Being a TV digital consumer had been elective entertainment plastic surgery -- for decades, a choice about spending the right money for better access and more content. In two years, that operation will be a necessity to survive in the modern world.
The digital-only TV world is on the way for receiving home signals via cable, satellite or IPTV. Without it, there will be no "American Idol," no Ion broadcast network.
About 80% of U.S. viewers will have no problem with this transition -- even though many of those don't even know that the digital-only TV world is on the way.
"The last thing we want is a train wreck on Feb. 18 of 2009," Dennis Wharton, vice president of the National Association of Broadcasters, told the Los Angeles Times.
Even then, the sound of the train wreck will probably be off in the distance somewhere. Those who won't or can't make the change -- because a cable operator finds their rural area uneconomical, say, or the viewers themselves find it uneconomical to buy a satellite dish or cable wire -- will be left in the dark or in static. And if those TV viewers don't have a computer as well, they'll be electronically and culturally dismissed.
There is hope. The Federal government still wants consumers to be connected in case of public emergencies, so the Commerce Department is giving out 34 million coupons for digital converter boxes. Still, that's not enough for the 70 million analog TVs . So some 36 million consumers will suddenly be in a quieter environment.
Our friends at Ball State University, who do those detailed surveys of specific hour-by-hour media behaviors of modern U.S. citizens, might show a different activity time line then -- one that might include cooking, reading, perhaps talking on the phone, going to Wal-Mart, or gazing into space.
Millions will not be able to see those Geico caveman commercials, Swiffer ads, and no "Addams Family" reruns on TV Land.
How will they know what insurance to buy, when to pick up dust, and why Gomez calls Morticia "Tish!"?