I haven’t owned a television in quite a while. I do, in fact, have a home theater for watching DVDs, but I haven’t found that much need to watch television. If anything good comes on, it inevitably comes out on DVD or is available on the Web.
But it turns out I am a bit of Steeler’s fan. Arguably, live sports photography (both still and moving picture) is especially challenging and represents a high point of the visual arts. And the elegance of skilled athletes can rival grace of classical dance. I wanted to find a way to see the Superbowl this weekend.
Now, when similar situations have arisen in times past I have just wrangled myself an invitation to a friend’s Superbowl party, but none of my friends appear to be holding one this year. Of course, I could go to a sports bar, but that just isn’t my style.
So I decided to bite the bullet and buy a television receiver to hook up to my home theater. I had considerable doubts that it would work – I live near in hills just outside the city where I have a nice view but exceptionally poor radio reception. All of my neighbors have either cable or satellite TV (but the idea of paying $50-100 a month for something that I almost never watch seems absurd to me.
Still . . . the Steelers – how could I resist?
So I decided to make an experiment. For about $100, I bought a Samsung digital receiver. This receiver is especially nice because it has a digital (HDMI) output and claims to be able to receive all 18 digital television formats (ATSC Table 3). I was reluctant to put effort into hanging an antenna on my roof, so I just bought a $10 indoor UHF antenna.
The results pleasantly surprised me. Digital television – even in my hostile reception environment and even with my primitive antenna – proved remarkably robust. In seconds I was receiving perfect high definition images from stations that 60 miles away and blocked by hills. Indeed, I am now capable of receiving some 40-50 stations.
And, it turned out there was more on the air than I had suspected. For example, I was surprised by the variety of different foreign language programming available on television substations. The quality was so good (much better than what I have seen, for example, in televisions in hotel rooms or at my cable or satellite subscribing neighbors) that I wonder how pay television is able to stay in business.
Now, I am still skeptical that much of the multitude of different programming is actually worth watching, but the good news is that I am going to be able to watch the game on Sunday – and I’m looking forward to it.
And then, I’ll put away the receiver and cheap antenna until the next big event.