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Antenna History

For 70 years, the conventional wisdom was that manufacturers know all there is to know about antenna physics - and that there are no new ways to make antennas more powerful, efficient, or compact. That idea was challenged in 2003 when Antennas Direct set about creating the most powerful antennas on the planet.

The TV antenna industry is one of the few areas of modern technology that has remained relatively unchanged - until now. There was a time when a large rooftop antenna was seen as a status symbol. Today, smartphones, tablets, and GPS units have conditioned consumers to expect reliable wireless services in very small packages. These dramatic changes in technology and consumer preferences, along with the switch in 2007 from analog to digital signals, have created a high demand for quality, over-the-air, digital TV antennas. 

Two very important things happened in recent years that affected the future of over-the-air television reception. First, the nation’s TV broadcasters invested tens of billions of dollars in new HDTV transmitters, bringing perfect over-the-air HDTV to tens of millions of Americans without the need for cable. In many cases, the image resolution is many times better than satellite or cable can offer. Second, supercomputers developed by the military and computer-aided antenna design software became available to antenna manufacturers. These tools offer the ability to create, simulate, and test thousands of different antenna geometries in the time it previously would have taken to create a single antenna.

The designs for old, rooftop TV antennas are decades old and consist of a configuration in a horizontal “fishbone” style, with “arms” of varying lengths, the likes of which you have probably seen on Wikipedia. Although antenna research and engineering have seen radical advancements over the years, manufacturers of television equipment have mostly stuck with these old designs for economic reasons.

Since the transition to digital signals, most digital are broadcast in UHF (ultra-high frequency). These signals are smaller than VHF (very high frequency) signals, which were the more common transmission method for analog television. UHF signals are broadcast on channels 14 to 38, and VHF signals are broadcast on channels 2 to 13.

It is important to know what frequency your favorite TV stations are transmitting on before choosing a digital HDTV antenna, as some manufacturers are still selling old antenna designs. Choosing an old antenna design could cause reception problems since they are not built to receive the digital frequencies used today, which have "reflected signals", also known as multipath distortion. This multipath distortion occurs when signals have more than one path between the receiving TV antenna and the tower transmitting the broadcast. 

Call our Connection Crew if you would like more in-depth information on antennas or cutting the cord, how to best receive OTA (over-the-air) signals, or if you'd like to know which antenna is right for you.