Widescreen on Plasmas


Iam planning to buy a 42" Plasma EDTV.
Iam connected to digital cable. I have been reading about aspect ratios (4:3 vs 16:9 Widescreen)
My question: Will the image ALWAYS be widescrren or will it be a conventional image with bars on the sides and top and bottom?
Do I need a special feature on the TV to convert the images to widescreen?
Please help and explain. The people at the stores I have gone to don't seem to know anything!
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