The end of an era is coming. On Feb 17, 2009 analog television broadcast is supposed to come to an end. The US government has mandated that all over the air broadcasts will be digital. They are giving away coupons for free converters for analog TVs. After March 1, 2009 all newly manufactured TVs must be digital.
Since 1941, the analog broadcast standard has pretty much remained the same. The same signal broadcast then can be received now. For over the air broadcasts, the era of NTSC will end after a 68 year run.
Children in a post 2009 world will never know about "snowy" pictures. With poorly received digital, you get frame drops, stutters and pixelation.
The days of hacking analog TV signals are also gone. This is not quite as dramatic as the (eventual?) loss of analog AM/FM radio, where with just a crystal and a few parts any kid can tune in a grainy signal and thrill to the discovery of turning inaudible radio signals into sound!
I haven't figured out yet what the plan will be regarding "emergency broadcasting". When the next flood or tornado hits what do folk who didn't get the "free voucher" upgrade (or are just too far away to get a decent signal) do? In the middle of swampy Lousiana, or in a remote farmhouse in Kansas you may be able to currently get a grainy noisy signal warning you of disaster. Come 2009, how well will the same tower broadcast digital? Will you be able to make out the news when the digital stalls and drops?
None of this affects us cable/satellite users. But, I want to tune in when the moment comes and we witness the silence of the analog signal. I wonder how many uninformed people will take the silence to mean an invasion from space or Armageddon?