I’ve mentioned before that I have a USB television tuner at work.  We bought one to see if it performed and because every now and then we make a program available to the company.  We noticed that the picture quality was excellent but the quality of the programming was nonexistent.

For some reason out home satellite receiver conked out on us last night, leaving the pets in peril of not watching Animal Planet while we were out.

I noticed this when we got home, so while my wife wondered about what was happening, I hooked up our trusty coupon-acquired converter box to the tv and attempted to fashion a temporary antenna that would work for this application.  I think we wound up with ten channels.

Of garbage.

This was confirmed this morning, when we turned the sinister device back on (the dish was still not functioning).  At one point, the only thing on was Three Stooges movies.  After that, it was entirely infomercialsTen channels of infomercials on a Sunday morning.

I thought my head was going to explode.

Being the analytical sort, I tried to figure out possible reasons for this:

  • a plot by churches to get attendance up on Sundays
  • tv stations know nobody’s watching but are required to air programming
  • stations taken over by Martians influenced by UHF programming they monitored
  • the drooling idiots in the viewing audience are actually Billy Mays fans
  • an unseen force is trying to tell us something….

Yes, I know, they’re all good potential explanations but they’re just not right.   Then I hit it: the television networks own the cable and satellite programming too.  Their Master Plan<tm> is to make over-the-air tv so bad that everyone buys cable or satellite gear.

Unfortunately this had partially backfired.  People are still watching over-the-air television, as evidenced by the mad rush to purchase converter boxes and new tv’s.  No matter how bad they make it, people will watch.

Also unfortunately, the networks realized that this carried over to cable and satellite programming. Instead of ten bad over-the-air channels, cable viewers have their choice of over one hundred bad channels, some of which are very expensive to watch.

As an inside joke, cable providers bet each other on whether or not they could charge a premium for people to watch wrestling.  Both sides apparently won.

So there are at least ten channels of over-the-air converter box unwatchable channels.  In addition there are over one hundred channels of cable or satellite channels that are becoming unwatchable.  It’s almost like the health insurance game: where is all the money going?

Well, maybe it is the unseen force trying to tell us something….


The antenna I attempted to use was a 430MHz yagi I had attached to a mast (don’t ask why I had a 430MHz antenna attached to a mast in the house) and it yielded about ten stations max, regardless of orientation (including standing on a wall).

Before I went off to the myriad online sites about antenna building, I decided to try another antenna I had sitting around.  No, I didn’t have a digital antenna attached to my roof for just this purpose.  But I did have a scanner antenna (Big Octopus Discone) in the attic, along with a 50-900MHz preamp that I use for my scanners.

I ran the wire to the converter box and VOILA – thirty channels, where there were ten before.  This is a lesson: if you have almost any type of existing antenna, try it first.  There’s no such thing as a digital antenna.