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Beachcomber
5199 E. Pacific Coast Hwy. #608
Post Office Box 15679
Long Beach California, 90815-0679
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Beachcombing

From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 17
8/23/2013


By Jay Beeler

We have eight television sets at our house, but only use a few on a regular basis. There’s one for every bedroom, kitchen, den, family room, gazebo and a junker at the garage work bench. Half use the newer, flat screen technology with solid state electronics that seem to last forever. Even the older, boxy sets with cathode ray tubes still work … for the time being.

In our last issue of the Beachcomber we reported that Charter Cable is going to stop sending the analog signals that six of our TVs need to operate and we would have to pay $10-15 monthly for each converter box. That’s $60-90 each month or $720-1,080 per year over and above the $110 per month we currently pay for cable service, which includes one converter box and a fancier DVR model that records programs.

That added expense is exactly the reason we do not use Verizon for a television signal (just internet and home phone), because they also charge extra for each converter box. The bad part about Verizon and Charter for internet is that they feel empowered to censor emails they think is spam – that’s criminal conduct and very aggravating.

My mama did not raise a dummy so I quickly realized we could do without the hundreds of programs we don’t watch anyway and switch back to an antenna. A digital converter box is not necessary if you already have a digital television. The problem is solved with the purchase of the new devices, which are quickly paid for within the first few months.

Most of the shows that I watch are local and network news, sports and the “bubble gum for the brain” shows like Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune and Shark Tank. The stations that carry those VHF (very high frequency) programming still transmit digital signals over-the-airwaves locally from Mt. Wilson, gratis, including UHF (ultra high frequency) signals for public stations like KCET, shopping networks and foreign language stations. In total, there are more than 100 “free” signals available for your enjoyment.

By limiting ourselves to the two Charter Cable converter boxes that we already have, we’ll still be able to watch an occasional City Council meeting, selected sports events or movies (costing $15 per month on our bill but seldom watched). Some programming – like the council meetings – is available over the internet at no charge.

So “who cares” when Time Warner and CBS get into a contract dispute? Dump cable and return to the “good old days” of no-cost, over-the-air television. By the time they pull the plug on our analog signals I’ll be ready to pull the plug on them – and may very well do that to save $1,300-2,400 per year.

When we first got cable service the expense was only $30 per month. Now it has more than tripled and you too might consider going back to an antenna system with a converter box, if needed.

I’m in the experimental stages using a non-digital TV that was in storage along with a $33 digital/high definition indoor antenna purchased at Fry’s and a digital to analog converter purchased online for $46. The signal strength is excellent at my sixth floor office at PCH and Los Altos Plaza.

At home, three blocks away, the TV in the gazebo works great with a $55 indoor antenna that will soon be placed in the attic with a centralized, amplified signal that will feed all six TV sets. A converter box was not necessary for that newer, digital, flat-screen TV and only one remote control is needed as “the master” lounges on the hammock, sips his “Arnold Palmer” and watches football games this fall.

At long last I can take advantage of my Federal Communications Commission 1st Class License used in earlier radio/TV days to assist those readers who are technologically challenged.


More than 4,000 votes were counted and the winners have been selected in our 12th Annual Best of Long Beach contest – Part 2. The results will be posted in our September 6 issue.

Finally we reached a point where very few ballots were tossed out for cheating and I could not be more pleased over reaching this hallmark moment. The few that did get tossed were mostly votes from the same household or those that failed to vote in at least 15 categories.

Notification letters and certificates were mailed to the winning businesses this week. Next week we’ll conduct prize drawings for our $10,000 pot of gift certificates, which will be mailed the following week.

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