Being the geeky types that we are, you would probably think that we were all set for the digital TV conversion coming up in February.

You would be wrong.

First a little background. We don’t actually have a television set at all. We use our computer, a projector and a TV tuner that plugs into the USB port of our computer. We don’t have satellite TV, and most parks we stay at don’t have cable, so we are using the rooftop ‘batwing’ antenna to get broadcast Television signal. Here’s what it looks like in the cab over area of our class C motorhome. Whadaya think? Pretty cool huh? Home theatre complete with surround sound.

Broadcast television being projected on a big screen in our cabover area

Since it’s being projected from the computer, you’d think that means it’s ‘Digital’ wouldn’t you? It’s my husband, Jim, who handles all our audio-visual needs. He told me, “No, we’re not ready for the digital conversion.” Huh? Well, come to find out the key is to be found in the source of the television signal. If you’re getting your TV channels from satellite, or from cable, then you’re not affected. BUT, if you’re getting TV from an antenna, then you need to look to the next device in line. The antenna, if it’s both VHF and UHF, can pick up the new digital signal, but your TV (or, in our case, the television tuner) may not be able to display it. If the TV/tuner is analog, as ours was, then you’re in trouble.

In case I had any doubt, our local TV news channel made it unavoidably clear. They are doing tests where they broadcast solely in digital mode for 5 minutes or so. During those 5 minutes, this is what we saw:

A digital broadcast test

Ok, I believe him now. So, Jim went and bought himself a birthday present … a digital TV tuner. His choice was a Toshiba D-R560 DVD recorder with built in digital TV Tuner. So now, we still get our TV signal from the rooftop antenna and we’re still projecting onto a screen, but he eliminated the computer and the USB TV tuner from the equation. The antenna now provides signal to Toshiba D-R560, and the projector takes it from there.

OMG … the picture is SO much better! It’s like night and day. We used to watch some stations with very snowy screens. I figured it was OK, it meant we didn’t watch that much TV. We expected some improvement, but what we got was amazing! Crystal clear picture on *every* channel! And we get some more channels too! Taking a photo of the projected TV doesn’t do it justice, but maybe this gives you the idea.

Crystal clear digital television

If you’re using antenna and television, and it’s an old television, you may need a converter box. Or, you can just get a new TV. Or, you can try our projector method! If you have questions about your setup, the place with all the answers is The deadline is February 17.

Happy Birthday Jim!

Chris Guld
Computer Education for Travelers

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  3. jim

    I have a new digital TV I can ‘t get a good picture I replaced antena & cable also
    the digital adapter

  4. Pingback: Computer Tips for Travelers » Blog Archive » Turn your Computer into a TV

  5. Nice setup!

    Dick ** their tuner is usb, so unless the projector has a usb input option (would likely make it VERY expensive) . . .

    We replaced our worn out old tv’s with new 12 Volt Hi Def Televisions from We are also using a Myron and Davis standalone DVD player so we can play the movie on that and feed both tv’s the audio and video. Each TV has it’s own dvd player built-in too. We don’t have enough room for a projector type. We are really enjoying our 12v hd tv’s though.

  6. Enjoyed your TV article. What kind of a projector do you have/use?? I guess it must work both with your Computer as well as the DVD/TV tuner independently. I will have to research the cost of the screen, DVD, and projector. Sounds like a good plan to me—perhaps cheaper than a new TV. I have heard that plasma TVs are not good in RVs–too much vibrations. What about LCD TVs?

  7. John Berry

    You will need 2 converters if you want to have 2 different channels running on 2 tvs at the same time. if you watch only 1 channel and tv at a time you are ok. with one converter.

    At an electronics shop you can buy a part to step 12v down to 9 volts (not a resistor), a end that will plug into the converter, put it in a little box from the same store and run a line out the other end either to your 12v or a cigarette lighter plug,

  8. Tony Antonacci

    My two analog tvs are controlled by a unit that allows me to watch either the front tv or the rear tv or both at the same time.
    My question is this, do I need two converter boxes or just one.
    In other words if I connect a converter box to control unit, will it allow me to use both tvs as before?

  9. Tony Antonacci

    My two analog tvs are controlled by a unit that allows me to watch either the front tv or the rear tv or both at the same time.
    My question is this, do I need two converter boxes or just one.
    In other words if I connect a converter box to control unit, will it allow me to use both tvs as before?

  10. John,

    Good question! I really don’t know … but my husband tells me he has not seen a 12 volt converter box. They are 120 volt devices. So, you would need shore power, or an inverter.

  11. John Frost

    I’m not real up on the technology but would the converter box work when you are on 12 volt versus being in a park where there is shore power?

  12. Bob

    Very good. I am sure you are generally close to broadcast station and do not have too much interference. Yes, when you get a signal it is very good, but when it is weak you get no display. On analog, if it is weak then you get snow and some display. Digital is either good or no display. It is never snow. Also, digital is much more directional in nature. Some converter boxes have control signals for turning an antenna to the direction of the channel you are trying to obtain. You could have obtained a converter box with the government $40 card and used it.

  13. Drew Mueller


    Nice post…it’s the first I’ve seen where the tuner for the computer has been mentioned. I think there are a number of us rv’ers who watch tv in this way.