Many of us can remember when someone would ask "what’s on television tonight?" and the queried party could actually provide a comprehensive answer. There were three broadcast networks and, depending upon where you lived, a public broadcasting channel. Television viewers could memorize the prime time schedule and if someone wanted to know what was on, the answer was readily available.
That has, of course, changed a great deal. Today, most of us have cable or satellite television and literally hundreds of stations might be available at any given time. The idea of memorizing the television schedule for the whole of our channel selection would probably be impossible. There are so many things to watch at any given time that the mind reels trying to answer that once simple question.
When cable began to grow, it looked like a solution to programming overload was developing right along with it. The videocassette recorder (VCR) promised us the ability to program a simple machine that would snag all of our favorite shows, guaranteeing we didn’t miss anything important. We might not be able to memorize the cable schedule, but if we could isolate what we liked, we would never have to miss the programming.Of course, we soon found that ninety minute magnetic tapes, frustrating programming interfaces and other problems made the VCR a great way to watch movie rentals, but not much more than that. Meanwhile, our television options continued to grow at a breakneck pace.
Recently, a new solution has arrived and this one seems a bit more promising than the clunky VCRs from the last generation of television recording technology. DVRs, digital video recorders, allow us to select programs we would love to watch and record them using a very simple programming interface that even allows searching from all available scheduled programs. TiVo, a DVR system based on a subscription model, has become so successful that the proprietary name brand has morphed into a verb. "Did you see that yet?" "No, but I TiVoed it, so I will check it out tonight."
Other DVRs are also available. Many cable providers make them available to customers, as to satellite dish programming providers. These handy devices really do allow us to get a grip on television programming and an ability to capture the programs we want to watch for later viewing.
In addition, DVRs allow one to "freeze" or pause live broadcasts. That run to the refrigerator or restroom doesn’t require a commercial break anymore. Just hit pause, and you can take as long as you would like.
Speaking of commercials, DVRs are really turning that industry on its head. When you record a program, you can watch it quickly and easily without actually sitting through the commercials. Most DVR users soon develop an expert touch on the fast forward button as they skip over commercial messages while watching their favorite show.
The DVR is a necessary component of any top of the line home theater system. The subscription movie channels to which one subscribes have their valued multiplied several times over when one has access to a DVR. No matter when HBO, for example, chooses to air a movie, you can TiVo it and watch it at a time that is right for you.
So, what is on television tonight? The answer used to be extremely limited. Today, however, one can say "Whatever you would like" in response to that venerable questions. DVRs allow us to control what we will watch and when we will watch it. They allow us to be something of a meta-scheduler for all networks and give us the ability to watch our favorite programs without the inconvenience of any commercial interruption;.
The systems are relatively inexpensive and offer a great way to maximize the value of cable and satellite offerings. Today, every home theater system should be equipped with a great DVR. The VCR may have disappointed in the long run, but the DVR shows great promise to improve our television experience
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