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What is Analog Conversion?

Prior to 2009, televisions in the U.S. could receive analog TV signals, but now only digital signals are used and special adapters are needed for old-style televisions.
Since a digital TV signal is so much smaller, it can do many things that an analog signal can’t.
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  • Written By: Jessica Bosari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2014
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By Congressional mandate, all full-power television stations were required to stop broadcasting in analog signal as of 12 June 2009. Instead, stations now broadcast with digital signals. This analog conversion affects anyone with a television that can only receive analog signals. The program is administered through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, or NTIA.

Digital signals are more efficient than analog. While analog televisions create a direct reflection of the analog signal through electrical impulses, digital signals are compressed versions of the analog signal, made up of numbers. When in digital form, the same frequency can broadcast much more information.

The analog digital signal change offers three advantages over analog because of the compressed nature of digital signals. First, the analog conversion freed up crowded airwaves, leaving more room for emergency responder analog signals. Second, the analog conversion leaves more room for advanced wireless consumer services. Finally, digital signals provide a clearer picture for most television viewers.

Congress planned for the switch by instituting changes well before the switch. In March 2007, sellers of all analog-based television equipment were required to disclose facts about the analog conversion at the point of sale. Just prior to this requirement, new laws mandated that all televisions shipped via interstate commerce use digital signals. These new digital televisions were clearly marked as having digital tuners, but labels showing a “digital monitor,” “digital ready,” or “HDTV ready” did not necessarily contain digital tuners. Digital televisions and high definition televisions can both receive digital signals.

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Congress became concerned about the cost of analog conversion for poorer individuals. These people would essentially lose their ability to watch television because of the analog conversion. For this reason, Congress created a TV Converter Box Coupon Program. This allowed households to receive coupons to assist with the cost of analog conversion boxes.

Analog-based televisions no longer worked unless connected to cable or satellite conversion boxes. These services already used digital signals. If there was no cable or satellite service connected to the television, an analog signal converter box was required. These televisions could still use the same antenna as long as the antenna was able to receive the higher UHF channels.

Peripheral devices like VCRs, DVD players, camcorders and video games were not affected by the analog conversion, but the picture quality was sometimes degraded. For this reason, manufacturers began producing new connection devices to improve the sound and picture quality from such devices.

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