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Digital B&W TV

Last Friday afternoon, after hearing more than I ever wanted to about why the DTV transition should be delayed, converter boxes and coupons, I was packing up to enjoy my first week after returning from International CES and looked again at the box collecting dust in my office.

Tony Monteleone, one of TWICE’s top-flight advertising account execs, dropped off to my office a box from Antennas Direct with a C1-Clearstream antenna in it last fall when were in the middle of CES planning and all the news of the fourth quarter.

I put the box under my arm, and walking downtown I paid around $60 and change in cash for a Zenith DTV converter box at P.C. Richard & Son on East 14th Street in Manhattan before taking the subway home to Brooklyn. (Last Monday executive editor Greg Tarr reprimanded me for not using the $40 U.S. coupon. Due to people like me, the stats about how many households are DTV ready are not accurate. Oh well.)

That night I dug out of a closet a 5-year-old analog TV. It hasn’t been working properly, and when I brought it in for service Saturday morning I was told it was really too expensive to fix.

So I went home and decided to put up the antenna anyway and connect the DTV converter box to the HD LCD I have in the den. Since the roof of the house was icy, I attached the antenna to a pole on our second floor patio. The patio faces Manhattan, and while I can’t directly see the Empire State Building from there, it is around 3 or 4 miles away, so figured the signal would be strong enough to reach me.

Since I have enough coax cable and connectors from old CE equipment and press conferences over the years at home to stretch from Brooklyn to Cleveland, cable length wasn’t going to be a problem.

After a first connection and test that didn’t work (because I thought I didn’t need to read directions) the Zenith converter box powered up, the Antennas Direct antenna got the signal, and I saw my first over-the-air DTV programming in my home.

I saw some multicasts that day, foreign-language broadcasts I didn’t know existed, as well as some full HD programs, which looked great.

Then I remembered we had one more analog TV at home: an Optimus 5-inch black-and-white TV that I bought for the kitchen and backyard, which was made in January 1999 if the tag on the back was correct.

I always thought that it would be a museum piece by Feb. 17 (or whenever the new deadline is) because all it had on the back was A/V plug connections and a pinhole that said “ext. ant.” on the back.

I looked through all my cable connectors for an adapter. No luck. So I took the Optimus back to its old home at Radio Shack and I found what the chain called an “F to 1.8 adapter.” It was the last one they had and fit perfectly.

I’m sure that technicians and designers at Zenith, other members of the “Grand Alliance” and all the engineers involved in developing HDTV and digital TV never thought anyone would get excited about watching DTV via a decade-old 5-inch black-and-white TV (controlled by the converter box’s remote no less) but this consumer was.

The only problem with either set is that I couldn’t get our local PBS station, channel 13. I guess that’s this weekend’s project.