Monday 26 Sep 2016

DVR Love
Matt Seinberg

Since I was a kid, I loved new technology. When I got the chance to buy a new color TV set for my room when I was in 7th grade I did. There was nothing special about it other than it was color and not black and white. It only received 13 VHF channels, and no UHF channels, and it didn’t have a remote control. There was no such thing as digital tuning, just two big dials with the channel numbers on them. If I remember correctly, it was a Motorola and made in the USA.

I still love technology, and can’t believe I held out so long on getting a DVR. I finally gave in when HD broadcasts became the new standard, and analog signals were gone in the wind. My provider is Verizon FiOS, and while they gave me three digital adapter boxes to hook up to older TV’s and VCR’s, they were a pain to use.

No longer could I have the VCR switch from one channel to another automatically. If I wasn’t home, I had to tune to digital adapter to whatever channel I wanted to record, and then set the VCR for the time and length, so only one channel could be recorded at one time. Since I often recorded multiple channels in a row, this wasn’t going to work for me.

So I called Verizon, and upgraded my regular HD set top box (STB) to a new HD DVR. I was in big boy toy heaven when it showed up, and could wait to set it up and start recording all my favorite shows. One thing I love about digital TV is that many cable only stations repeat their prime time programming again after 11 PM, so I was able to record network shows between 8-11 PM, and cable shows after 11 PM. Some of those cable networks even repeat again after 2 AM, so anything I missed on the first go round was able to be recorded on the second one.

Then Verizon came out with a DVR that could record with twice the capacity of the old one for a one-time $30 upgrade fee. Sign me up baby! About a month later, the new 500 gigabyte DVR shows up at my door. The only problem is I still have stuff to watch from the original one! What a conundrum.

I decide what to watch, and what to delete, and watch what I can in the thirty day window I have to return that box before I get charged for it. That made for quite a few bleary eyed late nights. Normal sleep time for me is 11:30 PM to 12 AM. Staying up until 2 am when I have to get up at 7 AM didn’t work to well. Even if I was off the next day, I was still up by 9:30 AM. Too little sleep makes Matt a very cranky person.

I managed to watch what I had to on the old DVR which I had put in the living room, and the new DVR was in the bedroom merrily recording away. Then Verizon announced that an external hard drive with up to 1 Terabyte of storage could be added with an ESata cable. Off I went to the Western Digital website, and there it was for $99.99. However, it was out of stock due to typhoons and such in Thailand where they are made.

I kept watching for the stock position to improve, and it finally did. The price had gone up to $129.99, and I wasn’t going to pay almost 30% more. So being the good shopper I am, I scoured the web until I found a coupon that lowered the price to $115, so I ordered it.

A week later, the drive shows up and I attach it to the DVR. While it took a while to complete, it was a digital marriage of Motorola and Western Digital. They now exist happily, doing my recordings as programmed.

Ah, but like all marriages, there are problems. This problem was between what turned out to be my home wiring and the DVR. For some reason, we were losing the picture around the same time every few days, 11 pm-ish. That really sucks when you’ve watched almost the entire show, waiting for the dramatic ending, and POOF, the picture is gone.

I called Verizon, and they sent me a new DVR. The problem persisted when it would activate, and the tech on the phone couldn’t get it to activate either. So we made an appointment for a service call in two days. The service tech shows up, and all he does is change a splitter, tells me I now have a signal, and leaves. Since everything was working, I returned the new DVR to Verizon.

The picture is working fine for about a week, then POOF! No more picture. No amount of rebooting the box or router is bringing the picture back. So I get on the phone with Verizon again, and I tell the tech the problem again, so he arranges for yet another DVR to be shipped out, which will arrive in two days.

The new DVR arrives, and I try to activate it. Yet again, nothing happens. No green bars, only red bars. Imagine the steam coming out of my ears at this point. The Olympics are on, and I want to watch them in HD, no SD. So I call Verizon yet again, and was able to get a service appointment for the next day.

Around 8 am, Mike from Verizon shows up, takes some meter readings, and asks me to show him the cables downstairs, and where they run from and to. We open up a ceiling tile, and there’s a black cable just hanging there, not attached to anything. I had no idea it was there, or what it did. So Mike attached it with a splitter, and we go back upstairs.

The end of this wire is in a closet, so he tests it, and BINGO there’s a strong signal. He disconnects the white cable, and attaches the black one to the DVR and everything works! WooHoo! That means I don’t have to return the old DVR with over 30 hours of shows on it!

For a TV junkie like me, losing that amount stuff is like Guy Fieri not being able to go to any diners, drive ins’ or dives. So later that day, I pack it up and drop it off at the UPS store.

I still have my VCR’s hooked up, but haven’t used them for a while to record anything. I keep them because I have a ton of stuff on tape that I haven’t replaced with DVD’s or Blu-rays yet. I just wonder if all those old tapes will still play, or just disintegrate in the machine considering their age. I guess I’ll have to find out the hard way.

The generation of people growing up today probably doesn’t even know what a VCR is, or even knows about VHS versus Betamax. Do camcorders even use tapes anymore? I think they either have built in hard drives, or use memory cards.

But put them in front of a DVR, and they’ll scroll through the menu so fast it’ll make your head spin.

My head was spinning so fast the last month or so from all this aggravation that I’m just happy my DVR stayed home, and I didn’t lose any of those year old recordings I never got to. That’s a nice thing about digital recordings: they don’t lose any quality and will just sit inside the box quietly waiting to be played and then probably deleted forever.

Long live the DVR!

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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