This piece is about television: Analog…Digital…Cable…Broadcast…
I watch broadcast television.
When I say that, I mean “free” television that is received over the air with an antenna.
I don’t subscribe to any cable, satellite or Internet Protocol television at all.
Many other Millenials like me also do not subscribe to any pay television.
BUT, initially, I did it for different reasons than my fellow Millenials.
However, many of my fellow Millenials do subscribe to one or more streaming services, I don’t.
I am a total cord cutter and my only data traffic comes in and out on my cell phone.
Growing up, my parents always subscribed to cable.
They are indeed Baby Boomers and that generation almost as a whole fervently believes in subscribing to cable.
I think this is because, when they were growing up, the only people who had “clear” television reception were the city dwellers and everyone else had frequent reception issues. Not only that, there were maybe three main channels in a given market when they were growing up, whereas cable offers dozens to hundreds of channels. Cable was also much cheaper in the early days. I remember both my parents and grandparents saying how cable television was $8/month when they began subscribing.
However, myself and maybe other Millenials have noticed that since about the late 2000s cable television has skyrocketed in cost but plummeted in quality programming-change my (our) mind(s)!
I would dare say that it is not even worth eight 2019 dollars a month unless one lives totally out of any broadcast reception range (like maybe Texas, between San Antonio and El Paso or other extremely rural areas.)
When the Baby Boomers were much younger adults in the 1980s and 1990s, cable was wonderful, I’ll admit it and I’ll admit it until the cows come home. I was a child back then, but I remember how cable used to be very good. Nickelodeon had awesome cartoons and sketch comedies. VH1 and MTV actually played music videos! Arts and Entertainment, The History Channel and the Discovery Channel didn’t show constant reruns, but actually had very original and equally educational shows! TBS and TNT and USA Network had much more diverse and sometimes original programming unlike now where they mostly air reruns of shows that are already on broadcast television for free! And get this: CNN actually reported credible news without so much biased commentary!
I first “cut the cable” in the Summer of 2003, when I was sixteen and a half.
I finally had my own television, a 1992 Zenith Sentry 2 and I wanted to experiment with it.
This means that my initial reason for cutting cable was strictly experimental.
So I purchased a set of rabbit ears and a loop and connected them to that aforementioned television.
I would spend hours scanning the channels and constantly repositioning the antennas to see which stations I could receive.
At the time, I lived about sixty miles from Baton Rouge, fifty miles from New Orleans, and maybe eight miles from Houma, the three closest cities with television stations.
The rest of my family thought I was crazy.
My classmates that found out also thought I was crazy.
Let’s just say I was a cord cutter well before doing so was cool.
I guess that makes me at least partially a hipster.
I may sometimes wear my newsboy hat, but I refuse to grow a beard, so there.
This went on from 2003 to about 2006 and was basically before the June 12, 2009, FCC Digital Upgrade Mandate.
I will say that when comparing analog and digital broadcast television, both have some advantages as well as disadvantages.
Since the television I had was only an analog model and I didn’t yet have a converter box, I was only able to watch analog television.
However, analog television signals were able to travel further and could be received with lower quality antennas than their modern digital counterparts. Also, an analog television signal could still be intelligibly received whilst the receiver was in motion and even mobile (like in a car!)
All I had were rabbit ears and a loop, but I could catch both of the then VHF High New Orleans stations WYES-12 (didn’t watch much on it, but it had the clearest picture of all) and WVUE-8 (watched The Simpsons every Sunday night on there) almost perfectly. Most of the UHF New Orleans stations WNOL-38 (watched The Simpsons every weeknight on it), WHNO-20 (watched some preachers on there), WPXL-49 easily. The other UHF New Orleans-area stations WUPL-54, WGNO-26, WLAE-32 were hit and miss. The two VHF Low Band stations in New Orleans WWL-4 (despite being one of the most powerful television stations in the country) and WDSU-6 were difficult to catch, and had lots of static on my then configuration but would come in every now and then (and WDSU-6 had beautiful color when it did come in properly, it was always fun to watch Golf or Racing on there.) I could also catch the VHF High Band station out of Baton Rouge WAFB-9 all the time, (in fact when I wasn’t in school or working, I would watch As the World Turns on there.) The VHF Low Band station in Baton Rouge, WBRZ-2 would come in every now and then but always had lots of static. As for the UHF Baton Rouge stations, I could catch WVLA-33 most of the time and every now and then could catch WGMB-44 (would also watch The Simpsons on there when I could), which wasn’t even on my parents’ cable service. Sometimes the picture was almost clear, most of the time the picture was overall intelligible, but with some snow and white noise. These results were pretty much acceptable considering the antenna was an indoor model maybe six feet up and up to sixty miles away from the stations. Sometimes various forms of radio skip would occur and I would catch television stations from other states! That was always interesting and of course, caught my undivided attention. KFOL-30 (HTV-10) out of Houma was almost always guaranteed to come in but sometimes had a least a little white noise and snow in the signal.
I will say that it is virtually impossible in that location with that antenna setup to receive most of those stations since they switched to digital mode.
In December 2007, my then girlfriend, now ex-wife and I purchased our first Digital Ready television. It was a 24 inch Dynex CRT we purchased from Best Buy and was a Christmas gift to each other. Later on that day, I hooked up my rabbit ears and a loop to it excited to see what I could catch. We were living in her parents’ trailer in Raceland, Louisiana, which adversely affect television reception with that setup. However, I was only able to get WWL-36 (virtual channel 4.1) though sometimes it would come in clearly and beautifully but other times it would freeze up and fade out. One of the first things I remember catching on there was the “Happy Holidays” commercial for the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad. We also watched the CBS Evening News where Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson was being interviewed. Later that night I went to Wal Mart and purchased a set of rabbit ears and a loop with a built-in amplifier. This only made a marginal difference. For almost a year, we watched broadcast television with hit and miss results, then in the Summer of 2008, my now ex-wife but then girlfriend began subscribing to cable, which also meant home internet and phone. Also in the Summer of 2008, I applied for the coupons for a digital converter box. When they came in, I went to Wal Mart, purchased one and installed it on my old Zenith at my parents’ house.
On June 12, 2009, all full-power American television stations shut off their analog signals and began broadcasting strictly in digital.
Fast forward to the Spring of 2016. My then wife, now ex-wife and I were living in a second story apartment in Raceland, Louisiana. I had a man cave with that Dynex television and bought a cheap flat panel antenna for it. My then now ex-wife either watched Uverse in the bedroom or living room. I could catch a good bit of the New Orleans stations and the one Houma station since I was on the second floor and had a height advantage. I was never able to catch any of the Baton Rouge stations though and that irritated me, especially since they weren’t on our Uverse subscription either. At the time, however, I was more interested in listening to railroad communications on my scanners. In late 2017, my now ex-wife was badgering me how she wanted a ground floor apartment and since our neighbors below us moved out, we applied for and got it. This put a damper on my television and scanner reception. But even though my marriage was falling apart, I knew she had mobility issues and was even then was trying to appease her and her family. In early January of 2018, we mutually decided to cancel our Uverse television subscription and use Netflix and antennas but keep the Internet service in order to save money and pay down debt. Being on the bottom floor meant less television [and scanner] reception. However, I remember my ex watching Inside Edition and they were doing a piece on President Trump’s questionable diet. We could only catch WWL-36/(4.1) and KFOL-30. I wasn’t too happy about that, but I chalked it up to her wanting so badly to move downstairs. Then, I had found out some stuff she was doing behind my back coupled with years of mistreatment and I left her later that month also later that month and I applied for an apartment on the outskirts of Houma, Louisiana. I stayed with a friend until that apartment became available.
My ex wanted me to keep that old Dynex television, but I refused because I didn’t want to be reminded of her. God only knows where it is now.
I got my own apartment on May 1, 2018, and what was really a blessing is that I was offered a second-floor unit and gladly took it (a vertically higher position equals better television and scanner reception.)
Between leaving my ex and getting my own apartment, I purchased a 24 inch LG flat screen model and watched it at a friends house. it was hooked up to an attic antenna and I caught just about every station from New Orleans but none from Houma or Baton Rouge. This is because that attic antenna was a directional model and pointed at New Orleans. It also doubled as my computer monitor for the time being.
A few days after moving into my apartment, I set up my LG television. I knew I was not going to get cable and since my ex kept the other televisions and antennas we had, I went to The Ruble, I mean The Dollar General and purchased another flat antenna. I tried multiple several spots in my living room, until realizing that placing it in the window that faces the Gulf of Mexico, for whatever reasons pulls the stations in. I caught a few New Orleans stations and of course the one station in Houma. What is very strange though is I initially tried placing my antenna in the window that faces New Orleans but didn’t catch ANY stations doing so.
I used my phone for all of my Internet use, but many times I ended up with throttled data. In July of 2018, I had begun subscribing to Internet through Comcast. I had it until April of 2019 when I purchased a good enough mobile data plan to where I didn’t need home Internet anymore. Once again, I became a cord cutter!
Also a few days ago, my brother and his wife gave me their Samsung 43 inch Smart TV, since they upgraded. I put my LG in my bedroom and this Samsung television in my living room. However, I’ve noticed that while Samsung televisions do have very beautiful pictures, their RF tuning circuits aren’t that sensitive. LG televisions have superior RF tuning circuits and I think that has something to do with the fact that they merged with Zenith! Okay, that 1992 Zenith television also had a very good tuner and actually it was in my family until about 2010 or 2011! My maternal grandma also swore by Zenith televisions to the point where she referred to all remotes as “the Space Command.” I’ve also been told that her husband, my grandpa also swore by Zenith products, but he died 29 years before I was born. Anyway, that’s why I am so prejudiced in favor of Zenith and now LG! It was January of 2006 when I had found out that LG and Zenith merged. I was highly ticked off because, at the time, I had found that LG made junky phones, however, nowadays they make pretty decent phones and because of that Zenith engineering that they inherited, their televisions have the best tuners, hands down. I could give other detailed examples of this too, drop me a line and I will. So earlier this evening I purchased a better antenna for the Samsung and if need be, I will also get an amplifier. I cannot wait for it to come in. Currently, it only catches WWL-36/(4.1, 4.2, 4.3) and KFOL-30/(30.1, 30.3.) By the way, the LG television in my bedroom picks up a few New Orleans stations and of course the one station in Houma. I purchased the antenna for it at The Family Dollar and it is mounted high up on the wall that faces the Gulf of Mexico.
Now digital television does have its advantages over its analog ancestor. While the reception range is shortened, the picture quality is highly superior when the signal comes in properly. Also, the bandwidth required for one analog channel can fit six digital channels! Couple a good tuner and antenna system, most users can have a choice of channels that is almost on par with basic cable, but it costs nothing! Well, one does need a good antenna and that might also mean a tower, some coax, amplifiers, and a digital ready television or converter box, but the setup would pay for itself in one to three months!
As I stated on Facebook, I wish we could marry the signal strength and transmission range of analog television with the picture quality and channel capacity of digital television…It was that Facebook post I made earlier today that inspired me to write this piece!
But wouldn’t it be nice if ATSC 3.0 solves that exact issue, though?
Broadcast television has overall gotten better and cable has obviously gotten worse.
There need to be drastic changes in the cable and other subscription television industries as a whole, or more and more will get fed up and start hooking up antennas instead. They will lose too many customers and that will serve them right for charging too much for too little.
One of those changes I suggest is, if hospitals, hotels/motels, and even prisons can have cable without that freakin’ box (pardon my language but this really irritates me and therefore, unfortunately, warrants such crude language) and just plug the television directly into the cable wire, why can’t the average consumer do the same? I’ve been asking that question publically since 2016, but it has been on my mind much longer. Most of it is fueled by seeing my paternal grandma struggle to operate her cable box and her husband, my Paw Paw (God rest his soul) flat out give up on television because of the complexity of operating the cable box
I discovered broadcast television as an experiment but now rely on it daily for entertainment and information.
I much prefer broadcast over cable and I get mixed reactions for this preference.
I hope this piece has been informative and entertaining…