On your TV set, you’ll notice that one of its features is that it comes with an NTSC or ATSC tuner or both NTSC and ATSC tuners.
Now, what does that mean?
To understand what they mean, you would first have to know what a tuner is.
What is a Tuner?
A TV tuner is a device that allows your TV to receive broadcast signals.
The tuner converts these signals into video and audio that is then displayed on the television screen.
Some TV sets come with built-in tuners. Others would need an external tuner device like a cable box used to receive TV signals.
TV tuners aren’t limited to TV sets only.
You can also attach a TV tuner card to a computer to watch TV programs. Such a TV tuner is also called a USB TV tuner. This is because it is attached to a computer through a USB port.
Types of TV Tuners
There are 2 types of TV tuners – NTSC TV tuners and ATSC TV tuners.
NTSC TV Tuner
NTSC stands for National Television Standard Committee.
It was used with black and white television in the USA in 1941 and modified to be used with color television in 1953.
If you have an older TV set, chances are it has an NTSC tuner.
An NTSC tuner can receive only analog TV signals.
NTSC tuners are considered obsolete these days. This is because most countries in the world have stopped analog TV broadcasts.
In the USA, since 2009, it is mandatory for all TV broadcasts to be digital.
NTSC tuners support only SDTV (Standard Definition TV).
It supports a frame rate of 30fps with 525 scan lines.
The picture aspect ratio is 4:3 and audio is limited to 2-channel FM stereo.
ATSC TV Tuner
ATSC stands for Advanced Television Systems Committee. This committee replaced NTSC in 1982.
It was the brainchild of the Grand Alliance, a consortium of electronics giants.
The committee is responsible for setting the standards for digital television broadcast and HDTV.
ATSC supports HDTV signals with a resolution of up to 1920 x 1080 (1080i/1080p).
Frame rates range from 24 to 60 frames per second.
Video aspect ratio is 16:9 whereas audio capability is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.
Digital TV Broadcast for Analog TV
The FCC mandated that all NTSC broadcasts be replaced with ATSC broadcasts by 2009.
TV sets sold after 2007 are to come with ATSC tuners.
What if you have an older TV set with an NTSC tuner? Will it be rendered unusable with the introduction of ATSC broadcast?
No, you can still watch digital TV on your old TV. How do you do it? By using a digital-to-analog TV converter device.