Are you ready for digital TV switchover?

LOS ANGELES Digital is the latest evolution of the television as we know it. A lot has changed since RCA introduced television in a 1939 company video. First it came in black and white, then in color in the late 1960s. Until a few years ago, television stations only transmitted analog signals using radio waves.

Right now, stations, including ABC7, also transmit a digital signal, which is a series of zeros and ones. Starting Feb. 17, 2009, all TV stations will stop broadcasting in analog and go totally digital.

To make sure you're ready for the change, ABC7 performed a test at 5:28 p.m. Tuesday.

If you're not ready for the DTV transition, you received a special message to alert you, providing phone numbers and information about what you can do to get ready.

You're not ready if you're using a "rabbit-ears" antenna or a rooftop antenna connected to an older TV set.

"As soon as we do the transition, you are going to see snow," said John Holland, ABC7 Director of Engineering. "There's not going to be a picture there."

To receive digital broadcast signals, your TV must be equipped with a digital tuner. Most new TV sets sold since March of last year have one built in already, so they're ready to go. If you're a cable or satellite customer, you're ready to go as well. But if you're not connected to cable or satellite and your TV isn't digital ready, you must buy a digital converter box and connect it to a good VHF-UHF antenna.

"This is a positive thing," said Holland. "When we're digital you will get better pictures and better sound. It's going to be an improvement."

Depending on the manufacturer, converter boxes cost between $40 and $70. The government is helping to offset the cost a bit by providing two $40 coupons. They're available on a first come, first served basis, and expire 90 days after they're mailed out.

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