How Does Digital Cable TV Work?

By Andrew Latham

Digital technology converts all singals into strings of ones and zeros.
i Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Digital is the new buzzword for television. If you're in the market for a new television or watch any TV at all, you've probably heard about high-definition TV, digital satellite and digital cable. However, if you're one of the millions of television viewers who still have an analog TV and have no trouble watching all TV channels thanks to your trusty convertor box, you may wonder what exactly is so special about digital TV.

Meaning of Digital

Digital technologies, such as digital TV, code data into discrete states or values. For instance, computers convert all data to strings of 1's and 0's. When information is transmitted, whether by digital or analog means, some level of noise or interference always occurs. However, in the case of digital media small variances in the transmission don't matter because when the data is decoded any signal close enough to the discrete values used will be interpreted as that value regardless of the interference or noise in the transmission.

Converter Box

Unfortunately for analog TV viewers, the converter box connected to your antenna doesn't really convert an analog quality TV to its digital equivalent. The only thing a converter box does is read the digital signal transmitted to the antenna and translate it to the lower resolution your analog TV will understand. This means an analog TV won't reflect the quality levels of a digital TV, not even close. To enjoy the full capacity of DTV you need a TV with a digital tuner, or, even better, an HDTV.

Digital TV Broadcasting

Before the digital age, TV stations broadcasted their programs by transmitting electric signals of changing frequency or amplitude filmed by analog cameras, the old tape-format models. Digital TV converts light and sound waves collected by digital cameras and microphones into digital signals which are transmitted as packages of ones and zeroes. This ensures the picture is crisp without interruptions or interferences.

Benefits of Digital TV

Digital TV allows TV broadcasters to compress data so as to send large amounts of information without the need of a cumbersome satellite dish. This translates into more channels, as well as better picture and sound quality. Digital TV also allows you to transmit data back to the service provider so as to interact with the broadcaster or one of its associates.