Returning to Rabbit-ears TV

I thought it would be nice to have a TV in the bedroom just to get the local news and weather while getting dressed in the morning, and maybe briefly again at night, but that minor convenience was never worth paying the cable company an extra $15 a month for another box.

Vintage TVI had heard some people can pick up several channels with just an antenna, and receiving even one local channel would do for my bedroom idea.  I still had an old pair of rabbit ears in the basement and an old 15″ tube-TV down there that still worked.  It was worth a try.

But then came the first problem.  Over-the-air broadcasting is now all digital, not the former analog.  New TV sets have a digital-to-analog decoder built in, but I would have to buy a separate decoder for my old tube TV, and that would cost more than the TV was worth.  Analog is never coming back, so I discarded the TV at a local recycling center.  Not even Goodwill wanted it.

I decided to experiment with our kitchen TV, a fairly new flat-screen TV, to see what I could get using just the antenna, but right away there was another problem—the TV only had a coaxial connection for the cable and no place to connect the dual wires of the rabbit ears.  So, off to Radio Shack where I was sure they would have some sort of simple adapter.  They did not because the impedance would not match.  The old flat TV antenna wire on my rabbit ears was 300 ohms and coaxial is 75 ohms.  I would need an impedance-matching transformer that would cost about $30.

Forget that. The old rabbit ears went in the trash, too.

Then, in a Philadelphia Chinatown hardware store, I saw a tiny, rabbit-ear antenna for only $2 that had a coaxial connection.  That fit my budget, and if I got any encouraging reception at all with it, I could later spring for a better one.  There are plenty available at a wide range of prices, indoor, outdoor, plain or amplified, all making extravagant claims.

The final result.  I got jaw-dropping reception with about a dozen channels, but it was not as good as it sounds.  Only one, CBS, was a major network channel.  The others were a strange mix of low-budget channels that apparently were not even good enough for cable.  They had mostly religious programs and one that continuously cycled through a dozen Philadelphia traffic cams.  One had an amateurish children’s program of a guy talking to a hand puppet, like the old 1950s Kukla, Fran, and Ollie show (or Willie the Worm for Philadelphians).  It was a strange world of shoestring TV out there that I never knew existed.

And I found one big, new, technical difference.  Snowy TV reception is only a fading memory that will never be seen by our grandchildren.   With digital, you get either perfect reception, as good as anything on cable, or nothing at all.  There is no in-between.  A weak channel (and all of mine were weak) flicks back and forth between the two extremes every 10 seconds or so, cutting out both picture and sound.  This quickly becomes intolerable.  I would prefer the snow.

Bottom line, I gave up on the bedroom TV idea.  A nursing home is probably not far off in my future, and surely they will have good TV reception.  I can wait.

The lesson of all this is to throw out any any old tube TVs and antennas you may have in your basement.  They are of no use to anyone.

(See a positive update of this idea in the posting of 10/15/2014, TV by Antenna Update.


About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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