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posted by martyb on Monday July 19, @06:46AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Never-Twice-the-Same-Color dept.

A long while back, the FCC set a hard deadline of July 13th, 2021, for shutting down the last NTSC television transmitters and transitioning channels to being digital fully. The other day, the last of the NTSC transmitters were shut down with hardly anyone commenting, except Hackaday which noted:

A significant event in the history of technology happened yesterday, and it passed so quietly that we almost missed it. The last few remaining NTSC transmitters in the USA finally came off air, marking the end of over seven decades of continuous 525-line American analogue TV broadcasts. We've previously reported on the output of these channels, largely the so-called "FrankenFM" stations left over after the 2009 digital switchover whose sound carrier lay at the bottom of the FM dial as radio stations, and noted their impending demise. We've even reported on some of the intricacies of the NTSC system, but we've never taken a look at what will replace these last few FrankenFM stations.

NTSC has been the analog protocol used in the US for television since 1941, initially for black and white and then by 1953 / 1951 for color. NTSC was sent at a 3:4 aspect ratio with 525 lines per frame at 30 frames per second. PAL and SECAM were the other two analog standards and used in other parts of the world. Four competing standards for digital signals are in use so far. They are DVB-T, ATSC, ISDB-T, and DTMB. The US uses ATSC.

The US has been among the last countries to switch over to digital television transmissions. The FCC gave stations lots of lead time, several extensions, and multiple exit strategies, including the choice of shutting down the channel and ceasing operations permanently.

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  • (Score: 4, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @06:50AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @06:50AM (#1157801)

    Somebody help me to get rid of this "gigantic screen" 33" TV. It's like hundred pound and nobody wants it.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @09:21AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @09:21AM (#1157814)

      Retro gamers will pay you a king's ransom for it.

      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday July 19, @12:08PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday July 19, @12:08PM (#1157850)

        There was a standard monitor size for arcade cabinets of 25 inches so OPs TV would need a custom cabinet. Which leads to a shortage of 25 inch TVs because there seem to be more "retro-pi" people than there are legacy 25 inch TVs out there.

        So ironically OPs 33 would probably sell pretty well to a guy making a custom oversized arcade cabinet.

        I've considered making a cabinet because its the intersection of my electronic and woodworking hobbies.

        But no, OP, I'm not paying a kings ransom to ship that 33 inch TV to me LOL. There's plenty of "large-ish" TVs out there or LCDs, locally.

  • (Score: 5, Funny) by MostCynical on Monday July 19, @11:34AM (4 children)

    by MostCynical (2589) on Monday July 19, @11:34AM (#1157842) Journal

    NTSC - Never The Same Colour
    SECAM - System Even Crapper than the American Method
    PAL - Perfect At Last

    Books are a poor substitute for female companionship, but they are easier to find. P Rothfuss “The Wise Man's Fear"
    • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @12:37PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @12:37PM (#1157857)


    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @03:52PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @03:52PM (#1157898)

      PAL60 maybe...

      50Hz isn't enough.

    • (Score: 3, Touché) by DannyB on Monday July 19, @04:10PM

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday July 19, @04:10PM (#1157906) Journal

      NTSC - Not The Smartest Choice

      OMG! There are roving gangs going door to door FORCING people to get vaccinated!
    • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @05:43PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @05:43PM (#1157959)

      From my broadcast TV days I recall:

      PAL: Pay A Lot
      PAL-M: Pay A Little More

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @01:55PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @01:55PM (#1157872)

    It should be remembered that the 'primitive' NTSC is what made home computers accessible-- that Apple][ didn't need a special tv studio monitor, just a normal TV ...a normal /colour/ TV.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @03:56PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @03:56PM (#1157899)

      Color wasn't required, and many only had a black and white second set they could use for their computers.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @03:56PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @03:56PM (#1157900)

      uhm ... didn't the japanese superfamicom output ntsc and the same game (not cartdridge) ran a bit faster then the S(uper)NES PAL version?

    • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Monday July 19, @04:08PM

      by Freeman (732) on Monday July 19, @04:08PM (#1157904) Journal

      While green is a color, it's still just one color. Doesn't matter what the computer is capable of, if the monitor is monochrome.

      Forced Microsoft Account for Windows Login → Switch to Linux.
  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by fustakrakich on Monday July 19, @04:54PM (10 children)

    by fustakrakich (6150) on Monday July 19, @04:54PM (#1157935) Journal

    With analog I could still see a picture through all the snow. And channel 2 was always a great lightning detector

    Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by bzipitidoo on Monday July 19, @05:25PM (4 children)

      by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Monday July 19, @05:25PM (#1157951) Journal

      It's precisely because people will reject change if it is merely equally good that a new standard always has to be better, sometimes a lot better, than the old standard. The more efficient 32W T8 fluorescent tube isn't merely as bright as the older 40W T12 tube, it's noticeably brighter. Digital reception works quite a bit better than analog. Less susceptible to interference.

      My Apple II+ always degraded analog TV reception when it was on, despite being as far away as possible, at the opposite corner of the house from the TV. Added a band of snow to the signal. When the house next door was vacant for a year, our TV reception was the best it'd ever been. Every time the neighbors vacuumed or ran a hair dryer, or a fan, or some other appliance, it added snow to the TV signal. Digital is much more resistant to such interference.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by fustakrakich on Monday July 19, @05:32PM (1 child)

        by fustakrakich (6150) on Monday July 19, @05:32PM (#1157955) Journal

        The digital signal degrades poorly. It either works or it doesn't. I prefer the snow over the constant cutting in and out. Interference is relatively easy to filter.

        Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
        • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Reziac on Tuesday July 20, @03:05AM

          by Reziac (2489) on Tuesday July 20, @03:05AM (#1158141) Homepage

          I used to live where the analog signal for the weaker channels was almost absent, even with a giant antenna. One day my sister comes in and wants to know why I'm watching snow. I say, I'm watching baseball. Sister peers at the TV and says, I don't see anything. So I point out that this shadow is the pitcher, and that shadow is the batter... I'd become sufficiently accustomed to it that I knew everyone in both leagues by stance and delivery, but none of 'em by their faces... and apparently it was better than nothing.

          I never did get a digital convertor... by the time that became mandatory, there was no longer anything on any available over-the-air that interested me (and nowhere near enough of interest to justify the cost of satellite). And now there's not enough hours in the day for all the stuff available by internet, so why bother with TV?

          Oh, and I've got two baseball games going as we speak. Seeing their faces is still a novelty. :)

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by Magic Oddball on Monday July 19, @08:00PM (1 child)

        by Magic Oddball (3847) on Monday July 19, @08:00PM (#1158006) Journal

        Digital reception works quite a bit better than analog. Less susceptible to interference.

        That's only the case if the signal can travel relatively unimpeded from source to destination. At my part in the SF Bay Area, we used to be able to get a bunch of analog channels in good quality, even from way down in the South Bay; when the signals switched to digital, they all immediately became completely inaccessible here due to the hilly terrain.

        • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Tuesday July 20, @05:25AM

          by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday July 20, @05:25AM (#1158170) Journal

          This reminds me that cell phones were originally analog signal. When they switched to digital, providers all claimed that it was an improvement, but actually it was a mixed bag. Reception and range became worse. The good part is that with digital signals, it's possible to cram a whole lot more separate conversations into the spectrum, and that's what the telecoms were really interested in doing, so they could serve a lot more customers.

          Another major change has muddied the distinction: antennas are much better. You don't see phones sporting stubby antennas poking up from one corner any more. Also, lots of range wasn't always good. Used to be signal piracy, in which your call might be handled by some slimy telecom hundreds of miles away, because they could get your signal, and then charge you exorbitant rates for roaming and long distance fees, for what should have been a local call. Tended to happen at night, when signal can travel a very long ways. They burned my mother that way once. $12 for a 3 minute local call.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by RS3 on Monday July 19, @05:27PM (4 children)

      by RS3 (6367) on Monday July 19, @05:27PM (#1157954)

      For many reasons I was very unhappy about the switch to digital. I don't have, and have never paid for cable TV. Although there are a couple of channels I'd like on cable, no way am I going to pay for all that "stuff" I don't want. And I'm stunned at how much it costs now. And I don't watch much TV, especially now.

      I always had a dozen or so good NTSC channels. Although I'm somewhat far from the transmitters, and sometimes had to readjust the "rabbit ears", we always had acceptable reception.

      When they went digital TV, I got zero channels with indoor antennas- even small amplified ones. I was forced to put up an outside high-gain antenna with amplifier. And even with that I have 2 with a switch. They make them with electric rotor, and some will even "talk" to the TV / ATSC adapter and aim as needed, but there's a big delay- no "channel surfing" with that setup.

      But after all of that annoyance and some cost, I end up with several dozen clear high res. channels, of all kinds of "stuff", so it's a net win.

      My only ongoing complaint is that when digital TV breaks up due to weak signal, interference, etc., it cuts off hard. With analog, it generally faded in and out a bit, not the hard-cut audio mute you get with digital.

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @11:14PM (3 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @11:14PM (#1158094)

        Human brains are great at detecting patterns and filtering out noise. I think the creators of ATSC didn't realize how good it is. Their argument about digital is that you could get worse signal than analog and still have the complete picture vs the noisy analog equivalent. Except that "noisy" analog worked just fine for a large number of people, especially if that is what they were used to having. Sure. the audio wan't perfect and the picture was faded and a little fuzzy, but you weren't watching HD video on audiophile speakers anyway and your brain can fill in quite a bit of the gaps, doubly when you consider that we are more sensitive to luminance than color and how the signal fades. And there is the obvious adage that even on the worse days, something is better than literally nothing.

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by RS3 on Tuesday July 20, @12:59AM (1 child)

          by RS3 (6367) on Tuesday July 20, @12:59AM (#1158120)

          Yes yes, I think you've got it. With analog, you could still see all of the motion, and filter out the noise. And just like film / video frame rate, your brain can interpolate. But, when the image breaks up in random staccato, our poor brains can't get into a rhythm, and can't find a thing when and where it expects something to be. Our brains are significantly pattern-matching machines, and they mostly like it when something fits, including motion. (Too much fitting can cause boredom too).

          • (Score: 3, Informative) by Reziac on Tuesday July 20, @03:08AM

            by Reziac (2489) on Tuesday July 20, @03:08AM (#1158142) Homepage

            See above how I became accustomed to watching baseball on such a bad signal that my sister, unused to it, couldn't tell there was a picture.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 21, @05:58AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 21, @05:58AM (#1158665)

          A great example is this picture. [] There are three patterns interposed on top of each other. Despite the end result meeting most tests for randomness, our brains can easily pick out each of the patterns used with a little bit of focus.

  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Monday July 19, @07:53PM (1 child)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday July 19, @07:53PM (#1158000) Journal

    When NTSC goes dark, doesn't it leave a bright spot right in the center of the CRT?

    Oh, nooes! I mentioned CRT. This will start a political slugfest.

    OMG! There are roving gangs going door to door FORCING people to get vaccinated!
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @08:40PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, @08:40PM (#1158029)

      So both would benefit from a bleeder. :P

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Ken_g6 on Monday July 19, @08:54PM (7 children)

    by Ken_g6 (3706) on Monday July 19, @08:54PM (#1158034)

    When will the last ATSC 1.0 station stop broadcasting as [url=]ATSC 3.0 takes over[/url]?

    Will targeted advertising become standard? Will broadcasters finally get the "broadcast flag"?

    • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Tuesday July 20, @03:11AM (6 children)

      by Reziac (2489) on Tuesday July 20, @03:11AM (#1158144) Homepage

      Will I ever bother to acquire a digital TV??

      • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Tuesday July 20, @06:35AM (5 children)

        by RS3 (6367) on Tuesday July 20, @06:35AM (#1158177)

        Will you ever have enough reception? As I mention above, you need much greater signal strength to receive ATSC.

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Reziac on Tuesday July 20, @07:31AM (4 children)

          by Reziac (2489) on Tuesday July 20, @07:31AM (#1158188) Homepage

          Since the days of the shadow-reception I've moved, and can now see civilization with mere binoculars, rather than requiring a good telescope. But previous occupants did Dish... dunno what that says about the reception here. I haven't even been arsed to find a converter doohickey for the analog TV that I still own**, so apparently I don't care that much.

          ** Well, technically I still own two, but the other was made ca.1958.

          • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Tuesday July 20, @07:56AM (3 children)

            by RS3 (6367) on Tuesday July 20, @07:56AM (#1158191)

            Dish just means they wanted competition and maybe different channels from the local cable system (assuming there is one?)

            Converters are cheap on ebay, etc. Get one that's HD- I think Samsung makes a good one, but I forget now.

            1958? Color? Make? Model?

            I used to work on TVs, back in the day. Still have 1 project, if there's a market for it (I mean anything to keep it out of the landfill...)

            • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Tuesday July 20, @02:26PM (2 children)

              by Reziac (2489) on Tuesday July 20, @02:26PM (#1158258) Homepage

              No cable here. But three mini-dish antennas pointed three different directions (one on the house, two on a pole). Without climbing up to look, IIRC one actually says Dish and two are unbranded.

              Thanks for the recommend on the convertor -- not that my little color CRT can do HD, but if I'm going to bother, might as well get a decent one. Then again, I didn't get around to it when the gubmint was giving out coupons for free ones!

              I gather old TVs are in demand from gamers, but I've no interest in getting rid of mine -- I still have VHS tapes (including a copy of Alice to Nowhere! do you know how rare that is??!) and a good 4-head Panasonic player, so until some century I get around to digitizing 'em, it's good to have a for-really TV, and the color CRT is small (13" ??) and doesn't eat much.

              The 1958 (probably not later, at most a year earlier per comparing with someone's online collection) ... B/W, tubes, presently can't get at the face side to check brand but I vaguely recall that it's a Sylvania?? under the Monkey Wards "Signature" brand. (I always wonder if Costco bought or copied that -- it's in the same typeface.) Five digit serial number on the back (which I can get to without major rearrangement of the garage). I think it's a 21". Nice upright blond wood cabinet with a good-sized speaker down below.

              My dad was a manager for MW and that came with the perk of hauling off floor models for free, which is probably how we came by it. When last checked (back around 2001) it still powered on and the speaker worked, but the screen was dim (well, it was always dim by later standards), and the receiver wasn't capable of pulling in a channel out in Boonieland without an antenna. But I couldn't bring myself to toss it, so it's followed me back to the Northern Wastes and is taking up a small bit of my garage (which someone repurposed so you can't get a vehicle bigger than an original Beetle into it anyway, so why not).

              In 1966 my grandmother won a 12" (?? smaller than my color, but not by much) B/W portable, with tubes, that was in use off and on until 1997... it finally got to where the picture was really dim. But one day the asshole next door decided the way you make the power you're bootlegging reach the spot is to pull on the wires til they're long enough, managed to get 'em touching on the pole, and being on the same circuit suddenly I had 220V running through my trailer (aluminum skin was hot, light bulb blew up). But the TV loved it -- suddenly the picture was as bright and crisp as when it was new! Unfortunately nothing else liked it much, and not to mention the hard buzz I got when I touched the door, so I had to jerk my power connector before something worse happened. That TV eventually reached an unwatchable state even by my standards, and went the way of the dodo, but with 20/20 hindsight, I should have pulled the tubes first. Even if they were tired, they still all came on. IIRC it was a Panasonic, the nigh-unkillable brand for electronics.

              • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Tuesday July 20, @04:32PM (1 child)

                by RS3 (6367) on Tuesday July 20, @04:32PM (#1158311)

                You're a character and we have much in common. The analog CRT will still look better with an HD converter. It's all about the horizontal resolution, and that varied- some TVs had better bandwidth. IIRC 4MHz was the spec, but that was on a falling slope, so it really varied. And the CRTs had varying numbers of pixels.

                I don't have an HD converter, and really don't watch much TV, but it would be better. Maybe embarrassingly (but really not) I watch on a, I think it's a 14" CRT MaggotBox (Magnavox) I trash-picked 10ish years ago. Came without remote- I have a universal but only use it for video so I don't need nor use remote. It's remarkably good, clear, etc. The embarrassing part is I have may fairly large-screen LCD TVs, 32" - 46". I just don't watch enough to bother moving stuff around.

                We may have had a similar blond one like you describe. Or I may have worked on one when I worked in TV repair in the late 80s during college. IIRC it had a 6x9 speaker? Or maybe just a big- 8 or 10"?

                I have several VCRs- they work, ain't broke, not going to fix. As far as I can tell, I'd have to pay for digital storage. Even if I built something, I just don't need another thing to deal with. I have a box of VHS tapes I'll never watch. This one is a Panasonic- great unit. 4 head, HiFi, etc. I have others. My favorite was a Mitsubishi, which I still have, and I think it needs a head, which I'll probably never bother with.

                On a shelf in my basement I still have a very small B&T tube TV. It's a kind of wedge-shaped case, maybe 8" or 10" screen. I don't remember the brand. When I was a kid, I'd watch stuff in bed when I wasn't supposed to. It easily hid under covers when my mom or dad would check in on me.

                I've never heard of "Alice to Nowhere", but it sounds interesting. I'd digitize it, if for no other reason than the VCR could "eat" the tape. I had a small cheap plastic gear crack in one VCR and it caused the thing to not take-up, but I didn't know it. Went to eject, and it further trashed the already badly damaged tape. I normally wouldn't have cared much, but it was a 9 hour tape. I probably spliced it.

                Anyway, you can get AtoD video converters cheap. I'd look at reviews. Canopus is a good semi-pro brand. I have a couple of high-end Aja things, but I've never used them. But I can if I ever care enough to digitize something.

                • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Tuesday July 20, @05:55PM

                  by Reziac (2489) on Tuesday July 20, @05:55PM (#1158344) Homepage

                  If we ever need a character reference, someone will surely attest that we are characters! :D

                  I remember those little wedge-shaped TVs, but never saw one that had more than about a 6" screen, and some were smaller. You could get 'em with a 12v doohickey to use with the cigarette lighter, the first TV for your car.

                  Without trotting back down to look, I think the antique TV has a 6x9 speaker, but the whole bottom of the front is that fancy brocade-like facing they used to make 'em look nice. It used to have a piece of rayon?? fabric across the back, but that got damaged/fell apart and is gone now. It had good sound compared to most of the era.

                  I don't even see a brand on the front of my little color CRT, and would require too many contortions to get to the back, but I vaguely recall it's a Sony, and that the picture (when last it was used) was really crisp. It never had a remote; no lazy people can watch it. ;)

                  Yeah, the risk of old tape and old VCR getting into a knock-down drag-out is why I'm not watching my old tapes, and next time they get run through it, it'll be to digitize 'em. I always bought pro-grade tape (had to trot clear down to Hollywood to the only place that sold it to the public) so that's probably in good shape, but wouldn't make any bets on the others. I'll probably just haul out the old PC with the TV capture card and figure out how to use that, as theoretically it should Just Work. Some year, real soon now!

                  Alice to Nowhere is one of those stories that doesn't seem like much, but manages to be captivating. The book is the same way. There is no official DVD (there is a very bad fragmentary digital rip floating around which I presume came from one of the DVD bootleggers that occasionally offer it), and apparently no one has pestered the studio into a proper release. -- That actually happened with Looker (I was among the ~18k who signed the petition, and it sold about the same number almost immediately -- apparently all of us were willing to put our money where our mouth was), and that perpetual worst-movie-you-can't-look-away-from, Hawk the Slayer.