Over Thanksgiving weekend I picked up a discarded 23-inch LCD HDTV, a Samsung LN-S2341W. The television’s biggest problem, it turned out, was that it didn’t have an ATSC tuner so it couldn’t pick up over the air broadcasts after analog broadcasts came to an end in 2009.
The sad thing is that this TV was made only three years before the transition, and the transition was no surprise. This planned obsolescence is a bit ridiculous considering the TV originally cost more than $500. But from what I read, it was common in TVs smaller than 32 inches.
The solution wasn’t a DTV converter box–converter boxes convert high definition to standard definition–but rather, what they call an HDTV tuner or receiver. I happened to have one of those in my pile of weird electronics, so I hooked it up via the component hookups on the TV–my receiver didn’t have DVI output and the TV only has one DVI port, which I would prefer to reserve for a Chromecast. Component video gives acceptable quality, comparable to a VGA connection between a computer and monitor, and this TV has two sets of them. Then I connected a discarded antenna from the same pile of weird electronics, scanned the airwaves, and picked up 30 channels.
If you have an LCD HDTV that only picks up snow when you connect an antenna to it, chances are it has the same problem this new-to-me Samsung had, and connecting a tuner to it will bring it to life again. The nice thing about newer HDTV tuners is that many of them can record incoming video to an attached USB device, to give you DVR functionality but without the subscription fees and leaving you in control over the storage capacity. Just make sure when you’re shopping for an HDTV tuner that it works in your country, since digital HDTV standards vary in some parts of the world.