I was chatting to CÃ©line the other day when she told me that her life had just been changed by a piece of technology. There followed a good 15 minutes of enthusiastic information about the joy of owning a hard disc television recorder, or PVR. I didn’t believe it: I mean, what could be so amazing about something that did what I could do with my old, cheapo Freeview box, a VCR, and a copy of Time Out. But CÃ©line was adamant, and she won me over, so I went ahead and ordered a HUMAX 9200T.
CÃ©line was right.
In just a week, our lives have been transformed. The PVR downloads a week’s worth of TV schedules and you can set it to record by just pressing OK on them. It then just records them. No faff, no hassle, just an ever-growing list of programmes that you know you want to watch. Then, at a time, any time, convenient to you, you go and watch them. It’s 9.30 on a Tuesday night, I’m just back from taekwondo and I want something easy. I’ll watch Dragon’s Den from last Thursday. And so on. No searching for a tape. No remembering to leave the digital box on the right channel. No searching for a tape that had that last episode on it. No labeling tapes. No complicated settings of videos. It just bloody works.
The key thing, though, is that it completely removes that feeling that something good is on so we should go watch it. Or nothing is on, but we can’t be bothered to find a tape, and what if something good is on in 5 minutes… Now we just just record what we want and carry on with our lives. And when we want to watch TV, we watch something good (or bad, but at least we want to watch something bad…).
So, now for the minor reservations. Serendipity and Reithian sneaky education are pretty much lost in this model, and that is a key reason I was disinclined to make the switch for so long. However, it’s hard to argue that I’m missing much when I can now get the late night repeats of documentaries, the mid-afternoon showings of classic films, and avoid What Not To Wear Wife Swap in the Country at the same time.
And there are a few usability issues. The electronic programme guide (EPG) gets downloaded afresh every time the box is switched on, and it takes a while. (What’s on now? No idea!) And the ability to search through the EPG and set recordings is obviously modelled on Sky’s box, and it could be a lot easier and better. And a few other quirks, but I’m happy to live with them. My life has been changed, and I’m loving it!