DVD/VCR combo a decent stopgap as you await HDTV

Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 34, 2007

Q: I made the mistake of buying an LCD TV that requires a cable or satellite box. The TV is not returnable. The store’s tech guy said I can use a VCR to watch the TV. I don’t even own a VCR anymore. What’s your advice?

Ocean City, NJ

A: Since the federal government will be ending analog broadcasts in 2009, your inquiry will allow me to provide some timely advice for all of my readers.

You have several options, as I see it. The first is to get a VCR and use it to tune TV stations. The VCR has a tuner built into it. Just attach the antenna to the VCR, connect the VCR’s A/V outputs to the TV, set the VCR’s TV/VCR setting to VCR, and change the channels on the VCR. Whatever is tuned on the VCR will appear on the TV.

Your second option is to get a DVD recorder. Because they include an analog tuner it does the same as above, and plays DVDs as well.

The third option is to get a VCR/DVD player combo. This is probably your best option, as you can play VHS tapes and DVDs, as well as watch TV broadcasts. VCR/DVD combos are available for under $100 these days.

Your fourth option is to get an HDTV tuner. This will give you beautiful a beautiful high-definition picture, but channel choices may be limited. You will need one in 2009 anyway when the airwaves go all digital. You can learn more at www.dtv.gov. Starting in January 2008 you can get a $40 coupon to use towards a converter box. Information about the coupon program can be found at www.ntia.doc.gov/dtvcoupon/index.html.

Readers who get their TV strictly from antennas, take note: Without the converter box, you won’t be able to watch broadcast TV at all if you plan on using your old analog set. Satellite and cable subscribers will have boxes provided for them by their service provider.

If you plan to stay away from subscription TV, my advice is to take option three (DVD/VCR combo) now, then in January of 2008 get a coupon and get your converter box.

Q: My TV home system consists of three VCRs, four TVs, a Dish Satellite receiver, and a rooftop TV antenna with an amplifier.

Three of the TVs and their VCRs are fed from the antenna through a junction box. The main TV in the living room can be switched from satellite to rooftop TV reception. The TV in the kitchen receives satellite signals only.

How is this 2009 switch to digital going to effect my system or VCR tuners?


A: This is an easy one, and a great way to illustrate my answer above. All of your TVs with satellite will have a broadcast picture, everything else will not. It will be like someone pulled the plug on them, despite your obviously well-thought-out setup.

My response is not meant to be flippant . It is merely to illustrate what is going to happen in 2009 and motivate readers to prepare. If a TV tunes from the analog airwaves, it will be dark in 2009.

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