Hold on to Your Rabbit Ears, The High Def Deadline Looms

Submit.

Do it.

Come on. Seriously. Everybody else is on board. (And, in a related story, everyone else is tangibly happier than you are. Coincidence? Impossible.)

What are you, chicken?

It's so very beautiful on the other side.

Join them.

And then, once you do, all that's left is for you to cover your dainty ears and turn blithely away when they track me down, strap me to a stretcher, and cart me through town on my way to be "processed." 'Cause you don't want to hear me screaming that all-too-inconvenient truth:

"You've got to tell them! HDTV is people!"

Yeah, that's right. I'm a codger, thank you very much. I'm a rabbit-ears-adjustin', five-channel-havin' Luddite, holed up with my cans of baked beans and my Telemundo, and all you High-Res, TiVoed, Blu-Ray-ed children of the future can camp outside and angrily lob standard-def DVDs at my house all you want; I'm not gonna budge.

(Actually, I just really like padding my movie collection. So, you know. If you wanna throw 'em, throw 'em. I'd toss a few Laserdiscs back atcha, if I'd ever bought any.)

Now, I think it's great that we're getting advanced enough with at home image quality that my old-school set's picture looks like a tired kindergartner's finger painting that someone threw up Lunchables on. Truly, I do. I'm all for progress. And I'm sympathetic to the folks who drop their Christmas bonuses on turning their living room into one of those video walls from Total Recall (or, you know, Back to the Future Part II, I'm not picky). I certainly don't begrudge anyone her or his enshrined American right to frenzied consumerism. Nor, of course, does the encroaching HDTV revolution. Most recently, the Sundance Channel, in a team-up with the 6-million-subscribers-strong Universal HD channel, announced plans to begin presenting three of its most well received series -- Iconoclasts, Big Ideas for a Small Planet, and Live from Abbey Road -- in the way-good-looking, way self-important format. From what I can tell most cable and satellite providers currently offer in the neighborhood of 9 to 20 HD channels, but that's about to change: DIRECTV claims it will offer 100 high-def selections by year's end, while Comcast, not to be outdone, predicts 400 this year, and a whopping 800 by the end of 2008.

And I won't be seeing any of 'em.

But, again, this stuff I can deal with. I can live with the fact that pitting my "analog" TV (that's what they're calling 'em these days) against a slick HD monster is somewhat analogous to setting an abacus next to Optimus Prime. Whatever. I figured, I guess, that in about 10 years, if the discrepancy really started to get to me, I could break down and conform (the sets and service will be cheaper then anyway). But, until then, I'd be fine with my antennae and my free five stations, and I'd be left in peace.

Wrong-o.

If the HD don't getcha, the DigiCable will. I don't know how or why I haven't heard one word about this before now, but it's true: On February 17, 2009, the United States of America will cease broadcasting all non-digital television signals.

Now, that doesn't mean that we'll all have to buy digital cable, and those already paying for TV service probably won't be affected much, but it does mean you'll no longer be able to just cram a wire coat hanger into an idiot box and get your idiot on. Rather, we, the dwindling Brotherhood of the Ears, will have to purchase a digital-to-analog "converter" (albeit with aid) in order to get our five channels. (That is, if we don't want to sign up for cable or buy a new set.)

Sigh.

Any low techs out there wanna come over and commiserate? I got a can of beans with your name on it.

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Brian Villalobos lives in Austin, Texas (practically), writes on film and TV, and totally cried at Stuart Little.

[email me]