Demystifying High-Definition & Digital TV Tuners

Since everyone in my family and extended family contributed to my new HD camcorder, high-definition television was one topic of conversation this Christmas. While talking with my dad, he told me about his friend who mentioned an HD converter box that turned your standard TV into an HDTV. I quickly explained why this was impossible and thought I’d set the record straight here as well.

Resistance is Futile

For years the FCC has set and reset the deadline that requires all over-the-air television stations to cease analog broadcasts and replace them with digital ones. The latest deadline, which I believe will change again, is February 17, 2009. Regardless of the date, when this does finally happen, no television will be able to view over-the-air broadcasts without a digital tuner. These tuners will not turn your TV into an HDTV, only allow you to watch the new digital broadcasts. Newer televisions are digital cable ready, or DCR, which come with a digital tuner built-in.

HDTV and HDTV-Ready

The difference between HDTV and HDTV-Ready is the presence of a high-definition tuner. HDTV-Ready televisions can display an HD picture, but require a separate set-top-box to create the high-definition picture. Some prefer a built-in HDTV tuner to eliminate this need for additional hardware as it can be hard to work with in smaller areas. Again, these HD tuners do not convert your TV to an HDTV.

Who’s Affected

For the majority who has digital cable or satellite service, these coming changes will be invisible. This is due to these services already requiring an addition set-top-box. However, you can avoid using this device if your television accepts a CableCARD®; which must be provided upon request. On the flipside, those who can’t afford cable or the cost to buy a digital tuner will have government subsidies available to help them make the switch.

HDTV Converter Myth Debunked

Hopefully this helps shed some light on the different rumors that are apparently floating around. Unfortunately, there is no magic box that will convert your old SDTV to an HDTV, but oh how great life would be if there was.

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