So I thought, “why not.” I went to the FCC website that is giving out the coupons (dtv2009.gov) and ordered two. When they arrived a few weeks later, I scurried down to the local RadioShack and picked up a converter. I hooked it up to my old, in-house antenna and sat back to see what I could get on my “improved” TV.
That’s when the problems started.
I could only pick up about five channels, eight at most. And they were never the same ones. Twist the antenna one way and get ABC and NBC. Turn it another way and get CBS and Fox. I couldn’t get any PBS stations at all, which were the real reason I wanted to get a better signal in the first place.
I bought a longer coaxial cable so that I could move the antenna. I put it on top of a bookcase. I piled up a few boxes in one corner and put it there. Et cetera. Et cetera. Nothing improved the signal.
Then I bought a signal booster. No change. I bought a new digital antenna. The picture actually grew worse, so I took it back. The signal was super finicky. If I walked in a certain part of the room, the signal disappeared all together.
How could my neighbor get so much reception, and I get so little? I decided to do a little research.
The first thing you need to know about a digital TV signal is that you either get it, or you don’t. Unlike analog TV, which still produces a fuzzy picture if reception is poor, digital gives you all or nothing. The moment the signal drops below a certain level, the set goes black. The TV industry has an interesting way to describe this: “falling off a cliff.” No kidding.