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Free TV Eludes Me

I am now the proud owner of a new 40-inch 1080p HDTV set, purchased randomly after extensive research in

countless electronics stores. I don“t know any other way to drop four figures on a TV set. The slightest analysis renders far better ways to spend money. Petrol comes to mind. Tattoos. A length of string... Nonetheless, I'm now on my second generation of HDTV sets.

The new model is a slender, glossy sight to behold. It emits a bubbling sound when powered up, which is rare, because it gets one channel.

I paid for the TV; I'd rather not pay for signals. says I should get 40 signals with a small multidirectional antenna. I told this to my small multidirectional antenna, yet it remains attached to a single digital frequency and shows no intention of receiving any others., while chock full of facts and figures, lacks information about how and where to get a small multidirectional antenna without attachment issues.

If I lived in a large, hillside mansion like most people who rely exclusively on over-the-air TV, I would commission a tower that would be the envy of every ham from here to somewhere else. But alas! I am instead a modest flat dweller with a few feet of poured concrete between myself and every TV transmitter site in this city. Tall steel is not an option, and a passive multidirectional antenna isn“t doing the trick.


So, being an average American TV consumer, I called upon a coterie of engineering experts for assistance... like you do. Everyone has a coterie of engineering experts, right? How else are the other 50 million folks like me supposed to figure out DTV reception?

I suppose one could rely on advertising. A certain company is turning out “smart antennas,” if you can find them. At Best Buy, the inaugural model is “coming soon.”

Paul Zelman’s self-described “homemade three-bay UHF antenna artistically made with three coat hangers and a two-by-four.”A few Web sites offer what appears to be the same antenna, but it's hard to be sure. It could just as easily be a white plastic cutting board, just like the designs from another concern could easily be mistaken for chain-link fence.

Neither will do. I'm already just one roll of aluminum foil away from social ostracism. There may be more than six adult females in the world monitoring Arecibo and pointing rabbit ears at the window, but I highly doubt it.

I'm also skeptical about self-fabrication. Alert TVB reader Paul Zelman made his own three-bay UHF antenna with the clever use of lumber and coat hangers. But a dash of pearl coat and glitter, and who knows, there could be a business here.

After all, if average consumers are expected to do engineering experiments to get over-the-air TV signals, then surely they“ll buy boards and coat hangers covered in glitter.