Wednesday, February 25, 2009


"Digital," as you will know by heart if you watch TV commercials, "is better." I suppose it's a matter of taste. As the reluctant owner of a digital/analog signal converter, I'm torn. The converter itself is actually quite charming, a pleasant addition to the robot family that lives on top of the TV set. About the size of a paperback book, it has one LED and one button (I don't know what the button does.) and it draws 7 watts, a cute amount of power for any appliance. And while I no longer get PBS, I do get an NBC affiliate that seems to play nothing but women's winter sports.

The signal, however, is disappointing. As the DTV public service announcements have only recently started mentioning, you need an antenna array the size of McMurdo Station's
in order to get decent reception. Without it, (and we only have rabbit ears made of a coat hanger and a bra underwire) you get static, and not wholesome analog static, either. Digital static, like a scratched DVD, has all the sinister qualities of a malfunctioning robot. With stuttering; melting, pixellated faces; and large blocks of dead, signal-less screen, it doesn't generate faith in the digital revolution. It generates a vague fear of Skynet.

For now, at least, there's still analog broadcasts, delivered in delicious sinusoidal waves. But "on June 12th," as our DTV catechism has it, the bandwidths used to carry analog transmissions will be gone... and like contrary clockwork, hipsters will have found a new way to be hip. "Analog television just had a warmer feel," they might say. "DTV is so crisp, so cold and soulless."

Recreating analog broadcasts might present a problem, but where there's a will to ironically relive the past, there's a way. Look for cool kids to set up pirate radio transmitters entirely within their homes, converting digital television back into a low-wattage VHF signal for their personal enjoyment. Just rig up a (re)-broadcast antenna in your kitchen, tap your household appliances to provide that familiar, comforting interference, and all that's left is to settle in with some snowy, flickering reruns of Green Acres and drink your ironic drinks as you reflect that the FCC has it all wrong: It doesn't get any better than analog.


Blogger pjkobulnicky said...

I am considering importing a whole bunch of aliens to have them hold hands with one of them holding on to my rabbit ears. It's probably cheaper than a new digital rooftop antenna ... and maybe they can do some yardwork when the TV is off.

5:08 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home