A DTV service pack

I love the Apple commercial with four gray-suited guys who represent the Vista operating system. One says, Well, I'm pleased to say, I've been error-free
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I love the Apple commercial with four gray-suited guys who represent the Vista operating system. One says, “Well, I'm pleased to say, I've been error-free for over a week. Well, I'm pleased to say, I've been error-free for over a week. Well, I'm pleased …” You get the idea.

Many of you may have already made the transition to Microsoft's Vista and Office 2007. We at Broadcast Engineering are just now going through that process.

After enduring four days of complete frustration with our own department's conversion to Vista/Office 2007, I was reminded of the helplessness one can feel when dealing with new and unfamiliar technology. I wondered if my experience might resemble what millions of viewers are going to face next February when analog dies.

A little backstory on Broadcast Engineering's move to Vista: It wasn't my choice. The powers that be selected us as a test group for our company's transition to a Vista OS configuration. The initial memo from IT said, “Congratulations on being selected as the test group for Vista implementation.” I replied, “Sounds like being awarded an IRS audit.”

Each editor was issued a Vista/Office 2007-equipped machine with accompanying keyboard and mouse and GigE switch, which gave the editor access to all files on both systems. The admirable goal was to ease the transition to the new system. Think of it as giving each editor a life jacket while forcing them to learn to swim.

The first hint I had of potential incompatibility issues was when one division's offices began sending files other divisions couldn't read. Because the Office 2007 suite stores documents in a new (and incompatible) format, Office 2003 users couldn't read them. It was only after withering blasts of e-mails between incompatible users that someone thought of telling those with new software about this teensy weensy compatibility issue. In order for those on the old software to be able to read their files, Office 2007 users had to first store the files in the old format. Another issue was that a variety of peripherals suddenly became obsolete because Vista can't “drive” them.

The closest parallel I can think of is: What if suddenly you had to buy a new TV set because television stations were going to stop transmitting analog and only transmit digital? Oh right, we're already doing this.

While many viewers have invested in new TV sets because they realize analog is going to die, they haven't replaced their analog peripherals (VCRs and analog I/O DVRs). They don't yet realize those devices also will die on Feb. 17, 2009.

While our industry is doing a good job of getting the message out that television viewers may need a new TV set, no one is mentioning all the other devices that, overnight, will become electronic junk. Only then will our audiences discover that solutions aren't affordable — or even available. You can take the call from Granny Smith and explain why she can't record “Lost” on her 10-year-old VCR.

As the editors at Broadcast Engineering have been recently reminded, technology transitions are never frustration-free. And unlike with operating systems, many of the coming digital transition issues cannot be resolved by the issuance of a DTV service pack.

Send comments to:editor@broadcastengineering.com