Anyone operating old-fashioned rabbit ears or roof top antenna to get television signals at home has been given a reprieve before they'll have to make changes to tune into digital television.
The nation was due to can analog television broadcasts in exchange for digital signals by midnight Feb. 17, but an act of Congress President Barack Obama is set to sign moved the date to June 12.
Apparently, millions of couch potatoes didn't have the equipment necessary to make the switch and the new deadline gives them more time to hook up. When the nation cans analog television broadcasts in exchange for digital signals, you'll need a digital TV, digital subscriber service (satellite or cable) or a digital converter to stay tuned to regularly broadcast television.
If you don't, all channels will be full of "snow" and white noise. (Of course, these days, there's also the option to watch many TV shows on personal and laptop computers or DVD).
If you want to stay tuned with your low-tech analog TV, you'll need have to get a digital converter to dumb-down the signal for your low-tech TV.
Luckily, free coupons worth $40 each, two per household, are now available from the federal government to help you defray the $50 to $70 cost of a converter. Converters are available from electronics retailers and other merchants.
Consumer Reports rated the 1 Zinwell and 9 Channel Master tops in converters, but also rated many converters as "Recommended".
Remember, the transition is from analog to digital, which only requires that your TV has a digital tuner, your cable or satellite TV service provides digital tuning or that you get a converter for over-the-air digital reception.
You do have some other options in addition to the digital-to-analog converter, which, again, is only necessary to get the digital signal over the air via an antennae to your analog TV.
• You will not need the converter if you own a digital TV, even if you get over-the-air antennae signals. The digital TV converts the signal with it's built in digital tuner.
• You will not need the converter if you subscribe to a cable or satellite service, even if you have an analog TV. Your service converts the signal for you.
• The transition does not require you to buy a high definition TV (HDTV), unless you want to take advantage of a high definition video image.
• Digital TVs that are not HDTV are priced comparable with the newest analog TVs.
• You can watch HDTV programming with a digital TV, with a digital service or with a digital converter, you just won't get the full HDTV image quality.
Since March 2007, all TV reception devices -- including video cassette recorders (VCRs) and digital video players and recorders (DVRs) -- should be clearly marked as analog, digital or HDTV. Also, analog products must be displayed with or near a consumer alert label that designates it as analog, while disclosing what is necessary to use it with the digital signal.
• The coupons for digital converters are offered, along with more information, from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
You can also call the 24-hour federal hotline at 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009) to sign up for the $40 coupons and to get more information.
• Another web site, the Federal Trade Commission's "Countdown To DTV Transition" also offers digital conversion information.
• Are you prepared? Take the Online Quiz offered by the DTV Transition Coalition.