Digital antenna cable
And you needn't conjure up scary images of clambering up on your roof to mount a skeleton of aluminum bones. In many locations, you can use an unobtrusive inside antenna and still receive dozens of stations with, in some cases, a crystal-clear high-definition picture.
I tried five leading interior antennas, ranging from one that resembles a sheet of paper you stick to a wall to one that looks like it should be receiving signals from distant planets. I discovered that, for my location, I could get reasonably good results with inexpensive and non-ugly options such as the Terk Amplified HDTV Indoor Antenna or the Mohu Leaf, each about $40.
I tested the five antennas (the others were the $35 Philips Digital TV Antenna, the RCA Digital Flat Antenna, and the Winegard SS-3000) at my house in the suburbs of San Francisco. The antenna information site TVFool.com shows that the closest transmitter to my home is about 20 miles away, and that many others are around 30 miles away. Many antenna sites say that I would need an antenna mounted on my roof to obtain a good picture from such distant sources. But I found that interior antennas actually brought me perfectly watchable signals on dozens of channels.
The antennas had some significant holes, though. For instance, none of the models I tried could deliver a signal from our local ABC affiliate, KGO. And each antenna had a handful of stations for which the picture was marginal-it would look fine for a while, and then it would freeze for several seconds or a few colored blocks would appear on the screen and disappear a moment later. Whether such problems are tolerable over the long run probably depends on your patience, or how committed you are to seeing that rerun of I Spy.
And of course, an HDTV antenna won't bring you networks such as ESPN, TNT, or Turner Classic Movies. If you can't do without your fix of college basketball, Mad Men, or His Girl Friday, cable cutting probably isn't for you. Remember, though, that it's possible to supplement the over-the-air offerings with video from sites such as Hulu, Netflix, or WatchESPN.com.