August 1, 2014

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The Dead Digital Television

It's a sad day in our household, as a trusted friend has given up the ghost.

This is my personal BLOG and not a news story, nor anyone else's opinion, not even the stations.

I have a confession to make.

I don't watch WTAP TV.  That is, I CAN'T watch WTAP TV nor any of it's affiliated broadcast signals.

The problem is this big hill that I live next to. I live far enough away from the transmitter, that the broadcast signal is getting weaker, and direct line of sight to the tower is not possible. We call this being "shadowed by the hill" or "living in the shadow".

Now, if I lived atop this hill, I could get the stations' signal clear as a bell.  In fact, over the years, we've done multiple tests of this, and confirmed anyone on the far side of the ridge and up to the top, gets a beautiful signal and picture.  But just as you can block a flashlight with your hand, the hill hides my view of the broadcast tower.

But we do have a cable television system... and two decades ago, the system used to carry WTAP TV because of the Pirates ball games.  But they dropped us years ago, and no one fought to get us back or "on the cable" in that distant town.  

--Their loss. WTAP has come a long way since then.

And when the digital conversion happened in about 2007-8 (I forget), converter boxes and digital TV's went on sale. The only problem was that we didn't need one: The cable TV system received and converted all necessary signals to display on an analog TV just fine.

Then one day, my wife stumbled across a sale too good to miss...a stereo Analog/Digital TV with tuner, over-the-air rabbit-ears antenna, additional video inputs....the works!  She bought it without telling me, and it showed up for the holidays in our living room.

I admit, I didn't think we needed it. But over the years, I have periodically re-tuned the set and it has found more and more digital signals carried on the cable system, and will show them in letterbox, with stereo audio, and reliably.  It even has a signal strength meter built in.  So my point is, we grew to use it and rely on it.

I find I watch Saturday Night Live in digital especially because NBC started shooting it for Hi-Def, and the framing to watch two people do Weekend Update required that letter-boxing. Also, I found WSAZ's My Z network showed The Clone Wars on Sundays at midnight in hi-def...and a few other goodies, including This Movie Network, etc.  More and more, my favorites were on the digital side of the tuner, though we regularly used the analog.

(In fact, the tuner was SO good, that even though our cable TV was supposed to stop at channel 27 [Headline News], we could get Channel 28 [CNN] in good reception.  Other TV's on cable will not do that.)

But now for the sad part.  A year ago, the set developed an annoying habit of flat-lining. That is, the picture flattened without warning to a single brilliant horizon line across the tube... at least,  until you turned the set on and off again, which restored the picture.  This fault became more frequent, until just recently, it would take several tens of minutes for the set to "rest" before it would display the picture again.  Audio is high quality stereo and is never interrupted.

Then it happened.  Earlier this week, the set flat-lined again when I got home after midnight , and would not reset...  No matter how late I sat up and read, it would not clear the fault. Even the next day, it was a constant flat-line.  After two days of this, I gave it one final attempt, and for 60 seconds or less, the picture restored.

Now, I don't know what the problem is. In the old days, you'd call a TV repairman in, or deliver your set to a repair shop.  We used to call this a failure of the Y-yoke or the Y-axis, but that term appears to be outdated.  A friend suggested that it was a failure of the power supply, and that started me thinking.

The set has been on the same circuit as the window air conditioner, which has cycled a bit more this month than during the early summer.  And I am wondering if the power fluctuations, or the surge on the line may have had something to do with its failure. (Or not...)

At any rate, I now have a very nice analog/digital TV with perfect stereo sound, that produces no picture.  And I know that the bench charge for repair could far exceed the value of the set. So there it sits, dead.

Except, I miss it.  I miss the digital.  I miss the stereo sound.

So, I'm looking forward to labor day sales on TV sets...and I might just upgrade to one of these them new-fangled plasma flat screen hi-def sets.... (or not)... if I can find just the right sale.

Let me know if you spot a good sale, will you?  I miss my TV.

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