I don't know about you, but my wife and I got really tired of paying for cable TV. We used to love having cable, but over the past 20 years we have noticed that not only was the price going up, but the selection of channels were not that great either. I remember back when cable TV first came out you used to get around 40 or so channels with Showtime, HBO, and The Movie Channel for right around twenty some odd bucks. Now, you have the capability of having a hundred or so channels and a nice hefty bill at the end of each month. The bad thing about it is, you have to ask yourself, how many of these channels do I actually watch? Well, with the basic package that we had we only watched about seven or eight channels on a regular basis. The rest were filled with stuff we did not watch like sports, religion, reality shows, and oh yeah, tons of infomercials.
We finally cut the cord to try and save some money when I became disabled and no longer could afford to pay the hefty nut that the cable company wanted each month. Back when the government did away with analog TV and switched everything over to digital, we took advantage of the coupon program and got our first two digital converter boxes. I bought two RCA model DTA800B1 boxes and went online to find some sort of TV antenna to build. I decided to build what everyone was calling a bowtie antenna, but it is actually a dipole array. I followed the instructions with the exception that I soldered all my joints and I used # 12 solid copper wire instead of the coat hangers that was used in the video. The resulting antenna was rather flimsy but seemed to work fairly well indoors. I was able to pull in about 18 free digital TV channels no problem. I added a splitter so that I could run the box that was in my bedroom off of the same antenna that I used in the living room and as expected, there was some loss in the signal. I solved that problem by installing a small Radio shack cable TV amplifier right at the antenna, and that helped boost the signal quite a bit. If you need the manual fot the RCA DTA800B1, click here.
Being the experimenter that I am, I decided to try a couple of other antenna designs. My second antenna was a log periodical. I was going to include the link to where I found the instuctions how to build this antenna , but unfortunetelly the link is no longer available. You can find a similar crude design for this antenna here. This was a really simple antenna to build and recieves really well, but the beam width is very narrow. You almost have to be pointed right at the TV station to get a really strong signal. I guess this antenna would be optimal if you had it on a rotator. Unfortuately, my rotator is manual. If I want to turn the antenna, I have to go outside and turn it by hand. I decided to install an A/B switch at the base of my indoor dipole array so that I could switch between antennas when I am having trouble pulling in a signal using the indoor antenna.
My XYL has an old analog Sony Trinitron TV in her library that she wanted to get up and running so I had to scrounge around and find another digital converter box. I was given an Apex DT-250 and an RCA 1921GM amplified antenna by a friend for free because he could not get it to work. The box came with no remote which was a real issue because the only button on this unit is for power. There is no way to change the channels without the remote. I tried to use a universal remote but finding codes for Apex products is a real challange. I wound up buying an Apex remote off of Ebay for twenty five bucks, and the unit fired right up. While waiting for the remote to show up, I did some research on this converter box and found nothing but bad reviews. It seems that this box has a overheating problem which causes capacitors to blow. It is also not very user friendly and finding a manual is very hard to do. If you need the users manual, click here
When we disconnected from our local cable TV provider, I lost the ability to have television in the hamshack. My old analog TV sat useless thanks to the new digital requirement. There was no way that I was going to throw away a perfectly good TV just to go spend a ton of money on a flat screen in which I cannot afford anyway. I have searched and searched yardsales, goodwill, and thrift stores for about two years in hopes of finding a cheap used converter box to no avail. I know, they are a dime a dozen on Ebay but you have to understand, I am on a fixed income so to spend thirty or fourty dollars on a used box will prevent me from paying a bill. Money is tight these days so one has to be resourceful whenever possible.
By a stroke of good luck, my father had a brand new Zenith DTT901 still in the box stashed away in one of his closets. He was generous enough to let me have it at no cost, and I could not thank him enough. By far, this is the nicest converter box that I now own. There are buttons on the front to operate the channels manually and an on off button. It also sports a really cool looking LED in the front of the unit that changes from red to blue when the unit is turned on. I love the blue LED as it stands out with all my other computers and ham equipment that have blue displays or buttons. The clock in the picture is a heathkit GC-1107 kit that I built a few years ago. If you need the owners manual, click here.