The Sony Mega Watchman FD 500 portable television is the greatest appliance my wife ever purchased.
That's saying a lot because our first washer-dryer lasted 17 years and survived four moves. And you should see our new washer-dryer. Though we didn't purchase a Maytag, it's as reliable as its repairman.
But the Sony Watchman tops the list. We've been married for 19 years come November and it's been around for all 19. Never a hiccup, never a problem (knock on wood). Usually, it assumes a spot in the kitchen next to the coffee-maker and greets us every morning.
It's a particular comfort on days like Tuesday. If the power goes out, we know we can plug in six D-size batteries and track hurricanes, keep up with closings and develop a real affinity for the local weather guys. It is one of our most important assets after the sangria and the chips and salsa.
Next summer, however, we won't be able to rely on our trusty TV — even if it's operating as good as new. On Feb. 17, 2009, television stations will switch to digital-only signals, making our Watchman and every other portable TV relatively useless because they can only pick up analog signals. Radios that are designed to tune in the audio portion of analog TV broadcasts also will be ineffective.
Only televisions with cable or satellite connections, or TVs with a special converter box, will be able to pick up the new signals. The good news is the government is offering coupons to purchase converter boxes (www.dtv2009.gov).
The bad news is no one currently manufactures a battery-operated converter box. One company, Winegard in Burlington, Iowa, reportedly has plans to developed just such a converter box but it has yet to hit the market. Plus, I'm not even sure if I can hook one up to our tiny portable TV.
Chances are, the Watchman won't be able to do anything after February. It's not like I have to shoot Old Yeller, but I'm saddened by this prospect. However, my melancholy attitude doesn't compare with my wife's perspective. She wants an explanation from the government.
Congress issued the digital TV mandate to free up "parts of the valuable broadcast spectrum for public safety communications," according to a Federal Communications Commission Web site (dtv.gov). However, the decision clearly makes it slightly more difficult for officials to distribute information to the general public.
Yes, we can still rely on battery-powered radios. Or we can turn to digital televisions powered by a generator. Our best bet, however, may be to purchase a battery-powered digital television.
The Radio Shack in Seffner has a model that sells for $199. But a consumeraffairs.com report suggests the new televisions won't work as well because digital signals don't travel as far as analog signals.
In the grand scheme of things, it's not that big a deal, but there just seems to be something wrong when a valued appliance is reduced to a dust-gatherer through no fault of its own or its owners. I guess I'll have to put that TV next to my 8-track player.
That's all I'm saying.