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Confused About Connecting That Digital Converter Box?

By Bill Zeeble, KERA News

Dallas, TX – If you have an analog television but still no digital converter box, you'll need one by June 12th . That's the new deadline when most stations switch to all-digital. Without a converter, your analog tv won't get a picture. KERA's Bill Zeeble hooked up a converter at home and has this report.

First of all, we don't have cable TV or a satellite dish. If we did, we'd be digital-ready. Our newest TV's at least 15 years old. So we got the government's discount coupons and bought 2 digital converters. That was the easy part. Next came the hook-up. That prompted the pain of peering behind the TV, squinting into the dark & dusty heap of wires and cramped cables that connect a bunch of gear and the antenna to the TV and AC outlets. Lucky for me, my wife Nicole is better at this than I am.

Nicole LeBlanc: I'm not a technical wiz but can put things together with visual instructions. The explanation that came with the box was mainly about hooking your TV up to your box. And we have a DVD player and a VCR.

Charles Brown, with Best Buy, told me to ignore the DVD and VCR. They're a distraction when connecting the converter. I wish I had talked to him before connecting our box.

Charles Brown, Best Buy: Just use the converter box the same way you use your antenna and leave all the other systems hooked up the way that they are.

Connecting the converter was simpler than I feared. The necessary cables and a remote come with the kit. It took us half an hour, & you'll likely do it faster. But some old TV's won't make the change. Like our small, combo black and white TV - AM/FM radio - and weather band.

Nicole: It's got an antenna that pops up off the top and because the antenna is built-in, there's no place to plug an antenna into this television. And because it's a little tiny black & white TV that's probably at least 25 years old, it doesn't have plugs for anything.

To connect a converter box to your TV, the set MUST have an antenna jack. We connected our converter to the newer tv, and tuned some digital channels.

Nicole: I've got to turn the box on. And I've got to put the TV on channel 4 first. The box has to be on either channel 3 or channel 4 and we have ours on channel 4 now. That's channel 4 analog. Now I'm going to turn the box on, and the digital will come in. Now we're on digital.

Our converter box picked up a lot of channels. When there's a picture, it looks great. But it's inconsistent.

Nicole: Trying to get a signal for channel 8. No signal. Ok.

Charles Brown says sometimes jostling the antenna will help bring in signals.

Brown: If you are having problems with an antenna now where you are, yes you'll continue to have those problems even with a converter box.

That means playing with those rabbit ears, or buying some pricier option, like a fancy antenna. We found out that wind can throw things off. At our house, some analog channels that now come in great - have never come thru on digital, no matter what we've tried! And as for that old combo TV & radio?

Nicole: It's a radio - (90.1's audio signal) ooooh it's tuned to KERA!... Whenever the conversion to all digital broadcast happens, it will become a radio.

FCC Consumer Facts
Digital TV Information
Digital Converter Box Info

Send E-mail to Bill Zeeble