What is a Digital TV Decoder?

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  • Originally Written By: J.T. Gale
  • Revised By: Bott
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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A digital TV decoder converts digital signals into analog signals; this technology allows information to be received digitally, but viewed on televisions that are not equipped with digital capabilities. Many countries have already or are in the process of switching from analog to digital broadcasting, commonly known as digital television (DTV), and the digital TV decoder collects the digital signals from the airwaves and translates them for use on a non-digital television. With the use of a decoder, digital stations can be viewed in either standard digital format, or high-definition (HD), depending on the device and television. Other names for the decoder include digital television adapter (DTA), digital-to-analog converter box, and converter box; these devices may be purchased at most stores that sell electronic devices. Not all decoders are phycical boxes, though; most newer televisions have the decoder built-in, and therefore eliminate the need for a converter box.



Perhaps the most common reason to use digital TV decoder is to receive improved sound and picture quality, much better than what the former analog process offered. In many countries, the government has made the decision to switch to all-digital broadcasting in an effort to free up parts of the broadcast spectrum; because of this switch, it has become necessary for residents of many countries to purchase a digital TV decoder in order to watch TV, as analog stations are no longer available. This switch to digital-only serves many purposes: more channels will be free to be used by public safety departments, and unused portions of the spectrum can be auctioned off to wireless companies for uses such as wireless broadband.

In 1996, the US Congress passed a law that gave additional broadcast channels to each TV station, so that they could begin broadcasting in digital as well as analog. As of 13 June 2009, all television signals in the United States were required to be broadcast in digital, thereby making some older television sets obsolete without use of a decoder. Many countries in South America and Europe have chosen to broadcast both analog and digital signals, until a full conversion can be made; other countries in Europe, such as the Netherlands and Finland, have completely switched to digital only, and other countries have not yet started the conversion process. It is possible to find maps and timelines regarding which countries will transition to digital television, which transitions will require the use of a digital TV decoder, and the deadlines for the transitions to take place.

Proper Set Up

Hooking up a digital TV decoder to an analog television set will require a television antenna. The antenna wires will be connected to the back of the converter box in the jack, or screws, labeled “antenna.” The converter box must then be connected to the television. Most digital TV decoders offer either red, white and yellow RCA jacks, or a screw-in type coaxial cable. Whichever method a particular digital TV decoder is designed to accommodate, the cables will need to be connected into the related TV input. Finally, the decoder must be plugged into the wall and powered on.

Digital TV decoders that use RCA inputs will require the TV to be set to the auxiliary input channel, or if coaxial cables are used, the television will typically need to be tuned to channel three or four. The remote control associated with the digital TV decoder must be used, as opposed to the regular TV remote, but, the television remote control will be required to adjust the volume and to turn the TV on and off.


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Post 2

I really think the change to digital TV has improved my channel quality a lot. In the past I would have trouble getting some channels to stay in focus, and there would be a lot of interference. For any of you who have ever had an antenna, I am sure you know how tough it can be to keep your signal clear in something like a lightening storm.

With digital TV the worst that happens now is a little blocking or a cut signal, which is always quickly fixed. I would say 99% of the time my signal is perfect.

Does anyone really miss the old antenna days? Did you find setting up your digital TV decoder easy? I certainly did.

Post 1

I remember how the change to all digital television was a big concern for a lot of people because of the impact it would have on those of lower income who could not afford cable, and relied solely on free analog signals to watch TV.

When the US decided to pass their bill on making the big change, there were funds allocated to make sure that they could provide a subsidy on digital TV decoders for those in need.

Unfortunately, there were those that felt it was not enough money and funds would be complicated to receive.

Does anyone know someone who was adversely impacted by the digital change to our services?

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