Saturday, January 31, 2009

I am not in the pay of the cable company

SOOOO boring of me to go on and on about my magic new TV and PVR. I mean, if you already have the same system, you know for yourself what I’m talking about and don’t need to read a research paper on the subject, and if you don’t, I’m just making you feel envious and annoyed. Don’t care. I’m amazed and I feel like writing about it and this is my blog. Go read something else.

The main thing I’m still in my early infatuation stage with is the fact that I never have to watch a commercial again. I don’t know what the future of TV commercials is with this new system, because there’s really no reason whatsoever to have to watch them. I am getting in the habit of each morning, scanning the on-screen program guide for that evening. When, using your remote control sort of like a computer mouse, you highlight a show you might be interested in, the guide accurately tells you whether it is a new or repeat episode, whether it’s in HD, and provides a quite thorough little synopsis. I decide what I might want to watch that evening and order the PVR to record everything I’m considering. Doesn’t matter how many there are or if two of them are on simultaneously. PVR can cope.

What makes it especially fun is that we now have access to the major networks back east at the real times they air their programming. In other words, on certain channels we get the primetime programming of the east-coast versions of NBC, ABC, etc, between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m., because that’s 8:00 to 11:00 p.m. there, you see. So I can record my favourite shows in the early evening and then, rather than watch them as they air at our local primetime -- with commercials -- I watch my recorded version and zap through the ads.

SRH really loves this time-shifted channel thing. He’s an early-to-bed sort of fellow but he can now enjoy watching Leno or Letterman, live as they happen, at primetime here on the west coast.

Basically it’s a complete shift in attitude towards watching TV. It’s a shift which began with home VCRs and which has now been, in my view, perfected. Previously, I would only record a program if I knew I was going to be out and unable to watch it, or if it was airing simultaneously with another program I wanted. Recording was not really convenient -- the complexity of programming a VCR was a clichéd joke of our times -- and you couldn’t record more than a couple of hours (or a bit more if you didn’t mind a really grainy picture), and of course you had to make sure there was a usable tape in the machine and so on.

Now I record everything as a matter of course. It’s the way I watch TV. And it couldn’t possibly be more convenient. When I decide, having highlighted a show on the program guide, I might want it, I simply hit the Record button on the remote. I don’t have to set times. I don’t have to build in an extra few minutes at the end in case my show runs over a bit. PVR records the show, not a particular time period.

Also, there is a channel, number 225 here where I live, that is simply an endless slide show of stunningly beautiful HD photographs. It’s like having one of those neat digital picture frames, but it’s a 47-inch picture frame rotating pictures by professional photographers, any one of which would take your breath away, and they just keep coming. It’s a little perk of the new system I had not previously been aware of and it’s quickly become my favourite channel. We always have it on if we’re in the family room reading or chatting or not watching anything else on TV. I’m just astounded that for the price of our monthly cable bill (which is only about $12 more than we were paying before for almost nothing compared to what we have now), we get this spectacular selection of art in our family room on top of all the other benefits of the new system.

As you get older, you tend to get rather jaded about a lot of things. You’ve been there, done most. The one area this doesn’t happen is new technology. Here the young people are blasé and take it for granted, but us older folks find it astounding and exciting and it perks up our jaded, cranky menopausal lives. I’m still thrilled with cell phones and computers. And yes, I am having an inappropriate love affair with my PVR. Told you to go read something else.

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