Do I really need a digital converter box for my TV?

Analog to Digital Advantages

2008 HowStuffWorks

Switching from analog to digital let broadcasters offer higher picture definition, because a digital signal can be compressed far more than an analog signal. Compression allows stations to fit more information in the signal. That means you're getting a clearer image with digital television than you would from an analog signal. In fact, even though digital signals get weaker with distance, just as analog signals do, digital signals won't degrade in quality. As long as you have a signal, you'll get a clear picture [source: Cringely].

There's another advantage of having additional bandwidth available. Using digital broadcasting, local stations are able to offer more programming to their viewers than they could with an analog signal. How? Multicasting, or broadcasting several shows within a single frequency. Many stations across the United States are already multicasting. For example, WRAL in Raleigh, N.C., broadcasts a 24-hour news feed alongside its regular programming [source: USA Today].

If you have a digital-to-analog converter box and a terrestrial antenna, you can take advantage of your local station's multicasting, if they offer it. Cable and satellite providers may not necessarily add the additional stations to their lineups, however, so you may not see them if you subscribe.

If you still need a converter box, you may still be able to get a $40 coupon from the U.S. government at, if there are any still available. You could also buy a new television with a digital tuner, if that's what you would prefer, though that's a more expensive option.

For more information about digital television and related topics, tune in to the links below.

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  • Cringely, Robert X. "Digital TV: A Cringely Crash Course."
  • Davidson, Paul. "Local Stations Multicast Multishows." USA Today. Jan. 28, 2004. Updated Jan. 29, 2004. May 8, 2008.
  • Digital Television (DTV). Regulatory Information. Federal Communications Commission
  • The Digital TV Transition. Federal Communications Commission.
  • "'DTV' is Coming (and Sooner Than You Think)!" Federal Communications Commission.
  • LaGesse, David. " Many TV Stations Won't Make Switch to Digital."
  • "Lawsuit claims switch to digital TV next year would bankrupt owners of small stations." Associated Press. International Herald Tribune. Mar. 27, 2008. May 12, 2008.
  • "Peter Goldmark." Consumer Electronics Association.
  • Sarkar, Dibya. "Major retailers fined over digital TV regulations." Associated Press. SF Gate. Apr. 11, 2008. May 12, 2008.
  • "WICU-DTV -- Channel 52 --Erie, PA." WICU. May 12, 2008.