In Our Own Backyard…The best of times, the worst of timesIt was a huge relief when the digital video recorder (DVR) came along. No more bulky cassette tapes, no more dashing madly around at the last minute trying to find a blank tape, no more recording disasters.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
I was around kindergarten age when my family first got a television set. It was black and white, the kind with a screen with rounded corners set into a cabinet. It was a big deal for us, because prior to that we simply listened to the radio.
My dad climbed a giant white pine tree outside our house in order to mount the antenna in the most opportune spot for reception, and we got two channels. My mom and dad liked to watch The Today Show with Dave Garraway in the early mornings, and my sister and I would avidly hang on Captain Kangaroo right up until the very last minute before we had to head out the door to catch the school bus.
It was a very, very big deal indeed – one that was reserved only for those few minutes before school and after our homework was done at night, and then only for a short time before we went off to bed. A few years later we got a color TV, and somewhere along the way a third channel was added to the networks we received. If ever there was a fight over which channel we were going to watch, I don’t really remember. It was just such a thrill to have television that I don’t think any of us really cared.
Fast forward some 50 years, and now there’s cable TV, satellite TV and thousands of channels that feature programming around the clock on almost any subject you care to watch (and a whole lot you don’t!).
But with all of the television offerings available to us today – and with our lives already consumed by our addiction to computers – it didn’t take us long to discover there simply isn’t enough time in the day (or week, or month) to watch everything we wanted to watch. And so along came the video cassette recorder (VCR) at about the same time my kids were involved in all sorts of things at school, and we found ourselves gone more evenings than we were home. It felt so freeing to be able to plunk one of the blank video cassette tapes into the recorder, program it to record some favorite show, and then just walk away, knowing it would be there for us to watch when we got home – sometimes.
Who of us alive during those years will ever forget the inevitable recording disasters? Sometimes the recorder failed to come on at the right time, or on the correct channel, and sometimes it didn’t come on at all. Sometimes we accidentally taped over another program we hadn’t yet watched, and once I unknowingly taped over one of my daughter’s dance recital tapes. Once I recorded the Kentucky Derby, and just as the horses were galloping down the home stretch for the finish wire, the VCR came to the end of the tape and rewound. To this day, it still brings tears to my eyes….
And then, there were the times when the tape inside the cassette inexplicably broke or became twisted in the gears of the VCR when I tried to extract it, destroying the tape and everything on it.
It was a huge relief when the digital video recorder (DVR) came along. No more bulky cassette tapes, no more dashing madly around at the last minute trying to find a blank tape, no more recording disasters. All we have to do now is program the DVR to record what shows we want, and at what times, and viola – they’re there waiting for us whenever we want to settle back and watch them.
With the latest DVR technology, it’s possible to record up to four different programs at the very same time. We can watch one channel live and record another. We can set it to record Gopher basketball whenever it comes on the air, and we can stockpile literally hundreds of hours’ worth of shows. It’s an absolute TV-watcher’s dream.
Last week my husband and I were catching up on our recorded programs during some of those long winter evenings when there wasn’t much else to do. Over the course of three or four days, we watched the season finale of “Downton Abbey,” the sudden death round of “American Idol,” and the latest episode of “The Bachelor.”
The only thing left to watch on the DVR was the two nights of competition from one of my perennial favorites, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. It had aired three weeks earlier, and I had been waiting for a weekend such as this when we would have enough down time to watch it all – kind of a case of saving the best for last.
As we finished up the episode of “The Bachelor” on Friday night, Ken decided to delete it to free up more space on the DVR. And right before our very eyes, with one simple miscue of the remote control, he deleted the entire dog show….