Digital VCR revolutionized my TV viewing habits

Shortly after I moved into this new appartment, the landlord put a shared satellite dish on the roof. Given the technical infrastructure in this house all I could install was a single receiver, so the switch to satellite-TV (all I ever had before was cable-TV) brought some previously unknown inconveniences, especially the need to program TWO devices (the receiver and the VCR) in order to save a movie to tape. I followed developments of PVR’s, but the device I envisioned (combining receiver, harddisk, editing software and DVD recorder) seemed only be possible with a do-it-yourself solution based on a PC running Windows or Linux. This didn’t appeal to me due to the cost and work involved, and the “Woman Acceptance Factor” of such a solution is pretty low.

ZapMaster PVR CIThen I found the ZapMaster PVR CI, a receiver for DVB-S (digital satellite TV) with a 160 GB harddrive and a USB-2 interface. Programming is as easy as point-and-click thanks to the internal electronic program guide (EPG), and the internal harddrive can hold approximately 40 full length movies. Recordings can be watched off the harddrive (like my weekly Stargate episodes *blush*), and every once in a while I can attach the device to my PC and download the movies I want to keep. Those movies can then be recorded to DVD-R an even be equipped with a menu and freed from ad-sections.

By far the most liberating feature however is timeshifting. At any given point during a broadcast, I can hit “Record” and from then on the current movie gets saved to the harddrive. Then I can hit “Pause” and the picture freezes, until I hit “Play” again while the recording continues in the background. The effect is stunning. I am no more the slave of the stations schedule, but it is ME who decides WHEN a movie starts. I can take bathroom breaks whenever I need them, I can take phonecalls without the need of being rude to the caller, I can grab something to eat without waiting for a commercial break. The digital VCR has freed me, and TV watching has become much more relaxed.

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