Monday, July 7, 2008

Portable analog TVs may be lost in digital transition

This article caught my attention because I had asked myself a similar question. We recently lost our electricity for 24 hours after a heavy storm that knocked down trees and power lines. With candles lit and flashlights in my kids hands, I found an old portable radio that was capable of getting TV audio. And I once again felt safe and connected to the outside world and at that moment, reconnected to the NBA Finals on TV.

And it was then that I thought, what would I need to do to replace this trusty old radio, that only comes out once in a blue moon, when the digital transition occurs on February 18, 2009. Frankly, I forgot all about it till I read this article. "About 7% of households, or 8 million homes, owned hand-held TVs in 2006, according to the latest data from the Consumer Electronics Assn. With such a low figure, and more options for watching video on cellphones and laptop computers, it's no surprise there are few battery-powered digital TVs on the market, said Tim Herbert, senior director of market research for the trade association."

As mobile TV becomes more available and embraced, portable analog sets may become a thing of the past. Still, when the power goes out for extended periods of time, back up batteries and generators may become more a necessity than ever before. As we rely on these devices to do many things, they consume more and more power. Options to recharge them under adverse conditions could become a bigger business.

This digital transition creates many new opportunities, but it takes away a trusted source and in a sense creates a digital divide between the haves and the havenots. Most take cable service and will continue to get their TV; but those poorer areas and older Americans may be less able to or accustomed to change. Will they be willing to purchase new portable digital devices; will they embrace the new digital converters? As we get closer to the transition date, it will become more apparent. In fact, it may be worse than when computers changed from 1999 to 2000.