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500 channels and everything to watch

Posted: July 22, 2008 12:35 a.m.
Updated: September 22, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
I am sure we can all agree that one of the wonders of the 20th century was the invention of television, and that its only real rival in history as a conveyor of information was the invention of the printing press.

Of course as a newspaperman, I will always believe that the printing press was the ultimate invention in history, Without it, the literacy and information that was needed for someone to be able to think up the actual idea of television, or even radio, would never have been.

This being said, I admit here and now that I love to watch television. I have a satellite dish. I get tons of channels. It is easy and ... well, OK, it is easy entertainment.

But the real invention that has caused this influx of viewing from this print guy is that wonderful little box that is generically known as a Digital Video Recorder.

For five years now our DVR has changed my family's viewing habits. No longer do we look at the clock and rush to catch our favorite shows. Now we watch television when we want to watch television, and we do not watch any television commercials whatsoever. This cuts down enormously on the amount of time we spend in front of the television.

With a DVR, you can actually organize your viewing habits. You can schedule television to fit your lifestyle, not the other way around. You never miss your favorite show and you can make sure that your kids only watch what you feel is appropriate for them.

In addition, you can pause live TV. This alone is incredible. The phone rings and you can pause the show and come back to it without missing a thing. Then when a commercial comes, you can fast-forward right through it.

With a DVR and satellite television, the possibilities are almost overwhelming. If there is something showing somewhere that we would like to see, odds are we have seen it or we have recorded it, and on our terms.

With DVR, video tapes are dead. You can actually turn off the television and read for awhile. We television addicts can reclaim our lives. We do not have to worry about missing that big game or that season opener; we just program the device and anytime our favorite show is on, it gets recorded. That is freedom.

With so many channels to choose from nowadays, sometimes it can be hard to choose exactly what to watch - drama, comedy, sports? You name it, it is there. And even with a DVR, you still have to choose "what" you record.

But as television has changed over the years, the really amazing thing is that educational television has become fun. Those of us who were raised on rather boring PBS documentaries now can watch back-to-back World War II on the History Channel and Tornado Alley all over the Weather Channel.

In addition, we can learn everything we ever wanted to know about the chocolate chip cookie on the Food Network. TV is no longer a "vast wasteland." If anything, comparing television of the 1960s with the television of today is like comparing the small neighborhood grocery store of the same time period with today's giant modern supermarkets.

It is a good time to be alive. TV choices are everywhere. Granted, not all of them are worth watching, and some are just plain awful, but there is always the next channel to check out or the delete button to push.

I will always enjoy a good book and the written word, but television is coming of age. It gives us choices.

And when working late, I do not necessarily miss my favorite show because I have it recorded to my DVR.

I have to laugh whenever one of my kids tells me they are bored and there is nothing on television. I didn't get away with that with my parents when I was a kid, and back then we only had five channels.

And no DVR.

Jay Harn is the publisher of The Signal.

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