Q: I quit most Comcast services a few years ago when they went mostly digital because I couldn't use my VCRs, which worked just fine. Now I'm slowly watching my old tapes before I dispose of them.
Now the whole shebang is going 100 percent digital. I thought this would be a great time to ditch Comcast, but I find it's not all that simple. I'm told I need a mountain of equipment to keep my TVs going with or without Comcast, and recording seems to be impossible. Why has television become so difficult?
A: Any technological change can have some growing pains, but in the case of television, certain parts of the industry used the change as an opportunity put tighter reins on accessing, viewing and recording their content. They have also used these changes to position themselves to profit as a result.
Many consumers are finding that the only convenient way to record programming is to have a DVR, which typically involves a monthly fee. The usefulness and convenience of a DVR cannot be questioned, but for some consumers it is not worth it. They would prefer to manage their own recordings using recordable media just as they did with their VCRs, even if it involves a bit more work. Unfortunately there are no easy-to-use and affordable high-def home video recorders available in the United States.
It did not have to be this way. Most Blu-ray players in Japan are also Blu-ray recorders, and home viewers there can record high-def content on discs. The original North American specification for HDTV provided for an easy way to record via FireWire connections, but the studios would not go along and pushed DVI and HDMI, which cannot be recorded digital to digital. FireWire connections are pretty much a thing of the past on HDTVs and components.
I am fortunate enough to have a D-VHS VCR and an HDTV that has FireWire, so I can record over-the-air HDTV broadcasts at will. I still can't record satellite content that way and use my DVR.
CES recap, continued
There were a lot of safety and security devices on display at CES this year. Among the devices you can buy, own and use without fees was the Doorbot, a battery-powered Wi-Fi video doorbell. It is easily installed outside your door and links to your Wi-Fi network to stream live audio and video to your smartphone or tablet, no matter where you are. It supports two-way audio so you can talk to the person at the door, as well.
The Doorbot will be available in July for $189. Info at https://secure.christiestreet.com/products/doorbot.
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