As broadband Internet access changes the whole way that you use the Internet, and quite possibly live your life, so does having a DVR change the way you deal with television. For those who don't know (and if you don't, then oh come on!
) a DVR is a DigitalVideo Recorder. It's a little computer with a big hard drive that hooks up to your cable or satellite or however you get your TV signal, then records programs digitally, instead of on video tapes.
Advantages: you never have to look for a blank tape, or remember where on tape something is stored. It's all put up on your TV screen for you in a nice menu format. You tell it what you want to watch (Survivor, 24, etc.) and it will look for those shows and collect them for you when they're on. You can start watching something that's "taping" before it finished recording. So, if you're putting the kids to bed at 8:00 on a Wednesday and you'd like to watch Lost, it's not a problem. You bebop downstairs at 8:15, and start watching it from the beginning, while the rest of the show happily records onto the hard drive. You can blip past commercials in 30 second chunks, which means that if you start watching at around 8:12 or so, you will "catch up" to live TV by the end of the show. You just saved yourself twelve minutes! If you watch five one-hour programs a week and always start watching them "late" or after they are broadcast, you have collected one hour of your week back from the TV people. Cool.
Disadvantages: You can't loan your tape of a show to a friend who missed it. Of course, you can
hook your VCR up a certain way so as to record onto a tape the show that's on your DVR, but you'd really have to like your friend because that sounds like a pain in the butt. Another disadvantage is that you watch more TV, because it's more convenient. Eh.
I know that a lot of people preach about Tivo, but that's not what we have. We are using the DVR system that comes for $5/month from Dish Network. I'm sorry, Tivo fans, but Tivo is toast. Who is going to pay $200 for a box, then $15/month for something you can get from your cable/satellite company for a third of the monthly cost with no upfront?