Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tale of the Tape

Blog fan Gina, in her kind message on yesterday's post, brings up an interesting subject that I was debating over Thanksgiving.

Way back in the day, my family bought one of the first VCRs on the market. It cost around $1,000, was made of all metal parts, and had a remote control that had to be attached to the unit by a cord. No one was even sure if the VCR would be a wise investment, since the Betamax platform was also popular. In addition, there was only one tiny store in Savannah back in the pre-Blockbuster days that rented videos, and you had to pay a member's club fee to join.

Fast forward to more modern times. VCRs, made with cheaper, plastic parts, cost under $50. Even if it's a VCR/DVD combo, it's still under $100.

Of course, VCRs are becoming more obselete with the rise of DVRs and Tivo. My brother has joined the DVR revolution and often chides me for not joining the 21st century.

But the DVRs aren't the be-all and end-all of recording TV. At least, not yet. My brother has sometimes missed a program because a football game or other show preceding the program may run long, and you can't change the time settings on a DVR; all you can do is tape the program after the one you want to record as well.

On occasion, members of my family have been unable to record programs on their DVRs for a variety of reasons. When they miss a show, they inevitably call me, knowing in all likelihood my old reliable VCR has it on tape. And unlike a DVR, I can drop the video in the mail and send it to them in a couple of days. If I miss something and a family member has it on DVR, I have to wait until the next time I visit in order to see it.

My DVD/VCR combo cost about $80, and the videotapes within the machine are cheap. Things like Tivo are more expensive, and DVRs usually require a monthly fee with your cable company.

I'm certain at some point I'll likely break down and get a DVR, but I won't deep-six my trusty VCR in the process.

In a side note, Gina, if you don't have a VCR or DVR, you still have some options. First, NBC will undoubtedly re-air episodes of "Heroes" (and other shows) during the holiday break to let new viewers catch up before the show returns with new episodes in January. In addition, most networks now put their episodes online. If you have a high-speed internet connection, you can easily view an episode with pretty good picture quality and limited commercial interruptions.

Also, many networks will re-air their first-run episodes on the weekend or on a sister network. NBC Universal owns the Sci-Fi Channel, and has shown "Heroes" reruns from the previous week on Fridays at 7 p.m. and Mondays at 7 p.m., so you can catch up with the previous week's episode before watching the new one on Monday.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Thankfully, there are still some first-run episodes being shown before the holiday reruns and specials air.

NBC has an hour-long "My Name is Earl" starting at 8 p.m., followed by new episodes of "Scrubs" (9 p.m.), "30 Rock" (9:30 p.m.) and "ER" (10 p.m.)

CBS counters will all-new episodes of "Survivor" at 8 p.m., followed by "CSI" and "Shark."

Fox airs a first-run episode of "The O.C." at 9 p.m., while The CW gives viewers new episodes of "Smallville" and "Supernatural."

As for reruns, people who have heard about "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 8 p.m.) but haven't had a chance to catch this great series can catch the re-airing of the pilot episode tonight.


Ryan said...

DVR is great. The biggest benefit for me is being able to record two shows that are on at the same time.

Also, if someone comes into the room talking loudly, or my dogs suddenly need a trip to the backyard, all I have to do is hit pause.

The downside? If it is recording two shows at once, you have to watch one of them. The DVR can't keep track of three things at once.

Give in to the dark side (but keep that VCR handy).

Phillip Ramati said...

Ryan, you are correct about the 2 biggest selling points of DVRs - recording 2 programs at once and live pausing.

I have two VCRs and plan on keeping them as long as they work.

Zodin2008 said...

Your brother sounds like a smart guy Phillip, yuo should listen to him.

While DVR has the occasional issue, and right now the newer ones (which I have 2 of) are having soem technical glitches that have been frustrating, I will take DVR a 100X over VCR any day of the week. The days of piles of VHS tapes everywhere are over.

Plus, since your family likely has High Speed Internet, now if they miss an episode they can watch it on a Laptop and no longer have to wait 3 days for the mail.

But the best feature of DVR is that if you say set "Lost" to always record every new episode way back in 2004, to this day, my DVR knows to record "Lost" whenever it's on NEW. If "Lost" was airing re-runs right now, my DVR would know NOT to record them. It's such better and easier technology.

Plus, there's a drop down menu with all your recorded movies, shows, specials, like a "Favorites" menu on your computer and you can pick and choose what you want to watch quickly and at will.

Also, DVR will record two things opposite one another. Because I have a few nights like Mondays and Thursdays where there are hours with three things opposite eachother, I felt the 2nd DVR was a wise investment.

VCR's will likely cease to exist or be sold anywhere but pawn shops in less then 2 years. I would advise biting the bullet and moving forward with the DVR since no one you know likely requires VHS tapes anymore with the back up of episodes on the Web.

Phillip Ramati said...

Well, Zod, like my brother, you know not from whence you speak.

My brother himself, the DVR fanatic, has called me often in the past to see if I taped something his DVR missed. If I needed him to record something for me, I would be out of luck.

VCRs will likely be around for a while, because they cheap to make and cheap to sell, and not everyone can afford a DVR. You can still buy audio tape recorders today even with the advent of CDs and iPods. Sure, they aren't used as much, but they are still around.

I'm not saying DVRs are bad things, I'm just staying there's still room out there for us old-fashioned types.

Anonymous said...

suggestion...did you know you can hook the VCR to the DVR. So if you record something on the DVR then want to 'give it to a freind' all you have to do is play the DVR and then record on the VCR. Best of both worlds and you will find you will only have to use the VCR when your freinds ask for a copy. And FYI there is an option on the DVR to record a show longer than scheduled, I have to do that for Amazing Race when football is being played before hand. I must say, I live a stress free life now because of the DVR...I don't feel like I have to rush home, or be stuck watching a show and can't leave. I am a believer now! Go DVR.

Phillip Ramati said...

OK, but I just set the VCR ahead of time. It keeps my memory sharp as senility advances.

I'm guessing the transferring-to-video option is fairly new, since I really haven't heard about it before. So score one DVRs.

Of course, that would still mean there would be a need for VCRs. ...

Anonymous said...

How exciting to have a post dedicated to me!! :)

I'm praying for the Heroes reruns during the break. I've been hesitant to catch it on Sci-Fi because I haven't seen Episodes 7-current, so...I'd hate to miss out on any of it.


Phillip Ramati said...

No problemo, Gina. Now tell all of your friends about the best TV site in the history of the World Wide Web!

I can see why you would want to catch all of Heroes in order. It's easily one of the best shows on TV. However, given its serialized nature, if you miss too many, it may be too difficult to catch up until the season is over and it comes out on DVD. (For me, that would be an eternity to wait.)

I'll try to post when Heroes reruns will air, and I'm guessing there will be another mini-marathon on Sci-Fi to catch up everyone.