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Some Neighborly Advice on DTV

7/25/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

Nice neighbors who move always seem to want to leave something behind with you as a reminder of the good times spent together.

Often, it’s something old, ugly or obsolete that they’ll never use again and don’t want to take to their new digs.

One such gift our family received recently from our dear, departing neighbor was a portable TV/cassette machine with a four-inch screen. She said she enjoyed watching her soaps while sitting in her backyard and wanted us to get as much enjoyment from the small, dingy white machine.

While that might seem a bit old school, there are a lot more of these portable sets in the marketplace than you might think. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that about 8 million homes owned handheld TVs in 2006 — the most recent figure, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.

That includes the older men glancing at the Yankees game on a nine-inch, battery-operated TV while playing dominoes under the shade of a park tree and the elderly, weekend office security guard watching Friends while making sure everyone signs the register book upon entering and departing the building.

What’s the point? All of those portable TVs will be obsolete in less than seven months when the government-imposed digital transition switches all analog TV signals that can now be picked up by those TVs to a digital feed that will be unrecognizable by such sets.

The big question: Do all of those people using portable sets know about the Feb. 17, 2009 analog D-Day?

Recent surveys on America’s knowledge of the digital transition deadline reveals mixed results — particularly among minorities, who, like millions of other Americans, rely on such sets for an inexpensive form of entertainment, as well as to provide information in case of blackouts, inclement weather and other unforeseen emergencies.

Minority advocacy group CivilRights.org recently quoted an NAB survey stating that 39% of African-American households and 29% of Hispanic households that watch television via analog sets incorrectly believe they will not be affected by the transition, which is higher than the rest of the nation.

Even if they’re aware of the digital transition, there aren’t many affordable options for portable-TV owners. A seven-inch, battery-operated digital TV costs anywhere from $200 to $350, according to the L.A. Times — which might be difficult to swing for the typical part-time guard.

The government is providing a $40 coupon to buy digital converter boxes for analog sets, but not all portable TVs have the inputs and connections necessary to upgrade to digital. Besides attaching a sizable digital converter to a seven-inch analog portable could limit the table room the fellas in the park need to slam down their dominoes.

Ultimately, most people will regrettably discard their valued portable TV, or place them in perpetual storage … right next to the eight-track player and the Atari 2600 video game system left by previous neighbors.

 

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