06/12/09 — Today is D-day for converting from analog television

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Today is D-day for converting from analog television

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on June 12, 2009 1:46 PM

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Radio Shack sales associate Meleah Parish checks the store's stock of converter boxes. Most stores in Goldsboro reported Thursday that they had sold out of the boxes.

There weren't many television stations broadcasting when Harry Sutton was growing up.

"First I remember was Channel 9 in '53 or '54. It was real snowy, that was the first channel that came on," he said.

His father, Elworth Sutton, opened Sutton's Radio and Television in 1959, and Harry began working at the shop a few years later. Today, the Mount Olive store is still going strong half a century later, and though the equipment and television shows have changed, the Sutton family is still helping people purchase and install their televisions.

Lately, they have been working overtime to equip customers' analog televisions with digital converter boxes that sit on top of the television set and change the digital signal to one that can be recognized by the older televisions.

A lot more televisions will be sporting those boxes after today.

June 12 is the day for the federally mandated change that requires all television stations to digitally broadcast their shows. Congress extended the original deadline of Feb. 17 to today.

But even with the delay, the changeover has created a rush for the boxes.

"We'll never get them all put in before tomorrow," Sutton said late Thursday afternoon.

The Mount Olive family-owned and operated business has sold more than a thousand of the converter boxes. Quite a few people in the area have analog televisions, Sutton said.

"When the converters work, they work great," he said, but added that some of his customers have had problems with getting some brands of converters to work properly. A good antenna is necessary to operate the converter.

Not everyone has realized that, said Radio Shack employee Johnny Lester, who works at the store in Berkeley Mall.

People are "concerned, and then misinformed," he said. "They think they just need the box."

Some people are skipping the issue altogether and buying a new television.

"We're selling a lot of new digital TVs, too," Sutton said.

People who have cable or satellite television don't have anything to fear from the transition. The digital changeover won't affect them.

Applications for a free coupon to offset some of the cost of the converter boxes can be found at www.dtv2009.org, and customers can also call 1-888-388-2009 for more information on obtaining a coupon. Deaf or hard of hearing callers may dial 1-877-530-2634 for English/TTY or 1-866-495-1161 for Spanish/TTY.

Many stores in the area had trouble keeping the converter boxes in stock as the deadline loomed, but Sutton's and Radio Shack reported they do have the boxes available for sale.

Customers who do install one of the boxes might be pleasantly surprised at the number of channels they can receive.

"There's a lot more stuff on TV," Sutton said.

And one unintended consequence of the changeover might just be a small boost to the local economy.

"Business is booming," he said.