This coming June marks the two-year anniversary of America’s transformation from analog to digital TV, a move called the Digital TV Transition. Although talks of digital TV began in Congress as early as 1996, the official change was finalized on June 12, 2009, which was the deadline for TV stations to stop broadcasting analog signals.
So why was this change made, you ask? Well for one, digital TV allows for TV programming to be offered with better picture and sound quality. Furthermore, digital TV gives broadcasters the option of multicasting, which enables them to offer multiple programming choices such as the choice between standard definition and high definition programs. The official government website for the transformation offers some more information here.
Consumers across the U.S. had to make preparations before the transition took place, including but not limited to the purchase of a converter box for TVs that could encode only analog signals. About 69 million TV sets were affected by the transition that, according to David Rehr, was “the most significant advancement of television technology since color TV was introduced.”
Although America was not the first country in the world to make this transition, it definitely was the first large one to do so. Countries such as Japan, the U.K., Australia and Canada had already begun their transition in 2009 or earlier, but had completion dates later than that of the U.S. A few days after the transition, Jonathan Collegio, vice president of the National Association of Broadcasters, announced the success of the change when he said, “America is the first large country in the world to complete the transition to all-digital broadcasting, and our early reports show that the transition has been a success.”
This webpage gives an overview of how other countries compare to the U.S. in terms of the digital TV switch.
Although the details of the differences between digital and analog are quite technical and can be hard to understand, PBS offers a brief comparison that not only points out the differences, but also highlights the advantages of digital over analog.
The transition to digital TV has been a triumphant one, and exemplifies just one of many technological changes that have been made in recent years.