The television techno revolution: your questions answered

The future of broadcasting
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Q: Am I weird for thinking digital TV is a waste of time?

A: No. A survey last month found that 28 per cent of people - more than in 1998 - say they will never convert to digital. Only 23 per cent are even interested in cable TV. The most likely users are "working, skilled adults aged 22-44".

Q: What's different about digital?

A: In some ways, nothing - just as a CD plays the same music as an LP. In other ways, everything: potentially, it could make you the TV director, or let you choose what time the film or ER starts.

Q: Why is it called digital?

A: Because, like a CD (where music is encoded as 0s and 1s), the TV signal is encoded into a stream of bits for transmission. As with mobile phones, the digital signal is clearer than the analogue one, and can fit in more data - up to 200 channels.

Q: So digital TV means better pictures and sound?

A: In early tests, Which? magazine found that picture and sound quality were not noticeably better. That should change with the next generation of TVs.

Q: What's the use of 200 channels, if there's not enough now to fill five?

A: You could use 20 of them to stagger the start of Coronation Street by 10 minutes, so being late doesn't mean missing them. You can watch wildlife programmes or Star Trek all evening. You can choose which of 50 camera angles to watch the football from - and change view by changing channel.

Q: Anything else?

A: You could use it for shopping at home and accessing the internet.

Q: Does it only come over cable?

A: No, it can be received with an aerial or satellite dish as well.

Q: Can I still watch standard TV if I get digital?

A: Yes. Those channels are included for free, as are two extra BBC channels (Choice and 24 Hour) and "ITV2", aimed at young men.

Q: Why do I need a set top box?

A: To decode the digital stream. The "free" giveaways by Sky and ONdigital are not: you have to sign up to their subscription services. Both companies are desperate to get the lead in the market.

Q: I'm still not interested. Can I ignore it?

A: If you're determined. The analogue transmitters will be turned off sometime in the next 10 years - but most people replace their TVs every eight years anyway. All future TVs will have digital capability built in. If you do feign indifference, it'll still happen: the revolution will come to you instead.

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