (a few are three letters, such as WGN). Low-power stations sometimes use a combination of five letters and numbers, like K62XX or W02AA.

2. What kind of reception did you get on analog? Use a scale of 1 to 10, with a 1 being barely watchable to a 10 being the best: a clear and crisp picture with no imperfection whatsoever.

3. What kind of antenna are you using? Table top? Is it an outdoor antenna? In the attic? Amplified or not? If you do not know, just give me a description of it as best you can.

4. In what city are the stations located?

5. How far are you from that city?

6. In what direction are you from that city? Or, are you in the city or a suburb of it?

7. What is the terrain like in your area? Is it flat? Hilly? Mountainous? Are you up high or down in a valley?

8. Are there a lot of trees where you are?

9. About how long is the coaxial cable run from the antenna to the television?

10. Are you using a splitter to get the antenna signal to more than one receiver, such as a second TV or a VCR?

The more information you can give me, the clearer the picture will be for me try to figure out how best to proceed with trying to get the digital channels.

Those of you in apartment complexes or condos with management associations are at a particular disadvantage. You have the legal right to erect outdoor antennas, although with some restrictions, but a lot of the time you have to jump through hoops to get an OK to do so.

I wish everyone all the luck in getting the stations you desire, but if you have a problem, just post and I will work with you to see if we can resolve the reception problems.