So, my home town Northampton is now analogue free and the county fully digitized up - in theory. I'm sure there are plenty of pensioners still fiddling with their old valve TVs from the 1950s wondering where the One Show has got to. Trust me guys, you are better off without it. But they certainly didn't mess about here when BBC2 went off last month. I was just like Poltergeist when the little girl is sitting in front of the telly and the national anthem plays out and then that sudden static, although no Stars and Stripes or God Save the Queen for us, which is rather sad as the original analogue signal had been going strong for 60 years form the Sandy Heath Transmitter.
In keeping with dooyoo's need for 'technical reviews' here are the statistics for the 244 (712ft) meter high Bedfordshire transmitter, built in 1966 and formerly owned by NTL.
* Analogue Radio (FM)
o 96.9 MHz - Heart Bedford (840 watts)
o 95.5 MHz - BBC Three Counties Radio (1kW)
* Digital Radio
o Block 12B - 225.648 MHz (5kW) - BBC National DAB
o Block 11D - 222.064 MHz (4.7kW) - Digital One
* Analogue Television - Switchover commences 30 March 2011.
* UHF Ch.21 switched off on March 30th
* Uhf Ch.24-39 range turned off on April 13th
* Digital Television (current) (all operating erp 20kW)
o UHF Ch.40 (626.167 MHz) - Multiplex C (Arqiva)
o UHF Ch.42 (641.833 MHz) - Multiplex 1 (BBC)
o UHF Ch.43 (650.167 MHz) - Multiplex A (SDN)
o UHF Ch.45 (665.833 MHz) - Multiplex 2 (ITV)
o UHF Ch.46 (674.167 MHz) - Multiplex D (Arqiva)
o UHF Ch.67 (842.000 MHz) - Multiplex B (BBC)
What actually happened during the switch over was left deliberately ambiguous to get you to keep buying new kit and TVs you may not have needed, no doubt lobbyist from the industry playing their hand there. First of all you can keep your old aerial and TV cables to get digital and you only need buy a digital box, cheap and cheerful ones barely £20 although you need twin tuner boxes to record TV if you want to watch one channel and record another at the same time, these boxes well over £100. I'm telling you this as there are some areas of the country yet to go fully digital. If the aerial guy says you need to change your cables and aerial then who are we to argue, seems to have been the attitude. All that happened was that the huge transmitters had to turn down the analogue signal to nearly nothing so to boost the digital signal during the final switchover this spring, one frequency interfering with the other so left until the last moment, the final switch over. Again, there is no such think as digital aerials or digital aerial cables but that was never made clear. But our old roof Ariel and cables were falling to bits and taking water and condensation and so it cost around £200 to get new ones done. I can imagine some older folks who live for TV were really stiffed on this one.
The plan for me was to get a cheap digital box achieved through a combination of my valueopinions.co.uk and dooyoo Amazon voucher rewards, the chosen Phillips model surprisingly flimsy for £29, 99. I was expecting something metal, shiny and heavy that would survive a fall from my TV but not to be, an innocuous little thing the size of an old VHS tape delivered through the post-box. I opted for the single tuner version as the double tuner ones are still priced as BluRay DVD recorder must have luxury items and yet to come down. I did try to find out if you could buy two cheap single tuner boxes and work them in conjunction but apparently it's not easy to do and so I will make do without the record option for now. The good thing about Freeview digital channels is there are so many of them and so programs are quickly repeated so no need to record them anyway. This Plus One business where you can watch the same shows again that were on one hour ago also allows you the watch later option. I have found I hardly want to tape anything anyway. You can understand why Americans are so fat when they have 100 TV channels to flick though.
The amount of TV channels you can get depends on your area and the box and I'm quite pleased with the ones I have, including More4, Dave and Fiver. I did chuckle when the box flashed up a warning message that because I hadn't changed the channel for a long time the set top box would go into 'standby mode' and so no picture, the box presumably not used to people who don't flick around all the time, the temptation to do that with freeview rather huge. There is always something on and when they run Antiques Roadshow at 2am you can envisage a big cull soon as the audience is so spread out or asleep.
* 2 SCART SOCKETS
* UP T0 50 TV CHANNELS
* 7 DAY ELECTRONIC PROGRAM GUIDE
* DIGITAL AUDIO OUTPUT
* 2 LITHIUM METAL BATTERIES REQUIRED
* FREEVIEW RECEIVER WITH REDUCED ENERGY CONSUMPTION
So far it's been fine with just a little bit of interference with those familiar oblongs popping up on John Snows head during C4 News etc. It was a straightforward installation after the aerial guys left, one scart lead going from digibox to the TV and a second scart from the digibox to your DVD or VHS player. It also has a portable aerial slot alongside the main one and an adapter option. When I had to re-tune the box this week I briefly have lost Film 4 and ITV4 on my upstairs telly, yet downstairs the more expensive Humax box can get those same channels of the same aerial. But rebooting it all from the 'factory settings' proved the fix required and I now have 67 TV channels and 24 radio ones.
When you switch your TV on, the basic and extremely flimsy remote control provided gives you plenty of options on channel and text selection, and with the red button there if you want to get different angles and locations for sports competitions etc. Oh and if you tread on it this will break. If you are used to terrestrial TV and Ceefax you will find the digital text will take some getting used to but far more malleable and useable once you do, no waiting for the page numbers to scroll up. A button for TV listings is very useful.
So overall you can get away with running a cheap box if you don't want the recording options. There are enough stations and option to cover most things you want to see. You may miss the occasionally obscure foreign film on your taping list on Film4 but plenty of other stuff to keep you interested, my first experience of BBC 3 last night with UK Police Academy.