Friday, June 12, 2009

tt4t_089 Analog TV says goodbye, hello DTV

It’s Friday, June 12th, 2009 and welcome to episode 89 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Today marks the end of an era in analog TV broadcasting. Today is the last day that NTSC analog television signals will be broadcasted in the United States. Please be sure to check on your less technically-adept friends and family this weekend to make sure that they can still receive the new digital TV signals that we are now solely reliant upon.

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For myself and some of my neighbors in this part of rural Illinois this transition already has impacted the choices of TV channels available. Back in February I helped my grandparents install a new national branded digital TV converter box that allowed them to watch a few local stations. After having this converter box for some time now my grandparents were not satisfied with it and stated that the old way was better. After quizzing them about what they were missing they stated that there were a few channels they used to be able to get but that they could not get anymore.

I recently purchased a more expensive Channel Master converter box and replaced the existing branded version that my grandparents had purchased from Walmart. The new converter box does seem to receive more channels than the old one. There does appear to be some quality differences between different brands and models of converter boxes so you may want to do some additional testing if you are experiencing problems with DTV reception.

The other frustrating factor for my grandparents was that the converter boxes have a separate remote control with smaller buttons. Both my grandparents are near 90 years of age and this change really has personally impacted them as they have little understanding of the technical details. All they want to be able to do is watch a little TV from time to time and they do not understand the need for change because things were working fine before.

I will need to check back on my grandparents this weekend as the website has an Alert today that states that some people may have to “RESCAN” their channels after the switchover is finalized today. My grandparents have no idea what this means yet alone how to do it. I have provided a screenshot of the website in the show notes with the Alert message. Please check-in on your friends and neighbors to make sure that everything is OK after todays digital TV switch-over.

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is from the recent E3 gaming conference that features some interesting new ways to interact with your gaming console. Most of us are aware of the Nintendo Wii and you may have had the chance to play some interactive games using the Wii controllers in games like bowling, tennis, baseball, and boxing.

Last week at the E3 conference Microsoft announced Project Natal, pronounced Nah-tall, that completely eliminates the controller all together and in fact makes YOU the controller! This is truly amazing technology and the camera sensors in the system can map movements of your body and interactively incorporate them into a variety of games. A link is available in the show notes.

Project Natal –XBox 360 – where YOU are the controller!

Be sure to check-out this link as it has a video demonstation of what this new system is capable of including a boy playing a game using Karate moves to beat an opponent, a girl playing an auto racing game where her Dad is in the Pit Crew changing tires, and a family playing a Jeopardy-like game using voice recognition. This video may take a bit to download but is certainly worth the wait. To be fair this technology will not be available commercially for at least another year or so but it does give you an inside look into where the Xbox 360 gaming system is headed.

Long time listeners of TechTalk4Teachers may remember way back on Episode 18 that I gave an overview of how Johnny Chung Lee used a Wii remote to build a low-cost interactive white board. A link to Episode 18 is in the show notes.

Episode 18 – Johnny Chung Lee

It just so happens that Johnny Chung Lee is now employed by Microsoft and has recently been assigned to the Project Natal team. If you would like to see what Johnny has been up to I have also provided a link to his blog called Procrastineering in the show notes where he explains some of the basics of Project Natal.


That wraps it up for episode 89 of TechTalk4Teachers. Transcripts and show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the Eastern Illinois University Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.


bowler said...

another solution to the digital switchover, if it's an issue for anybody, is to watch TV on the internet

TechTalk4Teachers said...

While watching TV on the Internet for some may be an option I think many miss the point about the lack of digital equity in rural areas. I am quite lucky in that I have a wireless EVDO modem but it has a 5GB monthly cap on bandwidth, not a very good solution for streaming video. This battle between cable companies and phone companies has the consumer caught in the middle of mediocrity of services. There are technical solutions to these problems but companies are crippling services making them of only limited use in my opinion. For my grandparents that have trouble operating a remote control watching TV on a computer would be a very frustrating experience and extremely expensive, they are used to free TV and are still using a TV set that is more than 10 years old.
Tom Grissom