Bruce Perens over at Technocrat pointed out something I hadn’t even thought of, and that I don’t recall being discussed elsewhere – the pending possible failure of TV Guide On Screen (TVGOS) dependent devices. According to Gemstar, more than 25 million households have TVGOS devices. Many, probably most, of these devices obtain their data from a signal embedded in the local analog PBS station’s broadcast. While an updated version of TVGOS which can use data from digital stations was released in 2006, most of the installed devices are analog-only.
The Gemstar TVGOS guide system was, and is, used in many TVs, VCRs, DVD recorders, and even DVRs. The Sony CableCARD DVRs, the DHG-HDD250 and DHG-HDD500, rely on TVGOS for not only their guide data, but also to set their clocks.
What will happen to all of these devices when the analog broadcasts cease on (or before) February 11, 2009? Even if you don’t use antenna, if the local PBS station goes all digital, the feed to your cable provider would be from the digital source. Even if the cable provider continued to provide the channel in analog form, it would be unlikely to contain the TVGOS data as the source feed would not. It seems likely that these devices will simply cease to function, or at least suffer a major loss of features, when the guide data is no longer available. It is already known that the Sony DVRs wouldn’t work in some areas of the country where the TVGOS data was simply unavailable as it was not carried by any of the stations.