Are you ready for the digital age?

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- On February 17, 2009, television broadcasting stations will undergo a major alteration. They will stop broadcasting in the basic analog format and will broadcast only in the digital format known as Digital Television.

DTV is a broadcasting technology that allows better picture, better sound quality, and more programming choices to be distributed wirelessly to television sets. Everyone with older, analog-only televisions will stop getting a signal and will need to buy a digital-to-analog converter. Analog-only televisions are television sets` that receive their broadcast signal through antenna.

"In the Concho Valley so far there has been a lot of positive feedback," said KLST's Chief engineer Len Martinez in an article published by the San Angelo Standard Times. "Consumers watching the Olympics have been very pleased with the quality we have been able to provide. We haven't had very many complaints about the transition at all. Most calls we've received aren't from people complaining but rather are from people who want to be educated about the transition and how they can take full advantage of it."

Many people believe that because of the transition they have to throw away their current television and go out and purchase an expensive, high definition television. This idea is wrong and is encouraged only by electronics stores who mislead with their terminology to persuade you to buy a new television. There is no need to get rid of an existing analog television if you have one.

The important reason why Congress mandated the switch was to free up the broadcasting band that would otherwise be used for television and use it for public safety such as police, fire departments, ambulances, and rescue squads. Some other frequencies along the band will be auctioned off to companies to provide special wireless service to customers.

There are three things you can do to get digital broadcasts if you are not able to now. Your first option is to buy a compatible television set. The second is to buy a special DTV converter box; this option is much cheaper than buying a new TV. The third option is to subscribe to a cable or Satellite Company; this solution would require neither a new TV nor a digital-to-analog converter box. Televisions are now labeled to indicate whether they are equipped with digital tuners or not.

Labels for DTV may include "Integrated Digital Tuner," "Digital Receiver," "DTV" or "ATSC." A television having any of these markings should be able to view digital over-the-air programming without a digital-to-analog converter box.

However, televisions labeled as "Digital Monitor," "HDTV Monitor," "Digital Ready" or "HDTV Ready" may not necessarily include a digital tuner; with these you would still need some sort of receiver.

"How much the consumer spends is completely flexible and up to them," Mr. Martinez said. "The best way to completely take advantage of the benefits from the digital quality is to buy an HDTV, but if you aren't picky or can't afford it, a digital converter box will be fine for you."

Consumers benefit from this change because digital signal allows a sharper, clearer picture and better sound quality. The broadcaster can offer a "high-definition" channel or multiple "Standard Definition" at the same time using the same amount of spectrum required for one analog program. DTV is a better viewing experience on every level.