Switch off signals end of TV era

By ROGER MORONEY


In the course of his work as a communications technician, Hastings man David Walker has been up to the Mt Threave TV4 transmitter site from time to time to carry out maintenance work.

And in the course of that work he has flicked a few switches here and there.

Yesterday, at the prescribed time of 2am, he flicked one switch to the "off" position for the last time.

It was the switch that powered the transmission of analogue television signals across Napier and Hastings.

"It took less than a second to shut it down ... it was quite literally the flick of a switch," Mr Walker said afterwards.

"It all went perfectly."

The TV4 signals were shut down first, almost instantly followed by TV3, TV1 and TV2.

While the nearby Mt Erin transmitter was able to be electronically shut down from Wellington, the Mt Threave transmitter (between Mt Erin and Pakipaki) needed the personal touch.

It was his familiarity with the site and its communications systems that led to Mr Walker effectively staking his place in television transmissions history, with television transmissions - first beginning 50 years ago.

"It is significant because it is a change which affected a lot of viewers. They had to make the change to continue to get television."

Having seen changes in technology involving transmission and reception through the years, Walker said the move to digital was "a good thing".

The switchover went without a hitch, and while it took less than a second to shut it down, Mr Walker spent about two hours at the site dismantling some of the equipment.

"I feel quite chuffed to be part of our local Hawke's Bay electronics history and would like to thank the guys that first brought us analogue television way back in 1962 - but now it's the turn of the new digital transmissions for an improved technical result."

While some communications connections on site will stay, much of the equipment was being removed.

"It is pretty well obsolete."

It was being packed up and sent to Auckland where it was likely to be recycled.

Hawke's Bay and the West Coast are the first two regions to make the switch, and Going Digital general manager Greg Harford was in the Bay last week checking out the final stages.

As he and his team had predicted, there was a "last minute" rush by people to pick up Freeview top boxes so they could continue to watch pictures, rather than the static that descended at 2am.

Sustainability Hawke's Bay's Erin Simpson said there had also been a surge over the past fortnight in people discarding their older-model television sets.

On Saturday, the day before the switch, he said there were enough televisions dropped off at the environment centre depot in Russell St "to fill a couple of trailers".

Sets could be dropped there for a $10 charge. They would be packed aboard pallets and shipped to depots in Auckland and Wellington where they would be dismantled, with parts recycled or properly disposed off.

Mr Simpson said he had come across some people who believed older sets would not work in the digital age.

"They didn't realise all they needed was a top box."

Not that appliance stores were complaining, one salesperson spoken to describing the last week as "pretty full on" for new flat-screen digitally equipped televisions.

Going Digital research showed about 96 per cent of Bay households had made the switch.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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