back a few decades—thirty years would be a nice enough target—and
the problems of television scheduling were fairly simple.
had positioned itself as a stable fourth national broadcast network,
and most people found their additional television options as a
result of HBO and other subscription services. Many of us were
familiar with TBS and WGN, but even with cable and satellite providing
such those realities hadn’t exploded in quantity or quality when
you compare, say, 1990 to 2005.
importantly, we used VCRs. Yup. VCRs. The latest and greatest
technology of the day. And often, when setting things up to record,
we needed to overcome two struggles of varying difficulty.
number one – Getting the damn time to stop blinking.
This is actually a joke, but it offers a window into a significantly
bigger problem. Most of us had absolutely zero understanding
of what was happening when we placed a VCR into our home entertainment
setup. It meant more wires in the scrambled and tangled pile
stacked up and hidden behind a massive wooden cabinet. It also
meant trying to figure out if the right channel was selected
on the right device in order to get the right piece of equipment
to do whatever it was that we wanted it to do.
was true for watching shows, recording shows, playing video
games and more. Was channel three selected for this… was VCR
input engaged for that… connect this cord to that outlet, repeat,
and do so in a precise order since signals and such only move
in one direction along the wires.
was fascinating, and almost always screwed up in some way so
that every conversation in the living room likely at some moment
included the phrase “…I don’t know why, it’s just the way it
works…” being uttered as a gymnastics routine of button pushing
was engaged to trigger the viewing of last night’s primetime
number two – Setting the timer for an extra minute
or three or such on either side of a record attempt.
less difficult for this struggle—assuming the clock wasn’t blinking
and daylight savings adjustments had been made—was setting the
darn VCR up to record. But, for the pleasure of being able to
fast-forward during the commercials, you needed to make sure
you recorded the entire show. The clocks in our homes and on
our devices were always off by a minute or two. They were never
synchronized. So, for a program on between 8:00pm and 8:30pm,
it was very important to record from 7:57 to 8:33.
a twist that will shock kids that already don’t understand the
thrills that arrived from switching the household phone to a
wireless unit, the funny reality of recording on your VCR was
more than just getting the times correct. You also needed to
make sure the right item… television, VCR, cable box, whatever…
was set for the right station. In this portion of our efforts,
you could have the VCR on channel three. But forget to set the
cable box for the NBC affiliate and that episode of Friends
wasn’t going to be there for you when you looked for it.
laugh about these things because while technology has changed,
and in so many ways has improved, the existence of hoops hasn’t
changed at all. Have you seen how some shows start at off-times
these days? It’s not 8:00pm to 8:30pm for broadcast… now it goes
to 8:31pm. This of course can cause all kinds of havoc depending
on how many shows you want to record at 8:30 and the limits of
your DVR. And, it’s just one of all sorts of thrills.
night a few of the local channels from our provider went out.
End result was two shows we recorded turning into a half-hour
of pleasant music and a message letting us know they were aware
of the problem and we didn’t need to call. Technology though provides
for finding the lost broadcast… joy… happiness… solutions… are
you with me? Find the show, check for other showings, locate the
on demand option and there it is. Amazing! Record that baby! (Also,
usually, the fast-forward options have been disabled… so, yeah,
nice, but maybe not pure joy.)
reality is, I am getting the hang of things. I understand which
televisions are somewhat linked so that the pause and such features
are intertwined. I also get how long I can pause it… how many
shows I can record at one time… and the ways I can use the older
high-definition box from our provider—which was moved during an
equipment service upgrade but still working well enough to be
left in our home on one of the televisions—as an alternative recording
device with a bit of extra storage capacity. (Yes… the “…I don’t
know why, it’s just the way it works…” concept of 2019.)
of this said, I am definitely not ready to start using voice activation
for things. If you knew how many curses I utter when trying to
get the time to stop blinking, you’d understand that I don’t believe
any unit would record the right show just because I asked. Some
things never change.