The future is here. I have been digitally revolutionised.
Having got a printer/copier/scanner gadget last week at the supermarket, this time I picked up a digital TV box.
In Britain, we've had five terrestial TV channels for some time now. Two of these are provided by the state broadcaster, the BBC, and the other three are commercial - i.e, they have adverts and some programmes are sponsored. The BBC isn't allowed to advertise. In fact, when I was a child (i.e. not that long ago), they used to make a point of covering up brand names on any packaging that appeared on screen.
These channels are broadcast as analogue signals, and are being phased out in favour of digital channels which take up less bandwidth. This has allowed the government (or at least a government at some point in the past) to make a bit of ready money by selling the old frequencies to mobile phone companies.
If, like me, your TV predates this digital revolution, you have to get a box which is able to receive, decode and decompress the digital signals. These currently cost £20, which is a lot cheaper than buying a new TV, and the channels are virtually all free to view (one or two require a subscription).
I'm not sure when they're switching off the analogue signals in my area, but I think it's sometime this year. I don't think they've already done it, though there's always the chance that I wouldn't notice, since I don't really watch any of the five channels. I can't get Channel Five properly anyway, and that's the one that broadcasts CSI, so I rely on DVDs for my fix. And none of the programmes are in Greek, which is a real problem for me.
Instead of five stations, digital gives you 20 or 30 or something. And a load of digital radio channels, too. The main broadcasters all have extra channels and there is also home shopping, 24-hour news (CNN, Sky News and BBC24), and something called "Babe" channels that start at 1am. Why anyone wants to stay up late and watch films about talking pigs is beyond me. The main thing that's missing once more is Greek language TV. Oh, well.
Anyway, I got the box home and plugged it in. A Miss Marple story had just started on ITV3 (one of the digital-only channels). The quality is better than analogue, and many of the programmes are broadcast in proper widescreen. I can't remember the last time I sat and watched two hours of British TV.
I don't think that I'll be using it that much (perhaps the occasional Agatha Christie adaptation), but it's great to be digitally revolutionised. Instead of 5 channels I don't watch, now I'll be able to not watch 25. And in widescreen too.