When cable TV arrived in the ’70s, rabbit ears seemed destined to go the way of the polyester pantsuit. So, too, the clunky outdoor antenna, a rooftop fixture that once upon a time signaled the rise of television in American life. But a funny thing happened on the way to the analog dust heap: it turns out that a new generation of rabbit ears and antennas can receive high-definition television broadcasts. And it’s free.
I’ve been picking up over-the-air (or OTA) HDTV for several months now, and I love it. Here in Toronto, with an EyeTV Hybrid and a cheap RCA antenna (stolen from Jenna), I can pick up these channels in HD:
- CBC English
- CBC French
If I had a better antenna, I could pick up additional channels from across the lake in Buffalo. The picture looks great on my 24-inch iMac, and I don’t miss having a dedicated TV set at all. The EyeTV software is excellent, and it records direct dumps of the HD signal. The built-in electronic program guide doesn’t work for Canadian channels (it relies on TitanTV data), but Guillaume Boudreau developed an excellent free workaround called EyeTV EPG Proxy.
Once you have the gear, OTA HDTV is free, looks great, and is perfect for someone like me who doesn’t watch a whole lot of television.
Here are some Toronto-related OTA HDTV resources I found helpful when getting started:
- Toronto & Buffalo area HDTV Channel Map
- Toronto, Ontario HDTV forum on AVS forums
- ON – City of Toronto Metro Area – OTA on Digital Home forums
And for more HDTV fun, check out Jim Dupree: HDTV Enthusiast.