The transition to digital has been a series of ups and downs for us with disappointments, challenges, found gems, lost gems. You see, we are one of those households with an old TV, no cable, and rabbit ears - well, ear singular, since one broke off during a previous move.

The converter box - We applied for one of those government coupons, but it didn't arrive in the mail before we moved (so the new tenants in our old apartment must have gotten it instead). We applied for another coupon at our new address, but it arrived just as our baby was due, and by the time we were capable of opening our sleep-deprived eyes, focusing, and reading our coupon, it had expired.

Since we'd already received one at our house address, we couldn't request another coupon (even using my name instead of Ronak's, which doesn't make sense because we have different surnames, so we could be of different households. We aren't, but we could be).

Finally, the day came when we could reapply, but we'd be on a long list - which would be just fine, because they postponed the switch to digital, right?

Wrong! Many of our local stations decided to switch on the original date. So we researched converter boxes in a rush and bought one sans coupon.

Installation and Programming - Ronak hooked the box up. He tried to program it, and our baby was happy to help. Together, they successfully found some channels - including new ones in English, Spanish, and a computer-generated voice. (Unfortunately their combined effort also led to the on/off switch not being properly programmed, so we have to use the DVD remote or get up and push the on/off button on the TV.)

We were very excited to see that we got additional PBS channels and an extra CBS retro channel. This was exciting because we could watch It Takes a Thief, A-Team, Kojak, Ironside, Simon & Simon, Knightrider Battlestar Galactica, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Rockford Files, etc. (Not that we had much time for TV with a small child.) We discovered new classics, and I realized that some of my old favorites were not worthy of the term "classics." We saw we had new craft, cooking, and travel shows on PBS. Then we suddenly realized we had no Fox channels at all.

This was a problem, because two of the very few shows we watch are So You Think You Can Dance and Dollhouse - both on Fox. We hit the internet to research again, and found out we needed a new antennae. Fox's signal wasn't strong enough to be picked up by one lonely rabbit ear.

Ronak considered building one out of coat hangers, but with a small baby in the mix, there just wasn't the time nor the space for such a project.

Ronak ran out to Wal-mart to buy one. (For anyone who knows us this was an extremely difficult decision, because Wal-mart is evil, but the antennae was going to be another unbudgeted addition after we had already had to purchase a convertor box without a coupon.)

So Ronak, with a heavy heart, bought the antennae at Wal-mart and checked it out in the parking lot. Lucky he did, because the box had been repackaged and was missing pieces. As he was taking it back into the store, he witnessed a customer, who had left her dogs in her car in 100 degree heat, screaming at an animal rescue person for trying to take her dogs from her. That was the last straw. Ronak returned his purchase, and left for the slightly pricier but also (hopefully) less-evil Target where he bought an antennae that was unopened and intact, and he drove away from a parking lot where the customers were kinder to their pets.

The antennae worked! And we were able to pick up Fox.

Recording Shows - I happily programmed the VCR (Yes, VCR. What do you expect from people using a single rabbit ear for years?) to record Dollhouse. We record most shows we watch because we live in central time where prime time ends at 10:00 pm (9:00 pm on Fox and CW), and we are parents with a busy schedule from dinnertime until 10:00 pm (if we're lucky). There's eating, play time, bath, pajamas, teeth brushing, story time, bed time, kitchen cleanup, and by the time we can sit down and relax, prime time is usually over. (Besides, most TV shows are not baby-interesting or baby-appropriate.)

Anyway, I set the VCR to record Dollhouse. Later that night, Ronak and I eagerly rewound, hit play, and all we saw was snow, snow, and more snow. Luckily, the episode was available on Hulu the next day, but we still needed to know what went wrong, so we could correctly tape shows in the future.

We finally figured out the problem: I had taped the VCR's channel 7 when I needed to tape the converter box's channel 7 that could only be retrieved through recording the channel "Line 1" on the VCR.

Armed with our new knowledge, Ronak set the VCR to record Dollhouse the following Friday. We eagerly sat down to see the show, knowing we'd done everything right this time. But there was no sound, only subtitles. We looked at each other blankly, then realized that Ronak had the converter box set to mute - which apparently it can record in.

The next week, we used line 1, made sure mute was off, and were able to enjoy a little prime time shortly after real prime time. And we haven't had any weird VCR recording malfunctions since.

But we still need to figure out a workaround when we go on vacation. The converter box shuts itself off when the TV hasn't been used in a while, and if it's off, there's nothing coming in from Line 1, but snow, snow, and more snow.

And I have to say I miss the days of grainy picture and garbled sound. I grew up on that fair weather signal. Now, we either have it or we don't. We'll be watching a show, then the picture and/or the sound just isn't there suddenly. Makes for challenging viewing some days when we have to guess the words and/or scenes we are missing.

But it's still cheaper than cable, and we get more channels than the 1-4 I was able to watch growing up in the Hollow (depending on the number of leaves on the trees), so I guess I can't complain - much.

February 2019
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In 2007, we moved to Austin, and this blog chronicled our adaptation to Texas life: festivals, wildflowers, and bats - oh my! Then we had a baby, and that changed everything, so now, we blog about where to buy organic food, what parks are fun for babies, which exterminator is taking care of our scorpion problem. (You know, the usual parental concerns.)


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