An antenna is a beautiful thing shiny aluminum tubing high above my rooftop catching the first rays of the sun as well as eight channels of the clearest high-definition television you can imagine.
The best part? Theres no cable or satellite bill, no service interruptions when my TV provider is down, no problems with reception during the heaviest storm and did I mention? no monthly bill.
You may know this by now, but television that arrives over the air direct to an antenna has the potential for a picture that is much better than even the best cable or satellite service.
Television signals are compressed to make the best use of the bandwidth available. Cable and satellite providers use the most compression; over-the-air broadcasts use the least. That lack of compression shows up on your screen as a better picture.
Only one thing clouds this aluminum miracle. Serious talk of installing a big rooftop antenna like the one I described can lead to a messy divorce. In most families, at least one person in mine, its my wife turn odd colors and make disturbing noises when the discussion moves to a rooftop antenna like the ones common in the days of Leave it to Beaver.
But antennas come in all sizes and types, including discrete indoor antennas, the ones we call rabbit ears. It could be that you could use a smaller indoor antenna and still receive several stations.
Or, for those who find that theyre getting most of their TV from streaming video or DVDs now, a small antenna would be a nice supplement providing local news and network TV.
Here are a few steps that will tell you what kind of success you would have if you added an antenna. That will make it easier for you to decide if an antenna fits into your future.
Start by going to this website: www.antennaweb.org. Enter your exact address or just your ZIP code. In a few clicks of a button, youll see the channels that are within reach from your home. Youll also find what type of antenna youd need to receive them.
Youve probably seen ads on television or in a newspaper or a magazine for special digital antennas. The truth is that theres no such thing as a digital antenna. The real purpose of a digital antenna is its magical ability to let a marketer jack up the ordinary price for an antenna. An antenna cares not at all whether the signal is analog or digital.
But if you read the antenna website, you will find that you may need a multiple-purpose antenna. Especially with the advent of HDTV, broadcasters have embraced a range of frequencies that occupy an area in the spectrum called UHF ultra high frequency.
While UHF has been used for a long time, in the past, more TV stations used VHF very high frequency. For the best picture, an antenna needs to be designed specifically for the intended frequency. The good news is that its standard practice for antennas even the rabbit-ear type to be designed for both frequency ranges.
If you can receive a few stations using nothing more than an indoor antenna, its easy and inexpensive to at least sample whats available as a free over-the-air broadcast. But if for instance the antenna website shows you need a more elaborate antenna to get decent reception, then theres no use in spending the money on rabbit ears. You need something more.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Bill Husted writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.