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Friday
Apr232004

TV, VCRs and TiVos

Lately my wife and I have been watching much less TV, and I think that's a good thing.

We still have 2 or 3 favorite shows we watch weekly, but more often than not, we're taping and watching them at our own leisure. Gail's brother supplies us with tapes of DIY (Do It Yourself) shows he tapes from his more-featured cable channel selection — we enjoy all of these shows as well.

Oddly enough, after getting used to VCR'ed shows, watching shows live is now frustrating, as I constantly want to fast forward through commercials. I can imagine TiVo owners are driven equally nutty when watching live TV. :-)

Funny thing is, I think we probably watch much less TV than the average family. In fact, Im sensing that we're reducing the shows we watch now, like cutting ER from our regularly watched shows. It just seems tired, jumping to sensationalism to generate buzz and offer something new. Borrr-ing.

It's been a slow process, but just this week I've realized how much we've changed in just the last few years.

Over the last few weeks, we had spent several evenings cleaning up our basement for a youth party we had here at the house. The results of that change in our lives surprised me in a couple of ways that directly relate to our change in TV watching habits:

First, I was surprised how much we could get done in an evening, even including distractions, such as stopping work to sit and check out something interesting in a box we'd just opened. Our basement has never looked so good in such a short amount of time.

Now, we did have a deadline for the party and probably stayed up later than usual, but even if we'd spent the "traditional" prime TV time leisurely going through stuff, cleaning and so on, we would still get quite a bit done. This seems so simple, but until I saw it by doing it, I had no clue. This realization brought home to me just how much time could be wasted watching the tube.

Secondly, I realized how much fun it was to spend time with my wife even doing menial tasks like clearing out boxes, cleaning and reorganizing things. And, after our basement was cleared up, we even took time to play dart games on the electro-dart board that finally was hung up. It was quite fun in fact.

This is encouraging, because I can see how time after dinner can be used so much more wisely. We can spend time playing with Nathan, or take a walk as a family, or choose some area of the house to clean up / organize, or play a game of darts, or watch a film, or, or...

This seems so common sense now, but often once we would sit down to watch a show, it was so easy to keep watching... and I think this is the sucking action of the TV. It discourages doing things and in many ways encourages inactivity. For us it took a VCR and taped shows watched as we saw fit, to realize this clearly. For others maybe it's a TiVo unit.

Now, I think TiVo is cool. However, for me, that much storage would entice me to spend time watching 40 hours worth of shows on the drive. I even recall stories of TiVo users stressing about all the shows yet unwatched and which if any they should delete first. Now, this is an extreme situation, but it does illustrate my point.

I kind of like the idea of tapes, because they are just hard enough. Recording can be automated so it can be done while I am doing other things, yet I have to remember to prepare and setup tape recording. The space of a tape is limited, so I can't tape too much, unless I am willing to swap tapes in and out. And finally, that show I want to see must be important to me to go through a little trouble to record it.

I don't want to watch much TV, so in this way a TiVo would actually go against my purposes. 40 hours of automated taping to me seems like it would lead right back to watching too much TV, even if they are shows I'd enjoy.

Maybe that makes me an oddball (who wouldn't want a TiVo?) but at least I have some sorta reasoning behind my decision. I think TiVo is a great tool, but at least right now, it's not right for us if our goal is to limit our TV watching. We want to encourage other activities, so crusty old VCR tapes work perfectly.

Anyway, I'm not sure where this post came from or what benefit it might have besides getting lots of comments from angry, torch-bearing TiVo lovers... but there it is. :-)

Hey, have a great weekend everyone!

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