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Converting to digital TV

WORTHINGTON -- The upcoming digital conversion is the first major change in television since color was added to daily viewing in the 1950s.

"It is the first real innovation since then," stated Dick Rickbeil, manager of Karl's TV, Audio, Appliance and Furniture of Worthington. "There are all new types of sets, as well as an all-new way of receiving a signal."

With the digital conversion just a month away, the Karl's corporation has sold more than 6,800 of the converter boxes needed for the old analog TVs. At one point, the demand for the boxes exceeded the availability, but Rickbeil said they have been able to keep up with demand since October.

For those with cable or satellite television service, no converter is necessary, but anyone getting their signal through rabbit ears or an antenna needs the converter.

Karl's in Worthington carries two basic kinds of the converters: one that works for both analog and digital and can be used immediately;, and one that is digital only, and will not work on all channels.

"Some networks are broadcasting in both, but some are still just analog," Rickbeil explained. "Our recommendation is to wait until Feb. 17 to hook the box up if it is digital only."

The boxes range in price from $40 to $70, but a coupon available through the government can knock $40 off the cost of the unit.

The coupons have been available for more than a year, and must be applied for.

At this point, the coupon program has reached a funding ceiling, so further requests are placed on a waiting list, which will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis as other coupons expire.

The funding for the coupons came from an auction, Rickbeil explained. The federal law requiring the switch to digital was enacted to free up airwaves for police, fire and emergency rescue communications. Some of the freed-up space was auctioned off to cellular companies or other entities that would need them.

Rickbeil has a cardboard box full of bundled coupons, which resemble a credit card complete with electronic strip and expiration date. Most of the people who have purchased a converter box have come in the door with a coupon, he said.

When the converter box is attached to a television, the TV will have to be tuned to channel 3, and a new remote will be used to change the signal going into the TV.

Another option to buying the converter box or subscribing to cable or satellite is to buy a new TV. Karl's does not sell any television sets that are not digital and has gone to carrying the sets that have a flat screen and operate through LCD or plasma.

The digital TV sets have an ATSC tuner, Rickbeil said, rather than the NTSC tuner used by analog sets.

With the new technology comes confusion, Rickbeil admitted. He sees the most confusion among elderly people.

"The upcoming change has created a bit of fear," he stated. "But we are here to help them understand."

For more information, contact Karl's,376-3121, or check out the government Web site at