Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

The old antenna's days are running out

When I was a kid, it was a big deal when we got a TV antenna up on the roof. No more rabbit ears wrapped in aluminum foil that you had to move around to find a station.

It was a marvel. You turned it with a dial that sat on the TV. You ratcheted the dial to the direction you wanted, and there was a ka-chunk, ka-chunk noise as the antenna rotated into place and a picture emerged from the static.

Good grief! That was four decades ago. And yet, if you look for them, there are antennas still in use all over the place. There are 163,000 households in the Tampa Bay still using them, according to the feds. There are 650,000 statewide.

But after Feb. 17, unless those folks do something, they are out of luck. That's when most TV signals in the U.S. will switch to a digital format. The old setups won't work any more.

The other day a member of the Federal Communications Commission was in the Tampa Bay area to spread the word about this. I went to hear him because, you know, there are always senators, presidents and such running around, but I had never seen a real live member of the FCC.

I expected a big shot in a suit with an entourage. He turned out to be a guy named Mike wearing a polo shirt who graduated from Northeast High School in St. Petersburg in 1959. Who knew?

At the Sunshine Center in downtown St. Petersburg on Thursday morning, Michael J. Copps spoke to an audience of all of 23 people, if you don't count the TV news crews.

Just to be clear, Copps said, if you have cable or satellite television, no change needed.

But if you don't, you've got three options:

(1) Subscribe to cable or satellite.

(2) Buy a new digital TV. (If you've bought a TV in the past few years, check to see if it's already got a digital tuner.)

(3) Buy a converter box to hook up to your old TV. This is a gizmo that costs something like $40 to $80, You hook up the wire from your old antenna to this box, and then the box to your TV.

The feds will even give you two $40 vouchers, which look like credit cards, to buy converters at the store of your choice. Better do it soon.

Here's what you do. Call this toll-free number: 1-888-DTV-2009. (That's 1-888-388-2009). Or go to www.dtv.gov.

Copps and a couple of young FCC staffers had a demo rigged up. The picture is good, but you still have to jiggle the antenna now and then, like always. Lots of today's stations already are broadcasting on multiple digital channels at once, so once you get this, you get all kinds of new stuff on your TV,

I yakked with Copps for a couple of minutes beforehand. He's been one of two Democrats on the five-member FCC since 2001. He used to be a history professor, then was a longtime aide to a U.S. senator (Fritz Hollings of South Carolina).

I wanted to ask him about a bunch of other stuff, such as fines for Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction, why Dolly Parton is mad at the FCC (something to do with wireless microphones), and the fairness doctrine.

But he was already running late for Kathy Fountain's show on WTVT-Ch. 13, and since I am a Kathy Fountain fan, I did not want to mess her up. I left wondering whether today's generation of antenna users, shoved into a digital world, will find the same delight in new things that our rooftop model brought us 40 years ago.

The old antenna's days are running out 11/15/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 18, 2008 7:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. First WannaCry, now cyberattack Petya spreads from Russia to Britain

    Business

    Computer systems from Russia to Britain were victims of an international cyberattack Tuesday in a hack that bore similarities to a recent one that crippled tens of thousands of machines worldwide.

    A computer screen cyberattack warning notice reportedly holding computer files to ransom, as part of a massive international cyberattack, at an office in Kiev, Ukraine, on Tuesday.  A new and highly virulent outbreak of malicious data-scrambling software appears to be causing mass disruption across Europe.
[Oleg Reshetnyak via AP]
  2. Pinellas sheriff's corporal had racist, sexist, pornographic content on his cell phone

    Public Safety

    LARGO — A Pinellas County sheriff's corporal resigned recently after an investigation into an alleged extramarital affair revealed a trove of racist, sexist and pornographic images on his personal cell phone.

    Shawn Pappas, 46, resigned as a training division corporal from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office after an investigation revealed a trove of offensive images and videos on his phone. This photo was taken as a screenshot from one of the videos released by the Sheriff's Office that Pappas filmed while on duty. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine reflects on the news from the Congressional Budget Office analysis that could imperil GOP leaders' hopes of pushing their health care the plan through the chamber this week, Tuesday, on Capitol Hill in Washington. [AP photo]
  4. Review: Dan Auerbach, Benjamin Booker plumb the past for inspiration on new albums

    Music & Concerts

    It didn't take Benjamin Booker long to get lumped in with the greats. The Tampa-raised singer-songwriter's 2014 self-titled blues-punk debut brought widespread acclaim, not to mention an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, a tour with Jack White and sessions with Mavis Staples.

    The cover of Benjamin Booker's new album "Witness." Credit: ATO Records
  5. Fourth of July in Tampa Bay: parades, hot dog parties, concerts and more things to do

    Events

    Looking for things to do on the Fourth of July in Tampa Bay? There is no shortage of patriotic events, from the Hot Dog Party concerts and eating contest in Tampa, to the parades in Land O' Lakes and Safety Harbor, to the swinging dance party at St. Petersburg's Museum of Fine arts, there's an abundance of things to do …

    The annual Independence Day parade in Brandon kicks off at 10 a.m. on July 4 at 101 E Lumsden Road. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times (2015)]