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Digital TV is a standard of broadcasting that involves the use of digital signals instead of the analog signals, traditionally used with television broadcasts. Though there is some confusion on the topic, the presence of a digital signal does not mean there is high definition television. The two are very distinct. Digital signals do make high definition possible, but not guaranteed. The benefits of digital television is there is no signal degradation, meaning the picture can be sent clearer, and the sound will also be of better quality.
To truly understand what digital TV is, it is necessary to understand the difference between analog and digital signals. An analog signal is an wave that is sent or recorded in its original form. It is like a cast made of a footprint that is transported from one location to another. The form of the cast never changes during transport. A digital signal breaks down the signal and assigns it numbers for reconstruction at the destination. In some ways it is like a puzzle that is taken apart after each piece is numbered, then put together in another location.
In order for individuals to get digital TV reception, they must do one of two things. They must either change their analog TV to a digital set capable of receiving signals, or get a box that can translate the signal from digital to analog. The digital TV boxes will likely be the cheaper option, but the increase in the quality of the signal will not be as great as those who have digital televisions.
For those who receive cable or satellite service, there is no need to worry about digital TV service. In most cases, they are already receiving a digital signal from their cable provider. Therefore, the only people who would be affected by a switch to digital TV are those who receive the signal for their televisions over the air using a traditional antenna. Due to the fact that many choosing this option are lower income individuals, the U.S. government has provided grants that will partly pay for the converter boxes for residents.
Once the transition takes place, the benefits will be seen in the picture and sound quality. The so-called ghosts and snow that sometimes plague analog TV will be a thing of the past. Digital TV channels will come in very clear. The sound will also be more crisp, though it may take a decent supplemental sound system for most people to notice a difference. The built-in speakers on televisions are usually not of sufficient quality to truly reflect the difference in the digital sound.
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