December 1958 Popular Electronics
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
Who cares about television antennas these days,
you're probably asking? Many people might care soon. The December 2012 edition of the IEEE's Spectrum
magazine had an article titled, "TV's Future: The Broadcast Empire Strikes Back." According to author Lynn
Claudy, the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) is
working on a standard called
Mobile DTV (MDTV) in the United States. MDVT enables broadcast stations to deliver
programming to some cellphones, laptops, tablets and to moving television screens in cars, trains, and
buses. Furthermore, a scheme to enable on-demand programming, user feedback (voting, polls, quizzes,
games), and other advanced features is under investigation in research labs and field trials. Local
businesses welcome a rebirth of regional over-the-air-broadcasts (OTA) to provide pricing competition
with dominant cable TV. So, although this article was originally written in 1958 when only OTA broadcasts
existed, it may soon be a valuable resource for you and your neighbors when deciding on which antenna
to put up on the roof. Antenna rotator article are forthcoming.
See the TV antenna
selection articles in the
March 1972, and
April 1973 issues of
Choosing Your TV Antenna
By Rudolf F. Graf
The best TV antenna made isn't good enough for your set unless it's matched to the needs of your
location. Distance from the transmitter is the biggest factor affecting TV reception, but local terrain,
adjacent buildings, or mountains can cause the signal to come in strong or fade out altogether regardless
of distance. The only way to insure a good signal is to choose the right antenna for your location and
for the channels used most frequently.
Television reception areas are broadly classified by their distance from the station:
or local area (up to 35 miles)
• Semi-fringe area (up to 50 miles)
• Fringe area (up to 75 miles)
• Deep fringe area (up to 200 miles)
By the time the signal reaches the receiver location, it may be quite weak. Therefore it's important
to have the best possible antenna installation. Height, type and direction are all important factors.
Adjacent-channel interference, which is a frequent troublemaker, seen as weaving diagonal lines,
is caused by a signal from the next higher or next lower station. If you are tuned to Channel 11, for
example, a strong station on Channel 10 or 12 may cause adjacent-channel interference.
On the other hand, co-channel interference (vertical "windshield wiper" or horizontal "Venetian blind"
black bars) is caused by a station operating on the same channel as the one we are trying to receive.
This trouble usually crops up if the TV set is about half way between two stations on the same channel.
Both of these types of interference can be eliminated with sharply directional antennas. In the case
of adjacent-channel interference, a single-channel Yagi with a filter at the receiver may work wonders.
No amount of receiver adjustment will banish a ghost caused by reflections from buildings, mountains
or other objects. Antenna re-orientation or replacement are the only certain cures.
The roof or outdoor antenna is easily the best and most efficient type. It is desirable in primary
areas and absolutely essential in fringe areas. It may be a single-channel, selective-channel or all-channel
job. About 50 different designs are available today but selection of any particular one depends greatly
on the terrain.
Folded dipole with reflector. One antenna for channels 2 to 6, another for channels
7 to 13; each necessary if both high and low channels are to be received.
Conical antenna with conical reflectors. Similar to previously mentioned conical
antenna but slightly more directional.
Conical or fan-type antenna. Model shown has high-channel stubs. A very popular antenna,
with moderate gain and directivity.
Stacked conical with straight reflectors. A moderate-gain broadband antenna for use
in semi-fringe areas.
Vee-beam antenna. Low gain on Channels 2 to 6, fair on 7 to 13. Each of four elements
should be at least 45" long; if not, reception on low channels will suffer, and an antenna should be
used on high channels only.
Stacked in-line antenna. Effective moderate gain assembly with good response over
all of the various channels.
High-low antenna. Individually adjustable dipoles with reflectors. Good all-around
antenna for primary signal areas.
Five-element Yagi. High-gain directional single-channel antenna. Separate antenna
required for each channel.
In-line antenna. Fairly directional all-around antenna with good gain.
Helical Yagi. All-channel antenna with moderate. Performance better on higher channels
than on low.
Boom (Crossarm) - The horizontal bar or tube which serves as mechanical support for all the antenna
Dipole - The simplest of all TV antennas, consisting of two electrically unconnected rods or tubes
arranged end to end. Transmission line is connected in center.
Directivity - Ability of an antenna to select signals from one or several desired directions. Antennas
may be "unidirectional" - receive signals from one direction only, or "bidirectional" - receive signals
from opposite directions but not from the sides, or "omnidirectional" - receive signals from any direction.
Director - A parasitic element placed in front of the driven element for increased gain and directivity.
Driven Element - That element (or elements) which "collects" the TV signal. It is connected to the
Element - Everyone of the working parts of an antenna is called an element. It may be either driven
Front-to-Back Ratio - A numerical ratio showing how much more signal is received from the front of
the antenna than from the back.
Gain - A figure expressed in decibels (db) which indicates the signal gain of a particular antenna
type over that of a simple dipole.
Mast - The heavy vertical tubing which supports the antenna. The crossarm is usually bolted to the
Parasitic Element - An element or elements not directly connected to the driven element. Parasitic
elements act as directors and reflectors for increased signal strength and directivity.
Reflector - A parasitic element or elements placed behind the driven element for increased gain and
Stacking - Two or more antennas joined together electrically with stacking bars or a stacking harness.
Twin Lead - The transmission line which carries the signal captured by the TV antenna to the TV receiver.
Posted March 21, 2013