Back in the old days, a person could go to a department store and purchase a television, take it home, plug it in and voila -- endless hours of television programming for the family to enjoy. Then along came the digital transition. Those old television sets were working just fine, but they could only receive an analog signal. Television stations were changing to digital signal faster than a speeding bullet and by June 12, 2009 all television stations were broadcasting digital-only signals.
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With the transition, anyone who wanted to watch local television programming but did not own a digital television had to purchase converter boxes so the analog signal that they originally received could be converted to a digital signal.
There were benefits associated with making the transition to digital. Viewers are now able to see more stations than before; the analog broadcast spectrum has more airwaves available for emergency services, like police and fire and rescue. The digital transition brought with it broadcasts with improved picture and sound quality; and the addition of more advanced wireless services. Even the government stepped in and offered coupons (which are no longer available) to citizens to help defray the cost of purchasing converter boxes.
Comp USA is one of the retailers that has the least expensive converter boxes, as of May 2011. Although some of its stand-alone stores closed down in some cities, you can still make purchases through the retailer's website. Comp USA also has new stores that have opened in Georgia, Illinois and Texas. The AccessHD DTA-1080D Digital Converter Box, which is available from several other vendors, is the most inexpensive converter box, with only a variance of a few dollars from one retailer to another. It can be purchased from Comp USA for around $27.
Circuit City has a large selection of digital converter boxes, all of which are reasonably priced. It carries the AccessHD DTA-1080D model for around the same $25 to $30 in May 2011, the same price range as other stores selling this product.
Also at Circuit City you will find the Digital Stream DTX9900 for around $40. This unit features a digital television tuner for digital signals that are broadcast over the air, closed-captioning and parental controls.
Selling for around $40 as well is the Supersonic SC-55 Digital Converter Box that has an auto-scan feature to find broadcast and digital television signals.
Wal Mart Stores
For around $30, Wal-Mart has the AccessHD Digital-Analog Converter Box, which receives UHF and VHF digital signals. This small, unobtrusive unit makes use of your television's existing antenna to receive digital signals. It receives high-definition, enhanced-definition and standard-definition signals and converts them into an analog signal for viewing on older television sets.
Sears has the Coby DTV 102 converter box that sells for around $43. This unit is compatible with all 18 ATSC, which stands for Advanced Television Systems Committee, signal formats and features an on-screen program guide.
Also at Sears for around $50 is the Magnavox digital converter box for televisions without a digital tuner built in. This unit features a multi-lingual on-screen display and has audio and video outputs.