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« Moviegoing: "Femme Fatale" | Main | Our Mission, so to speak »

November 13, 2002

The TiVo Revolution continues


Although I’m a mere amateur TV-watcher compared to you, I thought I should share how TV watching at my house has changed since my technophile wife installed a TiVo. I’m no “early adopter” of electronic gizmos, and I stopped watching much TV at all a number of decades back, but I must say getting a digital video recorder, or “DVR” as the acronym-crazy electronics industry likes to call them, has been a revolutionary advance over standard TV. My family now watches what we choose to watch when we choose to watch it. We skip commercials with carefree abandon. (On the rare occasions when I end up watching “live” TV—without running it through the DVR—I find myself futilely reaching for the control to make commercials go away, and then painfully realizing that I’m back in the Stone Age. It’s always hard to go back.) My wife uses the DVR to analyze the serves of tennis pros in slow motion. My daughters’ viewing habits now consist exclusively of watching digitally recorded reruns of “Friends” (after their homework is done, of course.) Since the major limitation of the original TiVo device was how much stuff could get recorded—a lot of material had to be erased each week to make room for new programs—Hughes Electronics now offers an option that combines its DirecTV satellite service with the basic features of TiVo and which has the capacity to record 35 hours of video. Not to be outdone, EchoStar Communications sells one device with 60 hours of recording time and a more expensive variant that gives you 90 hours. Since we recently shifted to satellite TV from Adelphia cable (their accounting wasn’t the only dodgy element in their operation) we now have one of these in our house too, I forget which.

These changes have made so radical a shift in my family’s interaction with TV that I found myself reading a newspaper story on the next chapter in the DVR saga. According to the Wall Street Journal of November 13, manufacturers of digital video recorders like TiVo and ReplayTV hope to reach a broader audience by piggybacking on the growing popularity of DVD players. Toshiba Corp’s U.S. unit will incorporate TiVo’s DVR technology in a DVD player that will be released next year. Thomson Multimedia SA has introduced the RCA Scenium Digital Media Recorder that plays DVD movies and has recording space for more than 30 hours of video. It also copies digital pictures and songs from a CD, turning a DVD player into a jukebox, a TV into a photo album. Why do I care? Well, as the WSJ story mentions:

…DVD-DVR products are most likely to appeal to people who place a premium on uncluttering the shelves of their home theaters.

I must confess the biggest drawback to all this progress is the ever-increasing number of interwired boxes sitting above, below, right and left of the TV screen. I mean, I’ll watch digitally recorded satellite TV, but if anything goes wrong (say, a loose wire somewhere), I won’t even try to fix it. I just yell for my wife. After all, she’s the technologist in the family.



posted by Friedrich at November 13, 2002



It must be a tad dispiriting to write something like this, and get no comments. Nothing. Not a sausage. Bugger all. (This is a Monty Python reference by the way. The Silly Party got no votes.) So I'm putting a comment just to say, interesting and all that, blah blah blah.

We at Samizdata have some experience of comments. Occasionally Perry de Havilland does one of his photographic reports of some London poster and seemingly the whole of American goes tearfully berserk. "It's wonderful to know that people over there care. Thank you. Thank you." etc. etc. I oughtn't to be so unkind, but you're from New York, you must understand.

The comment point being that people often only comment when what you say triggers something they've long thought or felt, and now they can think it or feel it out loud. When you say something that maybe gives them something new to think about, the reaction is more likely to be thoughtful or even downright stunned silence. But don't whatever you do confuse this, in your case, with indifference. 2 Blowhards is held in very high esteem over here, and I'm sure throughout the blogosphere. In fact I know. It's not just me. Your mission statement is thus food for prolonged thought for us all.

But sorry, for the time being I have nothing to say about it. I'm still thinking.

Posted by: Brian Micklethwait on November 15, 2002 8:33 AM

Oh dear or dear oh dear. Grovelling apologies all round. I attached this to the wrong thing - to this instead of to the Mission Statement - and there were already two comments on the Mission Statement. Looks like there'll be many more.

Nevertheless, the general sentiment is still true, even if the details are all shot to hell.

It's only blogging.

Posted by: Brian Micklethwait on November 15, 2002 8:40 AM

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