Digital TV ushered in across US

MUMBAI: TV stations across the U.S. started cutting their analog signals Friday morning, marking the final signoff for a 60-year-old technology and likely stranding more than 1 million unprepared homes without TV service.

The FCC put 4,000 operators on standby for calls from confused viewers, and set up demonstration centers in several cities. Volunteer groups and local government agencies were helping elderly people set up digital converter boxes that keep older TVs functioning. Any set hooked up to cable or a satellite dish is unaffected.

"When you‘re alone like me, that‘s my partner," Patricia Bruchalski, 82, said about her TV.

Bruchalski, a pianist and former opera singer in Brooklyn Park, Md., got assistance from Anne Arundel County‘s Department of Aging and Disabilities and a community organization called Partners in Care. After her converter box was installed, Bruchalski marveled that digital broadcasts seemed clearer and gave her more channels -- about 15 instead of the three she was used to.

"You‘re going to be up all night watching TV now," volunteer installer Rick Ebling told her.

About 15 per cent of U.S. households don‘t have satellite or cable, and they tend to be poorer. The Nielsen Co. said minority households were less likely to be prepared for Friday‘s analog shutdown, as were households consisting of people younger than 35.

A survey sponsored by broadcasters showed that Americans are well aware of the switch, thanks to two years of advertising about it. But many people simply procrastinated.

Some people might also need new antennas, because digital signals travel differently than analog ones. While a weakly received analog channel might be viewable through some static, channels broadcast in the digital language of ones and zeros are generally all or nothing: If they don‘t come in perfectly, they are blank or they show a stuttering picture that breaks apart into blocks of color. Indeed, one of Bruchalski‘s newly available stations had that pixelated look, and Ebling said she might have to get a different antenna.

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