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back to article Analogue TV snuffs it tonight on UK mainland

Tyne Tees will switch off its analogue TV transmission at midnight tonight. The shutdown will mark the last region of the mainland to go entirely digital despite the obituaries written in April. Exactly how the signal will be killed off is described in quite terrifying detail by the A516 Digital blog. The switch to digital TV …

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ROI not part of UK.

Just saying like.

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Re: Just saying like.

Why? Nothing in the article suggested that it was.

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Re: Just saying like.

Apart from the headline.

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Re: ROI not part of UK.

Interestingly, I was going to say the same thing until I checked and realised that the ROI are switching *their* telly over on the 24th of October as well. (Can I assume that this isn't just coincidence and that the UK and Irish governments coordinated their switchovers for technical reasons?)

Anyway, that surprised me, as I'd thought digital terrestrial only launched in the ROI a couple of years back... and I was apparently right. They just haven't taken an eternity to make the switch (unlike the UK).

One major advantage- for them- of having switched later is that their system is *all* MPEG-4 (i.e. the newer and more efficient system), i.e. they don' t need separate technologies and incompatible boxes for SD and HD, and shouldn't even require simulcasts of HD material (as the boxes should be able to downscale HD as required).

Whereas in the UK, our original SD digital terrestrial service dates back to the late 90s, and the established base of equipment doesn't support Freeview HD transmissions, so it's space-wasting simulcasts all the way.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just saying like.

"Apart from the headline."

How does the headline suggest that exactly? Northern Ireland is part of the UK and doesn't switch off until next month, which is what the headline pertains to obviously.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ROI not part of UK.

> (Can I assume that this isn't just coincidence and that the UK and Irish governments coordinated their switchovers for technical reasons?)

You can indeed. Co-ordinated to the point that a small transmitter (the "mini-Mux") will come online in Belfast to carry RTE1/2 and TG4 to those people who can't pick up the Irish Saorview service directly. If, as you say, they have an MPEG-4 compatible decoder.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just saying like.

What exactly is 'The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland' supposed to mean when it doesn't include Northern Ireland? Surely it's 'Great Britain' and not the oxymoronic 'mainland UK'?

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Terminator

Its all a bit HAL 9000....

'''Daisy....Daaaaiiiiiisssssyyyyy.....swwwitttttchhhh meeeeeeeeeeee tooooo BBC TWOOOOOOO.......''

Sorry, too much caffeine.

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Boffin

I haven't had an aerial on my house since 2004. I could dig my old Game Gear and TV adaptor out of the loft for a final view.

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Anonymous Coward

Digital is an improvement because

We've got the same crap repeated over more channels and can have it in HD if we want.

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Anonymous Coward

£900 to update my car's MMI to DVD-T. I don't think I'll bother.

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digital is an improvement because

When the signal is weak you get bugger all, which is clearly better than something with a bit of interference. I wonder if it will be as good as digital radio - you know that where the time pips can be 1 or 2 seconds late depending on the ability of the poorly written encoders and decoders.

I like the idea people are continually sold that digital with its fixed values is somehow more 'accurate' then analogue with its infinite choice of value...

I guess eventually the BBC will encrypt its output then the license fee buys you the decrypt key - then (hopefully) those of us who don't need government propaganda can just not pay for it :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: digital is an improvement because

Analog is not "infinite", but the other points still stand.

Analog has practical limitations too. But Digital has other problems of it's own (as you pointed out). It's apples and oranges (for out American readers) or swings and roundabouts (for us Brits).

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Experience says otherwise

Before the analog was switched off here, I had an old analog TV and a FreeView box. When you hit the wrong button on the remote, it switched back to the analog TV tuner, and it was so bad as to be nearly unwatchable. But the digital TV, while it dropped out from time to time, was basically perfect. Same transmitter; same aerial. And this was when digital transmission levels were about 8x lower - now, reception is perfect here, as the analog switchoff allowed them to boost the power.

So, yes, *in theory* analog degrades gracefully, but in practice the analog picture has become virtually unwatchable by the time the digital picture degrades *at all*. I assume there is some error-correcting code in use - try doing that with analog. (Voyager, for instance, sent back amazing pictures on a channel that in analog terms was basically all noise.)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: digital is an improvement because

Oh god, not the "analogue is automatically better because it's infinite" fallacy.

This makes two mistakes- firstly assuming that "infinite" possible signal values automatically corresponds with *accuracy* of reproduction. A worn-out 30-year-old analogue audio cassette has the former, but less of the latter than a digital CD.

The second mistake is assuming that an idealised "perfect" theoretical analogue system does- or can- correspond to a real-world analogue system; and then comparing this to a real-world digital setup. If we're comparing analogue's theoretical (real-world-impossible) "infinite" perfection, then digital can "in theory" have an arbitrarily high sampling rate and resolution.

Digital, by its nature, has a clearly-defined cutoff point in terms of accuracy or approximation. A real-world analogue system generally has less clearly-defined limitations, but they still exist.

There are circumstances where a *particular* analogue system can outperform a *particular* digital system. And vice versa.

No, we shouldn't always assume that digital is better than analogue, and there are discussions to be had. But as a general principle the anti-digital backlash/fetishisation of the misguided "analogue is infinite and therefore better" type is just as annoying as the digital hype.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: digital is an improvement because

But I miss the ghosting of analogue TV. I also miss having to get up and squint at the corner of the TV during the football to see what time was left on the clock.

Analogue was shit, apart from Ceefax. As long as you've got a decent aerial, and you're not moving about, digital's fine.

People in remote valleys may disagree though.

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Flame

Re: digital is an improvement because

It's a cost cutting scam.

I live in the middle of a city...have a good arial, and the number of times my analog signal was lost or needed retuning in my 14 years of living in my own place has been...zero. The number of times I am told (normally by the screen going blank) that I have to retune my wank box, well, I have lost count.

Additionally why do I see other channels mixed together on my digital box...and sometimes hear other channels too? Is it because the tech is wanky but cheaper to run and flog? No benefits to the consumer, what so ever.

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Re: digital is an improvement because

Ah crap...I forgot to mention that classic pips, squaks, stutters and ear drum blasting shrieks as any traffic passes the window. It sounds like someone having an epileptic fit. I am buggared to remember the last time the analogue signals sound became a muddle of pops and squawks.

My DAB radio is also pretty piss poor. I had to turn to analog Radio 4 the other day because of the contstant popping sounds coming through my radio using DAB. Utter...shit.

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Boffin

Ach, there goes thirty-five years of PAL TV engeering...

I am now an expert in a field that no longer exists. I guess that makes me an official fossil!

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Happy

Re: Ach, there goes thirty-five years of PAL TV engeering...

I'm sure the BBC will call you up at some point for commentary on a rose tinted documentary of TV: The early years.

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Unhappy

more like fifty

My father Cedric (Ced) Taylor was involved in the development of PAL colour television receivers at Ekco in Southend from 1962 to 1967 and then at GEC Hitachi in Slough from 1967 to 1986. He died in February this year, two months before his TV signal did.

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Headmaster

Re: Ach, there goes thirty-five years of PAL TV engeering...

Oops, no edit function. I meant of course 'engineering'!

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Unhappy

Re: Ach, there goes thirty-five years of PAL TV engeering...

I feel similarly about my 5 year old CRT telly. Analogue TV circuits that will never receive any signal again... :-(

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Pirate

Re: Ach, there goes thirty-five years of PAL TV engeering...

It means you become an international development consultant and make a mint flogging the dead tech (or providing technical assistance) in the developing world!

Keeeeeer-ching!

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Re: Ach, there goes thirty-five years of PAL TV engeering...

Actually a few month ago I held a talk on the basics of analogue television at a hacker camp. It was quite well filled. People are still interested in that kind of technology.

Also I'm considering making a CATV system at the OHM2013 (another hacker camp, this time in the Netherlands) . It would be analogue like current CATV systems in Germany are currently.

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I repurposed all my analogue Hauppauge WinTV cards years ago to become CCTV recorders. They are infinitely more useful doing that than receiving even five channels of the junk they put on TV now. The USB-dual-DVB-T stick that I got to replace them (and because it was a bargain) has barely been out of its box (I find the EPG and constant retuning unnecessarily onerous, especially when there's nothing to actually WATCH on it).

In the last week I have watched literally about 4-5 hours of Digital TV, most of that repeats, filled with adverts (muted), and with all the best lines cut out and only so that there was "something on" while I did other things (e.g. ate dinner). But DVD's and iPlayer? At least double-that. Hell, technically I have watched more TV through my Raspberry Pi (that I've consigned to the bin for what I wanted to do with it), than over the digital or analogue airwaves combined.

A TV is just a display device now. I lived for three years without one recently - can't say I missed it at all and only got one again as I bought a LCD flatscreen to go nicely on the wall in a new house and be used for showing things from the DVD player / PC.

You can switch off the analogue, now. Hell, switch off the digital while you're at it. It won't be a huge loss to a lot of people (especially when this "local TV" thing comes along). Personally, I'd remove TV from the airwaves at all and use the space for local wireless broadband which people can use for IP-based media.

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Yeah, and to use a LCD flatscreen TV just as a display for the DVD player / PC you still have to pay for the TV licence! Sheesh!

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TV licence! Sheesh!

No you don't. Do it little reading on the TV licensing web site and save your money.

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No you dont...

read the back of your TV licence - or Google it...

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Re: taxman

Incorrect!

You are free to get rid of the license at ANY time so long as you do not watch or record TV broadcasts (using any device) whilst they are being broadcast....

You are free to keep the freeview to listen to the radio if you were so inclined.

Unfortunately, TVL will not spell this information out clearly an unambiguously and will try and convince you that you must somehow PROVE to them that you no longer need a license (even resorting to faux legal threats of court summons and "investigations being opened"...

Reality is a bitch (for them) -The onus is on THEM to prove you ARE breaking the law, NOT for YOU to prove that your AREN'T breaking the law!

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Anonymous Coward

TVL

TVL are the most grotesque company in the UK. They beat HMRC hands-down, and that's saying something.

I didn't have a TV for 3 or 4 years (my girlfriend finally nagged me enough to get one), and I used to receive a constant stream of letters from TVL telling me I was a criminal. As has been touched on above, the big problem with TVL is that they make it as difficult and as obscure as possible for Jo Public to know where they stand. They absolutely will not make it clear when you do and when you do not need a TV license. They just assume you are a criminal and go out of their way to try and convince you of this. I even had a knock at the door once from one of their goons. I asked him why they kept sending me threatening post and could they please stop it? He tried to tell me that if I would only tell him my name, he could stop the letters. I told him my name was none of his, or TVA's bloody business (which it isn't - the letters used to be addressed to "the occupier"). Anyway, after a while, he ended up walking away while I was having a go at him! Bloody cheek.

My advise to anyone being hounded by TVA (assuming you really don't need a TV license) is to tell them to fuck off. They're not the police, they have no legal powers at all - NONE; they're just a state-run mafia and the lot of them should be locked up.

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FAIL

Re: TVL

I can second (or third) that. In the early noughties I had a house that I was trying to sell which was empty, yet I kept getting snotty letters threatening legal action for not having a license. If you looked in the front window you could clearly see the lack of furniture and the TV antenna cable lying on the carpet. In the end, I sent them a letter explaining this again, and asking them to book a court date, and telling them that they would lose for sure. They stopped after that, presumably they'd sent one of their drones to actually check the reality of the situation. Tossers.

BTW Unlike others I don't begrudge paying the TV license fee, I love BBC4 and shows such as Dr Who.

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Well

For me TV is like a "download service". I enter some keywords and it'll record shows with matching words. Then I have them on my harddisk to watch them whenever I want. Quite like a podcast.

The great thing about Television is that it's complete DRM free. We all pay for television so shows get made and we all get a copy of it.

As for Internet via those frequencies. Get real, you'd have to invest a great deal to be able to provide decent service. And phone companies aren't run by engineers but beancounters. They would rather trafic shape your link to death before investing into more capacities.

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Re: TVL

Been there, done that. I lived happily without a TV set from 1995 to 1998 (though I did have a play-only VHS wired up to an Amiga monitor, for watching movies from the local video shop -- remember video shops?); only eventually being persuaded to purchase one by a young lady. (Although said young lady was only 2 years old at the time, so is forgiveable under the circumstances.) Seeing as the licence was still valid after my ex and her daughter moved out, and any refund on the time remaining would have been swallowed up in admin costs, I hung onto the TV. Then added a VCR ..... then satellite ..... You get the picture.

Since the switchover required effectively the replacement of every TV receiver in the country (a set-top box is a receiver, it just doesn't have a display) one has to ask why did they not mandate the ability to use a viewing card from day one? Scrambling all the broadcasts on a simple "no payment, no pictures" basis would have stuffed it to the freeloading chavs and removed the need for poison-pen letters and bully-boy tactics, in one fell swoop.

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Re: TVL

They get more money by having every household in the country as subscribers. If they introduced a card, many people would just use ITV and other 'free' channels and save money.

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Re: TVL

A loud, angry letter worked for me, and bought me a groveling apology. ..

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@ Lee Dowling

Hi,

Now that you aren't using your Pi any more, can I beg it off you please ?

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Re: TVL

My advice is to tell them that

1. You have revoked their implied right of access

2. Any further communication from them will be treated as harrassment.

Those are the two magic phrases that get them to go away

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Re: @ Lee Dowling

"Now that you aren't using your Pi any more, can I beg it off you please ?"

For £30 from cpc.co.uk, delivered next day if you like? They aren't rare any more, aren't expensive, and - believe me - aren't worth it for anything serious. Still had USB problems (i.e. not letting some basic devices operate at all - all a bit of a lottery), SD card problems, and power problems (you need an insanely stable and powerful power supply if you intend to use it long-term) last time I tried.

Original project I planned (and spent £100 on parts for over a year) was an in-car GPS tracker / alarm. I have casings, interfaces, battery backup that charges from the car when its running, GPS, Bluetooth, 3G modem, various relays etc. all ready and working. Originally built with a Mini-ITX board with the assumption I could just slap the RPi in there when it arrived. All it had to do was have two USB ports that worked and bog-standard Linux-supported drivers (drivers aren't a problem, nothing I used had anything more than a plain-text modem/serial device interface presented to Linux) and present a Linux console (no graphics output was needed at all). Never managed to get it working well enough to rely on. Project still wired to Mini-ITX months later (was one of the first orders of RPi, just had that many unresolved issues).

Also bought it to trial in the school I worked in. Just far too many issues that it would be embarrassing to even try to suggest it professionally for anything. Sure, people can do stuff with it, but it's nowhere near as reliable or as useful as you might think. I actually regret paying £25 for it - I could have just bought a pack of Z80's and made something better for the task myself (though it wouldn't have run Linux). Sure, I did a demo that ran some basic X-Windows on the HDMI lead, but the TV composite-out never really worked either. Networking was affected by USB load so it was useless even for simple things if you actually wanted it to do anything. And RAM was always a problem for anything heavily graphical (e.g. browsers).

To be honest, I'm only holding on to it in the hopes that they fix the kernel eventually and I can use it to do a simplified subset of the functions necessary in partnership with some basic IC's or microprocessor. The Mini-ITX board is too large, and I have nothing else that will fit in the gap left. If I ever get funds to put a small, embedded, ARM-Linux board in there instead, the Pi goes into the loft anyway, I'm afraid. A warning to myself about pre-ordering things (my first and only pre-order, and am immensely disappointed with it).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: TVL - @ jonathanb

Re "My advice is to tell them that...You have revoked their implied right of access"

TVA have no implied right of access to your property - none.

They might like you to THINK they have, but they do not. In fact, the ONLY way anyone can enter your property to check if you are using a TV without a license and are therefore breaking the law is with a court order. Even the Police can not (and in any case would be unprepared to) act without a court order. And guess what? The evidence against you has to pretty damned good for the court to issue such an order. Strangely enough, very few court orders are ever issued!

This is why TVA resort to harassment; because they have no legal rights whatsoever.

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Re: TVL

I, also, am a TV Denier. I also received the usual threats, including one signed personally from some woman with a fancy title. I returned her letter to her with a covering letter saying that I didn't think her income tax was in order and wanted to visit her to inspect her accounts. Never heard another thing. During the increasingly heated exchanges leading up to this, I happened to discover that Boris Johnson was experiencing exactly the same problems and eventually we exchanged emails on tactics. Happy days, gave me something to do...

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Re: @ Lee Dowling

Thanks for the extensive reply Lee.

I'm told that the current Pi no longer has the composite output, so was halfway looking out for one of the earlier ones.

If you don't ask, you can be sure of not getting :)

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Megaphone

Republic of Ireland ...

f*cking freeloaders.. that is all!

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Re: Republic of Ireland ...

OK I'll bite.

I assume you are referring to the fact that some UK channels will be available in ROI? Part of the reason for the synchronised switch over North and South is that ROI channels will be available in N.Ireland and broadcast from N.Ireland after the switchover and vice versa. Each side of the border will get most of the other's channels, all part of their peace agreement I believe, sharing culture and all that.

What's the problem?

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Re: Republic of Ireland ...

Urr no. if you want UK telly in (the south of) Ireland you subscribe to Sky or cable tv and pay for it.

No freeloading involved. In the analogue days you could pick up HTV on the east coast most of the time, or UTV in border areas.

I believe the digital switchover will allow both sides to adjust the "cut-off" of the signal to prevent wandering into the other jurisdiction...

And someone earlier mentioned RTE and TG4 being beamed into Belfast? Care to elaborate on that? RTE charge a licence fee too. How's that going to work north of the border? Just wondering...

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Stop

Re: Republic of Ireland ...

Works the same way as it does with them allowing international users to view their programmes on RTE Player.

i.e. it's in their best interests to allow more people to watch their stuff, while the BBC don't have to.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Republic of Ireland ...

>I believe the digital switchover will allow both sides to adjust the "cut-off" of the signal to prevent wandering into the other jurisdiction...

It could, but in practice they're each ensuring maximum penetration (ooh err, missus). That's one reason that the digital switchover is synchronized between the two jurisdictions.

> And someone earlier mentioned RTE and TG4 being beamed into Belfast? Care to elaborate on that?

Not beamed in. Separate transmitter on Black Mountain, channel 39+, 2kW, just for RTE/TG4

>RTE charge a licence fee too. How's that going to work north of the border? Just wondering...

RTE don't charge a licence fee, the Irish Government does. Just like the UK government. People in NI pay to the UK government, people in RoI pay to the Irish government. What's to wonder about?

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Anonymous Coward

CEEFAX

The BBC still broadcast pages from CEEFAX in the wee hours. Why? It would be cheaper just to close down at night to save money.

Digital is shite, with its lowbitrate and blockyness. Any crowd scene or glitter celebrations is rendered un-watchable.

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Re: CEEFAX

Your screen is too big or you're sitting too close.

Digital TV from a reasonable distance (compared to how we used to watch TV when I was a lad) is wonderful. No snow. Solid areas of colour with no 'noise'. I wouldn't go back to analogue.

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Re: CEEFAX

You've obviously not watched some of the documentary channels, for instance David Attenborough's ones where he shows millions of bats flocking is a good way to really kill MPEG compression, which is the artifact that the OP describes seeing.

Couple that with low-bit-rate channels, and poor MPEG conversion hardware on the broadcast end that they can't be bothered to pay real money for, and you end up with a complete mess trying to watch something that looks like a bad YouTube clip on your HD TV.

The HD channels "solve" it a bit, but only if you have them and pay for them (where appropriate) and if the thing you want to watch happens to be shown on them.

It doesn't matter how big your screen is or how far aware you are if the MPEG compression just can't keep up.

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