Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Cord Cutting - Over The Air TV Requires A Good Antenna and Research

I was talking with a Neighbor in front of a different neighbor's driveway one dog walk before the sunrise and it turns out we're both working to cut the cable TV expenses out.  Broadcast TV since the conversion to Digital is movie quality and stable.  A Major improvement over the bad old days of square TVs and low resolution unstable and foggy pictures.

I dove into this and found some quirks, some challenges, and ended up going with the flow. Plot for Zip Code 33305

Basically if you have a "flat screen" TV that is 20 inches or larger, and it is "recent", you already have most of what you need.

There are always "However"s.  That caught me in the end.

It starts with a TV that has all the hardware I need except an Antenna.

For me, it ends with a geography and geometry lesson.  You just have to research where your transmitters are and if you are shaded by a mountain or a hill, you are stuck.

I even had the antenna, and when I tested it out I got good enough results to try more.  I will keep this simple, and an "Ongoing Discussion" so we can Divide and Conquer.

I had an old square antenna that I got at a computer show, remember those?  It wasn't any big deal but it did have the wires built in and had a handy signal amplifier that actually helped.

Plug that into the back of the TV Set and go into settings and tell it to find all the channels.  I got all the major broadcast networks, including some secondary channels that I actually enjoy.  Old Movies, extra content in Spanish which helps my education efforts, and some things that had me scratching my head dismissively.

Come on, do we really need two copies of everything?  Do we even need "Religious Shouter" TV at all?

The two copies saved me, literally.

Florida is flat as a pancake.  South of the I-4 interstate, it is flatter than Kansas.  There is nothing between me and Titusville High School but some construction and bridges.  That is about 200 miles.

The terrain being that flat is great for Radio and TV since there really isn't anything to stop a signal.


I am sitting between Miami and West Palm Beach.  That means I have both sets of channels split between the two cities.  It isn't on a straight line, so I have choices to make.

I could go with an Omnidirectional antenna since I am only 30 miles to the WFLX West Palm Beach transmitters.  Or I could gang two antennas together and point one there and the other at Miami.

I went Omnidirectional.  It's screwed into a 2x4 in my attic.  I now get Fox 29 in WPB crystal clear, but the closer WSVN in Miami is still fighting me and I won't win that one.

It should have clued me in sooner but I'm stubborn.

I went back to the websites and one of them has access to all the information for the transmitters. 

Here is where the geometry comes in.

WPB is at 350 degrees on the compass.  About 11 o'clock.  30 miles West Northwest.
MIA is west of due south at 203 degrees, about 6:30 o'clock. 14 miles West Southwest.

I couldn't understand why I could get West Palm Beach in Movie Quality when Miami would get blocky and break up if I could get it at all.

It wasn't all Miami channels, looking at the map and the charts it was only the one specific transmitter for me that was unusable. 

On you put in your zip code, or your address, and it will plot on a map where everything is.  There is also long spreadsheet of all of your channels and angles and distances.  That was the proof I needed.

It turns out that when I plot any channels that were out of one specific transmitter, they go
Green Lines Over Downtown FTL from
right through Downtown Fort Lauderdale.  When the transmitters were built "Back In The Day", the dinosaurs roamed the earth in the 1940s, Downtown Fort Lauderdale was just a blip.  Since then there have been high rise apartments, towers of offices, and government buildings built up.  If you look at it from an airplane it forms a wall of buildings that is sprawling east-west along Broward Blvd, east from Andrews.

That's what stopped my signal.  One of those lines that plotted goes right through the Broward County Courthouse that was "recently" built.

It effectively blocks me from watching half of the channels out of Miami.  It's entirely possible that some of the other channels is going through a gap in the buildings.  Some day for a laugh, I'll put my USB TV Stick in the car and drive to the west side and see if I can watch WSVN from the laptop.  I bet I can!

That reminded me of the story of the first Cable TV System where someone stuck an antenna on a mountaintop and ran it down into the valley so that the people there could watch TV.

My mountaintop is Downtown Fort Lauderdale, and I have to be happy with watching West Palm Beach since I am only a little more than two miles North of Downtown.

The moral of this story is that your equipment may be excellent but someone may build a tower between you and your Simpsons reruns.

Since I can't live without The Simpsons, I get my fix out of Channel 29 in West Palm Beach.

We're good.  We get crystal clear tv from there, 30 miles away.  Where when I try to watch Channel 7 or Channel 10, it's impossible.

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