Documenting the Coming Singularity

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Growing pains - It's the antenna, stupid

Blogger's Note - As we approach the anticipated technological singularity, things are going to change faster and faster. Those who are resistant to change, of which there are many, will either stick with old technology and be somewhat at a disadvantage, or lose their old technology when it just won't work anymore and be pissed. One of the first big examples of this phenomenon is coming up next month: the switch to digital TV. This article is the most straightforward I have yet seen on the looming debacle.

MSNBC - January 13 2009, by Bob Sullivan

Let's review where things stand a little more than one month from DTV-Day -- the day that old-fashioned analog TVs will stop working -- currently set for Feb. 17.

• There's a waiting list for government coupons so people can buy converter boxes so they can continue to watch television on those old TVs. A waiting list! Sounds almost like a breadline. Church groups are actually being enlisted so people with unused coupons can donate them to "needy" TV watchers. Rome fell after just such a coupon shortage.

• The president-elect thinks we need to postpone the event, but the head of the FCC thinks we need to move forward. After all, think of all the posters that have been printed up!
• Electronics stores are making a killing selling $800 TVs to consumers who walk in looking to buy a converter box.
• The cable TV industry has made a killing by using the issue to market its products to confused consumers. Meanwhile, the industry is undergoing its own painful analog-to-digital conversion.
• Despite all the publicity about the conversion -- and more than $1 billion spent on coupons -- tens of millions of viewers are likely to see their televisions turn into bricks on Feb. 17. These will include TV watchers in remote places like rural New Jersey and in dense cities like New York. And there has been virtually no publicity around the “other” issues facing over-the-air TV viewers come DTV-Day, including the fact that even if their TVs and converter boxes work, their antennae won't.

This is why I keep saying that Feb. 17 is the real Y2K. I know those of you with satellite or cable television have been watching this story with bemused detachment, but trust me: You don’t want to be wandering the streets of American cities the day 10 million or 15 million televisions go dark.

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