DTV on your Grandma’s 1960 Zenith

I got an email question asking if the DTV converters would work on old TV sets.  The short answer is YES.  Some older sets might require an inexpensive device to adapt the antenna wire so you can attach it.  Some older TVs have two small screws instead of the new connection that uses what is called and “F” connector.  If you have two screws on the back of your TV for attaching the antenna you can buy what is called a “75 ohm to 300 ohm matching transformer” at most Radio Shack stores.  It is about the size of a roll of dimes and should cost less than $5 bucks.  This adapts the wire coming from the DTV converter to one that can be attached to the two screws.


Even the oldest TV will display the DTV pictures albeit with less clarity.  Yes,  even a black and white set will work.


It is kind of neat to be able to use your grandma’s 1960 Zenith to watch programs designed for HD. 


4 Responses to “DTV on your Grandma’s 1960 Zenith”

  1. Salvador M Says:

    I ran across this with my parents old RCA (1965) Console TV. I found a great explanation with diagrams and part numbers. (The same one listed above) at
    The diagram takes the guess work out!

  2. Russ Says:

    I hate to throw a wrench into all this nice DTV euphoria, but… As it turns out, we are not getting the whole picture here. We have been grossly misinformed.

    We have been told that all you need is either a converter box, or a newer DTV ready TV and that whatever channels you receive now, you will be able to receive when the big change takes place in 2009.

    Sorry, NOT TRUE. As of February 2009 all VHF channels will go off the air. Yes you heard me right. All channels 2 through 13 will cease to exist. Oh yes your new TV (or old TV + converter box) will say you have tuned to channel 4 or channel 9 etc. but this is deceptive. Each broadcast station which had previously broadcasted on a VHF channel will be able to send a digitally encoded message which falsely claims to be one of the old VHF channels, but is in fact a new UHF channel.

    How does this effect you? Well is some cases it won’t. But that’s only if you live in or near a big city were you can easily receive UHF. If you live farther away, even if you were able to receive a perfect VHF analog signal, after the big change, you could end up getting no reception at all. Why is this? You might ask. Well two reasons. 1.) VHF was a much better frequency band for television, it is why it was chosen in the first place, and why the corporations that pushed for this change wanted it for their own uses. 2.) UHF is a much shorter wavelength and needs direct line of site access to the transmitter. Things like trees and buildings will block out the signal from reaching your antenna.

    Bottom line is, If you don’t get excellent UHF reception in your area, your hosed. You can try a roof mounted UHF (forget the VHF) antenna with a rotor and a UHF pre-amp, and good luck.

  3. jdominic Says:

    Well Russ is partially right. In many cases, VHF channels 2 thru 13 do provide a more robust TV signal. In the old days when UHF tuners were a bit flakey, this made a difference. It is much less of a problem now.

    Russ is wrong that all DTV broadcasts will be in the UHF band. In Cincinnati right now Channel 9 is using Channel 10, a VHF channel for DTV. Another local broadcaster plans to use its analog VHF channel for DTV post February 2009. Most digital broadcasters have been given a UHF channel for DTV but not all.

    As for tricking the public. I am not sure that most people care what channel number they are watching. The system Russ is referring to was put in place to help the viewer. Instead of having to tell the public that Channel 48 is now DTV Channel 34, we let the TV do the translation.

    Russ, I am sorry you are upset with the Feds but with more and more people using cable or satellite, making the most efficient use of the limited electromagnetic spectrum seems to me to be a good idea.

  4. Jeff S Says:

    The problem issue with virtual channel mapping for some or many Over-the-air viewers involves “setting up” reception of the stations, not usual “channel surfing”.

    The “remapped” channel #’s are in something called the VCT (virtual channel table), which is information that is transmitted within the DTV signal, and is information specific to and from each indivdual station —

    The VCT information can’t be decoded by the receiver unless a signal sufficent for a lock is achieved — which is more or less a signal sufficent for DTV reception. In some, or many cases viewers need to adjust antenna differently for different stations in their area in order to achieve a signal sufficent for the receiver to decode the VCT info from each station.

    Thus, If someone isn’t getting a good enough signal of a certian station(s) in their area for any given reason (antenna misadjustment, multipath uncorrectable by receiver, interference/etc) during the “autoscan” for channels … For example, In the case of WCET-DT, if their signal isn’t found via a “scan”, it would be futile for the user to “punch in 48” on their remote to try to “Find” them”, including trying to adjust antenna while looking at a “signal meter”. Futile, because the “tuner” actually has to find the signal on 34 and decode the PSIP info first before it can be mapped and displayed to the user as being “present” on 48.1/48.2 …

    Thus, DTV receivers need to have the capability to allow the viewer to “Punch in” the RF (physical) channel # of transmission and display some sort of signal quality meter to the user to aid in antenna adjustment, in order to allow users who need to do so to manually and “indivdually” add/scan in indivudual stations. Fortunately, most receivers do have this capability, but in my experience it usually is not well described(if it is mentioned at all) in the user manual.

    Also, of course the user who doesn’t find all his local stations via an “autoscan”, or the user who needs to know whether he needs a VHF/UHF or UHF only antenna for use in his area needs to be aware of this issue, and also the actual channel # they need to tune to and where they are (VHF/UHF/etc) . Currently, websites such as FCC’s TV query, or http://www.antennaweb do provide this information. However, It may also be useful for broadcasters to provide accurate information to users about this issue, as well as the “actual” channel # for those viewers who don’t find it via an “autoscan” ….

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