(Television History and Trivia)




Victor Edward Swanson


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- - - T.H.A.T., Edition No. 52 - - -

    On Sunday, August 3, 2008, I talked with Mary Hackett, who does costumes for the Rogers City Theatre (in Rogers City of Presque Isle County in the Lower Peninsula), and we ended up talking about digital-to-analog television converter boxes and more, and I told her to see this edition of T.H.A.T. and the previous edition at least to get information about digital-to-analog television converter boxes and more (she had recently received two coupons for digital-to-analog television converter boxes and she wondered how to use them well).  Besides helping Mary, this edition of T.H.A.T. should help others thinking about digital-to-analog television converter boxes, but this edition of T.H.A.T. is not entirely devoted to digital-to-analog television converter boxes.  As always, T.H.A.T. has all sorts of information about television, and it even has at least one trivia question.

    In the previous edition of T.H.A.T., I mentioned a number of television series of the late 1960s--series shown during the years of the big push to go from the black-and-white television age to the color television age--that people still like to see today, and one of those series is Star Trek, which was originally shown on NBC-TV.  I watched the series when it was originally shown on NBC-TV, and I am again watching it in syndication through a television station broadcasting to viewers in at least the northern half of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan and through a television station broadcasting to viewers in at least the southeastern region of the Lower Peninsula.  Also, a friend of mine is watching the series--basically, watching it for the first time.  I like watching Star Trek because it is likeable and because it is not "dark" science fiction.  Too many sci-fi series are dark, such as dark because they have dark lighting or darkly lighted sets or rooms.  Recently, I saw again an episode of Star Trek entitled "The Omega Glory," which focuses on a planet in which people are fighting for their rights, not unlike people who created the United States of America, and it even has a "WE THE PEOPLE"-type document as part of the story line.  In the story, people do not really understand how "we the people" is the basis of their government set up by the people and for the people and not for only politicians and so-called elites, and, in the story, a starship captain disregards the "prime directive."  The captain is Ronald Tracey.  What actor played that character?  That is the trivia question that you should try to answer before you read the next edition of T.H.A.T.

    Incidentally, I wonder: "Why would not space travelers want the rooms and such within their spacecraft to be well lighted (not too brightly, though)?"

    Recent editions of T.H.A.T. have provided you with information about digital-to-analog converter boxes, but none of the editions gave a review of a particular unit.  In was in July 2008 that I began to test units in two areas of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.  Here is information about the two units and what reception that I was able to get..
    I did research about digital-to-analog converter units, and I came up with two units that I would be willing to test--and put money into--and they are two units that are available in Michigan through stores (I did not want to buy anything through the Internet).  One unit is the Zenith DTT-901, which has the analog-pass-through feature or makes it possible to easily get analog signals (if you buy such a unit, you do not have to buy some type of "A-B-type switch" unit).  The other model is the Digital Stream DTX9950, which has the analog-pass-through feature.
    The first testing of the same two units took place during early July 2008 in the Huron Beach area of Presque Isle County in the Lower Peninsula (which is in the northeastern region of the Lower Peninsula).  The residence at which I tested the units had an omni-directional antenna mounted on a pole, which was attached to the roof.  When I tested the Digital Stream unit, the unit was only able to detect the television signal--a digital television signal--for one television station, which was the NBC-TV network affiliate that could be picked up in the area.  When I tested the Zenith unit, the unit was able to detect four signals, but only one signal could be seen--the other signals were too weak, so no audio or video could be displayed by the television set (which was that television set that I reported in a recent edition of T.H.A.T. that I had done repair work to).  I also tested both units with a "rabbit-ears"-type antenna, and neither unit picked up any signal.
    By the way, in the Huron Beach area, four analog signals come in clearly when I use the outdoor-type antenna (the signal for a PBS affiliate, the signal for an ABC-TV affiliate, the signal for a CBS-TV affiliate, and the signal for an NBC-TV affiliate), and other signals come in weakly (such as several signals related to CBC-TV of Canada and an affiliate of Fox TV), and the quality of all the other signals depends on the weather, and the quality is never as good as the quality of the four analog signals that I mentioned first is.
    In late July 2008, I tested the same converter boxes in Ferndale (of Oakland County), which is in the southeastern region of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, and I only was able to test both units with a "rabbit-ears"-type antenna (an outdoor-type antenna, such as that mounted on a roof of a building, was not available).  Both units seem to do equally well; for instance, both units detected 13 signals or channels.  And, of course, both units made it easy to get to the analog channels that were available to me in Ferndale.

    Here is an aside, provided to you before I give you some conclusions.  On Monday, August 4, 2008, I spoke over the phone with an engineer at WCMU-TV, which is based at Mt. Pleasant (of Isabella County in the Lower Peninsula) and has--what I will call--sister stations (such as WCMV-TV), and that engineer was Darel Vanderhoos, and one reason that I had called him was to get information about what digital signal was being broadcast to the Huron Beach area (of Presque Isle County in the Lower Peninsula).  Darel reported that the signal from WCMU-TV for the Huron Beach area was coming from an antenna (which was about 1,000-feet tall) that was located about five miles north of Atlanta (which is Montmorency County of the Lower Peninsula and which is about 35 miles from Huron Beach), and the channel is informally known as "RF 57" (the analog signal of WCMU-TV for people in the Huron Beach area is Channel 6).  The digital signal--depending on the converter unit used--gets shown by a converter box as "57" or "6," and, sometime in the future--probably around February 2009--the actual digital signal will be switched from "57" to "26" or near "26" (such as "27" or "28"), which, as I will soon explain, will be better for the station and for viewers.  I asked Darel: What is the maximum range of a digital-television signal?  I asked the question with qualifications--for example, I said to him to leave things like hills out of the equation.  He said that he lives in the Mt. Pleasant area and that he is able to receive a station in Grand Rapids, which is about 70 miles away (using "not too fancy equipment"), and through what I know from my research about television over the years and from what he told me, I can say that a person might expect the maximum range to be somewhere between 40 miles and 70 miles.  Darel and I talked about television broadcast channels.  He noted that Channel 2 through Channel 6 are considered  "low-band VHF television" and that Channel 7 through 13 are "high-band VHF television," and digital television broadcasting does better on the high-band VHF channels than it does on the low-band VHF channels (he mentioned how--he heard--some station in the Kalamazoo area that is broadcasting digitally on a low-band VHF channel is trying to get to FCC to allow the station to switch to a channel that is not a low-band VHF channel).  Besides the VHF channels that I have already mentioned, digital television broadcasting has "UHF" channels assigned to it, and a television station can do better on a lower-end channel, such as channel 26, than on a higher-end channel, such as 57, or, as Darel noted, a station might be able to push out 25 percent or 30 percent more usable signal for viewers by being on a lower-end UHF channel than on a higher-end UHF channel, which means some people farther away from the digital WCMU broadcast antenna will be able to receive the digital WCMU signal once the station switches from the higher-end UHF frequency to whatever the lower-end UHF frequency turns out to be (in essence, when a television station uses a certain amount of power on a higher-end UHF frequency for digital broadcasting, the station signal will get out a certain distance, and if the station uses the same amount of power on a lower-end UHF frequency, the station signal should get out farther than it could when the higher-end UHF frequency was used).

    Now that you have the aside related to Darel Vanderhoos, and I give you some conclusions, based on the information that I have to work with at this point.  At least one station in northern Michigan is going to change channel position in the near future, which should allow the station to push signal farther out, and until that happens, I cannot really assess what signal will be available from that station for people in the Huron Beach area (in a future edition of T.H.A.T., I will have more information about television signals from other stations in the northern half or so of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan).  At this point I can say that people in the Huron Beach area will have to use an outdoor-type antenna with either a converter box or with a television set having a digital tuner contained within it.  To get all the digital channels that I received in Ferndale, a person in another city in the Detroit area might have to use an outdoor antenna, but that is a matter that I cannot provide more information about (in fact, I expect a person who lives in what can be called an outer-suburb of Detroit will have to use an outdoor antenna, and Darel Vanderhoos noted that relatives of his who live in the far northern suburbs of Detroit have had problems receiving digital television signals in the Detroit area, but I am unable to report useful information about the problems to you here).  The Zenith DTT-901 unit can detect more signals than the Digital Stream DTX9950 can, when both are used at the same place (I am not going to discuss which has better other features--each does come with a remote, and the Zenith model has a cheaper quality "RF cable" cable than the Digital Stream model has).  The DTX9950 is a slightly smaller unit than the DTT-901 is, but the DTX9950 runs hotter than the DTT-901 does (I touched both units while they were running), and, to me, it means the DTX9950 could have a shorter lifespan than the DTT-901 could, since integrated circuits, transistors, and such break down under heat, and the more heat such parts have to endure over time, the sooner they should break down
    Although I cannot give a good discussion about how well the full power digital television stations will be received on February 18, 2009, and what antenna systems will work well enough, I can pass along preliminary information about antenna systems based on information gained from Darel Vanderhoos.  Generally speaking, he said that a person in a rural area should have and use an outdoor-type "VHF-UHF combo" antenna (Remember: Digital-television stations can be VHF stations or UHF stations).  A person may be able to use an "omni-directional antenna," such as that a person might be using now to receive the signals of analog television stations, or may have to use a "directional antenna," which gets used in conjunction with a "rotor," which is used to turn an antenna in various directions.  The antenna should be mounted as high in the air as possible.  The coaxial cable used should be the "RG-6" type and not the "RG-59" type.  There is more signal loss down the "RG-59" type than down the "RG-6" type ("RG-6/u"); for instance, if a person were to use 40 feet of "RG-59" instead 40 feet of "RG-6," the person could expect to have, maybe, a 10db loss of signal on the "RG-59"--that is sort of like a 90 percent loss of signal.  Given what information is offered in the previous sentence, a person should check what type of coaxial cable that the person's current outdoor antenna system has (related to analog broadcasting), and if the cable is "RG-59," the person could try replacing the cable with "RG-6," and that should make reception better and maybe good enough so that the person will not have to get a new antenna system.  In addition, the outdoor antenna (whether an omni-directional system or a directional system) should have a "pre-amp," which is mounted within the antenna unit.  By the way, Darel said that the coaxial cable should be the type with the foam core with the foil shield.
    I cannot promote any type of outdoor antenna system as being the best to buy, lacking enough information to make a judgement now, but Darel did say that people should look into models produced by ChannelMaster or by Winegard at least--if an antenna system needs to be bought at all.

    I report that the coaxial cable of the outdoor antenna system that I used at Huron Beach is the "RG-6/u" type, and I report that, when a television station makes a switch of signal (from one to another), the switch is informally thought of as a "flip-flop," and I report that the antenna for WCMU-TV is about 30 miles from Huron Beach.

    Special note: I have to make a thought clear--If a person has a television set that contains a digital television tuner, the person need not get a digital-to-analog television converter box for the set to receive and use digital television broadcast signals.

    "For the record," I report here the 13 channels of digital programming that were available to me from television stations in the Detroit area circa late July 2008: Channel 2-1 (WJBK-DT, a high-definition broadcast); Channel 2-2 (WJBK-SD, which has the same programming as WJBK-DT); Channel 4-1 (WDIV-HD); Channel 4-2 (WDIV-SD, which has weather information, such as that of "Weather Plus," which is related to NBC-TV); Channel 7-1 (WXYZ-HD); Channel 7-2 ("Retro Television Network," which has, for instance, 1960s and 1970s television series); Channel 7-3 (which has "Doppler 7 Weather"); Channel 20-1 (WMYD-HD); Channel 20-2 (which has WCSN-TV, which offers sports programming); Channel 38-1 (WADL-DT); Channel 38-2 (WADL-DT, which has "The Word Network"); Channel 50-1 (WKBD-HD); Channel 56-1 (WTVS-HD, which has the high definition channel of the Channel 56 entity); Channel 56-2 (WTVS-SD, which offers the programming of the analog Channel 56); Channel 56-3 (WTVSSD2, which offers Channel 56's "Create" programming service); and Channel 62-1 (WWJ-HD).

    In the previous edition of T.H.A.T., I asked you this question--"What was the name of the summer-replacement show for The Dean Martin Show in the summer of 1966?"  I have the answer for you.  The series was The Rowan and Martin Show, and some of the performers on the series were Lainie Kazan and Dom DeLuise (of course, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin headlined the series).

    During the 2007-2008 television season, ABC-TV has used "Start here" has a promotional slogan (I talked about it in T.H.A.T. #43, which can be reached through this link--T.HA.T. #43), and now, it seems to me, NBC-TV has adopted a promotional slogan.  On July 10, 2006, NBC-TV aired a promotional announcement for a upcoming fall series entitled Kat & Kim, which is a take-off of an Australian series, which has aired on cable in the U.S.  At the end of the promotional announcement, NBC-TV used the slogan "chime in."  I am unaware when "chime in" was first used by NBC-TV, but it was on July 10, 2008, that I first saw it used.

    Here is a "for the record" section.  For decades, the Detroit Free Press has published television-program-listings information--in a weekly guide and, at least, in each weekday and Saturday (for many decades, the Sunday edition of the newspaper did not have a daily presentation, since on that day, the weekly program guide was published).  On Saturday, July 12, 2008, the daily listing had eight television stations listed and 18 cable networks or channels (covering prime time and late night), and up to that day, the weekdays had been covering the same television entities but the information was only for prime time (this format had been used by the newspaper for quite a while).  On Monday, July 14, 2008, the Detroit Free Press cut back on the information that was available in program listings (grids) for the weekdays and Saturday.  Now, the newspaper was providing information for eight television stations and only seven cable networks or channels.  In addition, in the edition of the newspapers for Monday, July 14, 2008, an article noted changes with the television section and more ("Free features shuffle," Detroit Free Press, 14 July 2008 p. 1C.), and one of the thoughts presented was "...(Want more TV listings?  Don't forget the Sunday Free Press TV Book, distributed in all retail editions; for home delivery, opt in by calling 800-395-3300.)."  And that is another sign of cutbacks in the newspaper business.

Stay well!


copyright c. 2008
Date published: August 10, 2008

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