Iowa Public Television

Friday, November 30, 2007

Is This Trip Really Necessary?

Greeting all and welcome to the inaugral Iowa DTV Answers blog. I had originally considered writing an introduction of myself and my qualification and history for my first entry but I have decided against that in favor of the simple introduction. My name is Bill Hayes and I am the Director of Engineering and Technology for Iowa Public Television and I am charged with overseeing the conversion of IPTV's facilities for analog to digital. What this means is that I am taking a perfectly good analog operation that is still working very well and I am disrupting it with a lot of "new digital" technology that like all thing that combine the term "new" and "digital" still has some bugs in it. My staff and I are in a race to have all of our analog stuff removed from service and all of the digital stuff in service to meet the looming deadline of February 17, 2009. Not since the Y2K scare has there been more countdown clocks running that all remind us of this crucial date because on that day, we pull the plug on the analog television service that we know so well and we rely solely on the new digital television service that still has many known and unknown issues.

That day in February concerns you as well because until then, all of the hiccups and oddities that we have been dealing with at the station have had very little impact on what you as a television viewer see and hear while watching our station. There have been the occassional issues that may have momentarily interupted a program that you were watching but for the most part you have been shielded from the vast majority of issues that have come up and believe me there have been some huge ones. Problems so large and scary that lawyers have had to sort through the rubble and vendors have fallen on their swords. The road to digital television is strewn with wreckage and I'll bet every television engineer working through the transition can share with you scary stories about some incident they confronted that made them wonder if this stuff was ever going to work. And some, are still wondering....

Now on this well laid foundation comes your part in all of this. On February 18th, 2009 when you turn on your TV, will you see anything or will you feel like the late Heather O'Rourke from the movie Poltergeist, sitting in front of a television display noise saying "They're here!" Well, before you end up in flooded swimming pool surrounded by unearthed coffins trying to flee into the night, let me just say that the "They" in this case are myself and my staff at IPTV and we are indeed "here" but our mission is to take what we know about television and what we've learned about digital television and help insure that when television becomes exclusively digital on February 18, 2009, you are already there.

During my next few postings I will answer some of the basic questions like what happens to cable and satellite subscribers and how do I receive over the air? But the most important questions to answer aren't the ones that I think you have but the ones you ask. So please let me know if what is on your mind. Remember, there are 10 kinds of people in the world....those that understand digital and those that don't. If you got the joke you're well on your way if not, you'll need help.