the itjerk

my adventures with technology

free television

Ever since I ordered my coupon for a digital converter box from the government, we’ve enjoyed not only a significant step-up in quality to our off-air television, but a boatload of new channels – all for $25 bucks. The next step, which just so happens to coincide with some major house renovations, is a roof-top antenna.

The place to start is AntennaWeb. It’s an industry (CEA) sponsored site that assists you in finding out everything about off-air television reception, simply by entering your street address and zip code. offers the same information in a more graphic presentation. I live on the north side of Chicago and fortunately enough, the vast majority of signals I receive all emanate from the Sears Tower (CBS2 is the odd one out). I’m now empowered with information to make my antenna purchase a lot easier: the vast majority of television signals in my area are about 4-5 miles from my home, with a compass heading of 142 – 158 degrees and they fall into the “yellow” band. Now I know exactly what will be required of my antenna, and where to place it. I probably don’t have to worry about range, and may even experience some over-saturation if the antenna has too much gain. It also looks like a directional antenna will do.

After checking out Radio Shack‘s website, I wanted to find out more about antennas. First, I found the big three: Antennas Direct, Winegard, and Channel Master. Then I stumbled upon Denny’s Antenna Service. His site offers a wealth of information about television antennas, and he’ll even send you a personalized recommendation. For now, it looks like the EZ-HD Antenna is a top contender. Imagine, free, high definition television forever, all for a one-time purchase of $59.00.

Here’s what off-air reception entails:

  • VHF – Very high frequency, channels 2 – 13. Indoors, these are “rabbit ears”. There are two spectra: low, 2-6 and high, 7-13. According to Denny, you’ll have at least one channel in this range, so plan on an antenna that has VHF reception as well UHF.
  • UHF – Ultra high frequency, channels above 13. Indoors, this is the circular element. This is where the majority of television is broadcast.
  • FM – Frequency Modulation, good ol’ radio. I’ll be adding this to my roof set as well.

I’m old enough to remember buying our first color television with my father. Back then, we had exactly five television stations: the three major networks, a PBS affiliate, and one independent station, Channel 18. Since then, cable and satellite have all but overtaken off-air transmission. The government – especially the FCC – doesn’t do a lot of things right, but the conversion to digital transmission offers not only free high-definition television, but a new lease to off-air reception. Hurry now, as of this post you have exactly 100 days until analog tv is shut off for good!


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