Analog Electronics Digital Electronics Life Politics

The Digital Switchover and Why It’s About People

The Digital Switchover.

Not me. I almost did that a while back, but no. Not me.


Normally I wouldn’t write about it. A digital television standard is long overdue and in the end this will be a good thing. When you compare Analog vs Digital, there are many more benefits on the digital side of things: lower power for transmission, better bandwidth of signal, more bandwidth usage over the spectrum. All of these are good things. I can even talk about how those digital signals still have lots of analog components as they’re transmitted over the airwaves: multipath, signal loss, power calculation, reception problems, etc.

But no. I’d rather point something else out:

Technology adoption is driven by human nature. It must be adopted before it can help people.

Sure, the digital signals will be great. High Definition pictures and you don’t have to give a dime to those lovely cable companies. Lower power generation required to transmit the signals will help save the environment by lowering the carbon footprint. But until the switch actually happens (today…maybe), no one gets the benefits. The switchover has been delayed to now from this past February. Lawmakers deemed the country unready to make the switchover at that time. I mean, if people can’t watch TV, how will the politicians get their message out to the masses?

No matter how many new devices are introduced into the marketplace and no matter how available they make DTV switcher boxes, people still will not change until pushed. They will not go out and get the digital box or call their local politician until one day they turn on their television and the signal is not there. That is what will drive the final changeover. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a little bit more leeway from politicians before stations are officially told to shut off the analog transmitters.

This problem isn’t exclusive to television. This has happened for the past 30 years in conservation and renewable energy.  Regardless of how many times climate change experts point out we’re killing the planet, nothing moves until there is a scare that oil is running out (it is) or natural gas won’t always be available (it won’t) or coal is filthy (it is) or the power just goes out. Then people change their tune; they change gears and start thinking about buying that solar array or that home wind turbine. They start recycling again because they think it will start to help (it will, but what about the past 10 years of bottles you put in the landfill?). But the thing is, you need to think about buying the solar cells now, when there isn’t a 6 month backlog of installation requests and prices are jacked up due to demand. And Solar might even already be an affordable option for you.

I’m sure people will say there’s an economic aspect of it for DTV and that the people that use analog signals the most can’t afford the converter boxes. Perhaps that has some truth to it. But the point remains that no matter the technology, until that last group resistant or indifferent to change decides to go out and do something about it, those people can’t be helped.

What about you? Have you made the switchover yet? If not, why? Leave a note in the comments.