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ATSC converter boxes were engineered to fail

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    ATSC converter boxes were engineered to fail

    Apropos of nothing in particular.

    Looking at my junkpile, I have a few defunct ATSC converter boxes from the 2006-ish era. Bricked or otherwise nonfunctional--I even had a remote control start smoking. These are the things for which the USG issued $40 coupons (still have those).

    Other than being cheaply constructed, none has sufficient heat-dissipation capabilities--little ventilation, no fan and there's usually a chip with a small heatsink that commits heat-suicide. The worst were the ones with the Marvel chip.

    The "we'll give you a heckuva deal on a converter box so you don't have to buy a new TV" deal was a scam from the very first day. The boxes were engineered to die.

    I wonder how many of today's devices are similarly constructed. We've all see LCD monitors where capacitors were placed right next to (or hot-glued to) the inverter heatsinks, which guarantee failure.

    #2
    It is a terrible thing Chuck, but I think pretty much everything is designed to either fail (requiring repurchase of a new model), or designed to fail to support a pricy repair scenario. We've come a long way from building things to the best of our ability.

    Comment


      #3
      I was curious if these things were still readily available, new. The Walmart site shows one at my local neighborhood market for $7. That’s crazy. I think I may grab one next time I drive that way.

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by Chuck(G) View Post
        Bricked or otherwise nonfunctional--I even had a remote control start smoking.
        Kind of curious about the failure mode of that smoking remote.

        Fairly recent Roku remotes have a failure condition where a component in them starts doing "something" that basically amounts to a hard short. (They have a KB that mentions the "is your remote getting hot?" case, but they don't explain it, just say to take the batteries out, set it somewhere not flammable until it cools off, and buy a new one.) Happened to mine a couple years ago. It started out gradually, with the remote killing a set of batteries in a few days; I wrongly accused the kids of leaving it between the couch cushions or something so the buttons were held down constantly, but then it got "real bad" and drained a set of batteries to the point they started leaking in about half an hour.

        Broke the no-user-serviceable-parts-inside remote apart to investigate, found the component that was getting hot was a thing that looked like a surface-mount metal cased crystal but had no decipherable markings.
        Last edited by Eudimorphodon; April 5, 2021, 01:22 PM.
        My Retro-computing YouTube Channel (updates... eventually?): Paleozoic PCs Also: Blogspot

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          #5
          It's not the 90's anymore. Most businesses who are below enterprise tier know that it's a bad long-term plan to produce goods that have a long service life. Ignoring the requirement to supply support you simply end up with strong initial sales and then vanish into the infinite plane of time as consumers never need to replace it or upgrade it. Makes shareholders nervous because someone will eventually come along, make one improvement and that's it for your product.
          It was a thing I noticed even with Kirby. They will still rebuild a 70 year old vacuum but the replacement impeller is plastic as opposed to aluminum because it will wear out far sooner.
          [Need something to waste time on? Click here to visit my YouTube channel CelGenStudios]
          --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          [No time for videos? Click here to visit my Twitter feed @CelGenStudios]

          = Excellent space heater

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            #6
            Originally posted by jafir View Post
            I was curious if these things were still readily available, new. The Walmart site shows one at my local neighborhood market for $7. That’s crazy. I think I may grab one next time I drive that way.
            Yes, actually the iView 3500STBII is still made, and with some judicious shopping can be had for about $30 new. It can record onto USB memory and has an HDMI output as well as the usual types. If you get one, I'd remove the top or otherwise improve the heat sinking on the Marvel chip--it gets bloody hot as-is.

            But $30 spent every couple of years is not much of a bargain when you consider that a 40" LED FireTV can be had for $169 new.

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              #7
              I couldn’t find it. I checked the clearance section. There isn’t really an “electronics” section except for some stuff on one check out aisle, so who knows where it’s hiding.

              Comment


                #8
                I still have the 2 I purchased new back then and never really used (Insignia brand from Bestbuy). No idea if they still function but I would guess they do since they never ran long enough to overheat. I suspected they were meant to work a couple years and then die which was long enough to get people to use their old TVs before buying a new one.

                Still have my brothers Panasonic 27" CRT TV I fixed (bad solder joint) so I can it use with old consoles (lightguns don't work on LCD).
                What I collect: 68K/Early PPC Mac, DOS/Win 3.1 era machines, Amiga/ST, C64/128
                Nubus/ISA/VLB/MCA/EISA cards of all types
                Boxed apps and games for the above systems
                Analog video capture cards/software and complete systems

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Chuck(G) View Post
                  Apropos of nothing in particular.

                  Looking at my junkpile, I have a few defunct ATSC converter boxes from the 2006-ish era. Bricked or otherwise nonfunctional--I even had a remote control start smoking. These are the things for which the USG issued $40 coupons (still have those).

                  Other than being cheaply constructed, none has sufficient heat-dissipation capabilities--little ventilation, no fan and there's usually a chip with a small heatsink that commits heat-suicide. The worst were the ones with the Marvel chip.

                  The "we'll give you a heckuva deal on a converter box so you don't have to buy a new TV" deal was a scam from the very first day. The boxes were engineered to die.

                  I wonder how many of today's devices are similarly constructed. We've all see LCD monitors where capacitors were placed right next to (or hot-glued to) the inverter heatsinks, which guarantee failure.
                  They were only intended to carry you through the transition until digital TV's became more widely available. You're not supposed to still be using them 15 years later. If they served their purpose, why rant about it?

                  Comment


                    #10
                    "Not supposed to?" Was there a law that was passed that made it illegal to use a converter box after 15 years? The last box was purchased new 3 years ago (yes, they're still made). In my bedroom I still have a great flat-screen CRT TV that works very well, thank you. Oh, but the CRT TV wasn't supposed to last more than a couple of years?

                    It's electronic--it can be designed to last, rather than to eat itself alive. I find that attitude a bit strange on a forum that caters to vintage computers. You're not supposed to be using a PC XT or C64 35 years later, after all.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      There is planned an ATSC 3.0, that will support 4K. In will require a converter box, which probably will be a discounted option when a big push is made.

                      But don't worry, broadcasters do not have to shut off ATSC 1.0 if they don't want to.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I seem to recall that if you ran a repeater, it was a number of years before you had to shut off traditional NTSC broadcasts. I believe that most cable systems are years behind the 4K push.

                        Well, even a 720p TV image looks fine to me at 6 feet viewing distance. For most things, 1080p is meh; 4K is interesting, but not all that visible unless you're right on top of it.

                        Computer images viewed at 18" are a somewhat different matter. On a 27" display, 1080 lines doesn't quite cut it for me. WQHD is fine, however.

                        Somewhat ironic, this, considering that many people receive their visual content via cellphone.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          From my understanding over the air broadcast is still 720p/1080I so having a 4k TV is a bit of a waste. Not that much on Netflix is 4k and you have to pay for the UltraHD plan to view it (I don't).

                          People view video on cellphones mostly because young people share links on their cells and most have unlimited wireless plans for the bandwidth.
                          What I collect: 68K/Early PPC Mac, DOS/Win 3.1 era machines, Amiga/ST, C64/128
                          Nubus/ISA/VLB/MCA/EISA cards of all types
                          Boxed apps and games for the above systems
                          Analog video capture cards/software and complete systems

                          Comment


                            #14
                            4K TVs look amazing when you're in the showroom right up next to the screen and it's playing a high-bit-rate demo, but I know I'm personally far too blind to tell the difference from the ten feet-ish away I'd be watching from in my living room. Clearly I need to invest in a larger TV.

                            (65" seemed YUGE when I bought it in 2013 and at the time that size still cost as much as a functional used car. That latter bit makes me reluctant to get rid of it as long as it's working and it still looks fine to me, but I'm sure saying that outs me as some kind of unsophisticated technological hillbilly.)
                            My Retro-computing YouTube Channel (updates... eventually?): Paleozoic PCs Also: Blogspot

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Cable boxes, wireless routers, and USB hubs are also known to overheat, especially the ones in plastic cases. I've seen people drill holes in the top cover to help vent out the heat.



                              There are still some low-power analog TV stations on the air, mostly ones on Channel 6 acting as FM radio stations via their audio carrier at 87.75 MHz, but the FCC has ruled that they must finally covert to digital or shut down by July 13th, 2021.

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