Sat 30 Aug
My dog has a habit of demanding to go outside during the eighth inning of just about every afternoon ballgame I watch on TV, but during today’s Yankees-Red Sox match I had a solution that suited both man and beast: digital video recording. I pressed ‘Pause’ on the remote control, walked Mister President out to the dog park and let him run around for about fifteen minutes. When we got back to the house I pressed ‘Play’ and watched Jorge Posada hit a crucial home run to win it for the Yankees with a final score of 10-7.
This scenario was made possible by my brief trip to the Time Warner Cable NYC offices this morning, where I traded in our old cable box for a brand new Explorer 8000. This new device, manufactured by Scientific Atlanta, is essentially a hybrid of a digital cable converter and a TiVo unit, meaning it allows access to TWCNYC’s superior digital television interface while also allowing us to record, pause, rewind and fast forward live television — and more. (A less cursory explanation of the concepts behind digital television recording can be found here.)
I had always assumed that I would buy myself a TiVo sooner or later, but the Time Warner deal is too good to pass up: not only is the added monthly charge of US$7 cheaper than what TiVo would charge, but TWCNYC provides the box for free, saving us at least US$300 we would otherwise have had to spend on a TiVo-branded box. Granted, the Explorer 8000 is not as fully-featured as a TiVo, but it matches those units on the base features, at least.
All of which makes me feel a bit guilty for doing an end run around TiVo, a pioneer in this market that has never really gotten the success it deserves. To see it trumped by a mega-corporation like Time Warner seems damn unfair. There’s a chance that, after using the Explorer 8000 for a while, I may find its limitations too frustrating and decide to buy a TiVo after all, but I rather doubt it. The sad truth of it is that DVR’s future as a proprietary technology is very grim but its chances as a commodity value-add to television paraphernalia are very good — it’ll surely be available in just about every digital cable box within five years, and I’m sure that within a decade most of the consumer public will be practicing the art of ‘time shifting,’ as DVR usage is sometimes called, when they’re watching the Yankees beat the Red Sox.