DTV Transition Enters Problematic Stage – February 17, 2009 is the big date when most of the analog TV transmitters will be turned off to return that spectrum to other uses such as emergency broadcast. Of course those of us in the know have been enjoying digital TV for years now, and many of us with obsolete analog TVs have been enjoying the greatly improved picture and new channels receivable using one of the TV converter boxes, which the feds offer $40 discount coupons on. However, the word really hasn’t gotten out to many receiving all their analog TV over-the-air (OTA) and millions are expected to be mystified when all their TV reception suddenly stops this February. Roughly 20 million analog households will need the set-top converters, and only 2.6 million have requested the coupons.
But even if every single one were to be equipped with the converter boxes by February, or had purchased a digital TV by then, there is no guarantee they will receive all the TV channels they now receive. Many of those in outlying areas who now receive messy analog TV signals may get absolutely nothing from the DTV stations come February, because when digital signals deteriorate in strength beyond a certain point, they just drop out completely. The estimate is that 5 to 9 million antenna-dependent (no cable or satellite hookup) households will receive fewer TV channels after the DTV transition is completed. Local terrain will be a factor – flatter areas will have less problems, while hilly environments such as San Francisco may have as many as 10% of households getting less channels than before. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) are sponsoring a national contest encouraging viewers to prepare now for the DTV transition in February. It offers free converter boxes, antennas and a complete HDTV entertainment center as awards in its “Rabbit Ears Pioneers” contest. Go to www.AntennaWeb.org
Musical Time Machine Discovered – For decades, historic recordings buffs were tantalized by rumors of a cache of classical music on cylinders from the dawn of recording. They supposedly consisted of hundreds of cylinders made on an Edison phonograph in the 1890s by a music-loving businessman, Julius H. Block. But after searches by several musical historians, only a few of the cylinders turned up. Harold Schonberg of the New York Times reported in 1979 that none of it had survived. The in 2001 a member of Jascha Heifetz’ family was in contact with a Russian scholar in writing a book about Heifetz’ years in Russia. He casually mentioned the story about the historic cylinders. The Russia contact replied that they were all in an archive right down the street called the Pushkin House. It turned out they had been stored in Berlin and after the war they were taken to St. Petersburg.
All the cylinders have now been transferred to digital media and three CDs are being issued by noted historic mastering engineer Ward Marston. Only a handful of classical recordings from the first decades of the phonograph exist, so these are truly amazing finds, even though their fidelity is necessarily very poor. Marston has only minimally reduced surface noise to keep a sense of authenticity and not lose any of the music. Among the gems are parts of a piano trio by Arensky, Sergei Taneyev playing a Mozart Fantasy, and supposed conversations between Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein and other musicians. There are also the earliest surviving recordings by Josef Hofmann, Egon Petri and Eddy Brown.