by adam mathes
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Tivo Week - Day One

I’ve been contemplating getting a Tivo for years, but never could quite convince myself. But last weekend my parents bought me one as a gift.


Well, not really. But it has had a profound effect on my television viewing habits, which like most Americans has a seemingly disproportiante effect on my life. This week I’m going to share some of my thoughts on it.

Tivo is like if a computer swallowed a VCR, but then decided it didn’t like the taste of tapes. For those lacking in geeky gadget knowledge, Tivo, and other similar personal video recorders (PVR) record television shows to a giant hard drive. Wile this may not seem like a particularly novel or interesting idea, it turns out to completely change the way you watch television.

Although VCR’s have the ability to time shift television programming, most people don’t bother. It’s rather difficult to program VCR’s, and you have to buy tapes and swap them and label them, and to get to a specific show you have to fast forward through hours of other material. With Tivo, you tell it to tape The Daily Show every night, and then you watch The Daily Show sometimes after you finish watching the episodes of Totally Spies! it taped for you from the past few days. Or whenever you want.

Time shifting television is not a new concept, but Tivo has solved its interface problem. Not just the fact that it has a clear, colorful, usable (and fun!) on-screen interface, but the experience of using a PVR and selecting shows to watch from an on-screen menu is a world apart from trying to use videotapes to timeshift programming.

Tivo is about as close to “TV on demand” as we’re likely to get in the next few years.

The best way I’ve been able to describe the experience of Tivo is that it feels a little like the difference between using a fast broadband connecting instead of a modem for internet access. TV feels faster. Instead of waiting for your show to come on, and catching the last couple minutes of another show, you just sit down and watch whatever Tivo has ready for you. Instead of spending 30 minutes to watch a show, you spend 20 by skipping through commercials and credits.

With broadband, even though webpages downloaded faster, that doesn’t translate to less time on the internet. People just surf more sites since they spend less time waiting, and in many cases spend more time online since the experience is so much more pleasant. At least, that was my experience when I first had an ethernet connection in college. The same is holding true for my experience with Tivo.

I can waste time watching television so much more effeciently now.

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