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Sunday, 16 February, 2003, 08:50 GMT
Video recorders enter the digital age
Archos PVP
Personal video players are already available
Video recorders are evolving into pocket-sized, portable digital machines that can records hours of entertainment, as BBC ClickOnline's Ian Hardy explains.
One of the greatest inventions in the modern home was VHS recorder.

When it was introduced in the 1970s, there was a great deal of excitement. No longer did you have to miss your favourite show because of work, or worry if your partner wanted to watch something that clashed with your choice.

But today it is an extremely limiting piece of technology. Thanks to high capacity hard drives, the world of TV is once again being turned on its head.

In the United States there are about 70 channels on basic cable alone, hundreds more on digital systems. Trying to keep track of what is on when has become almost impossible.

And everything has to be recorded on a a dated piece of technology called a video cassette recorder.

Getting personal

In the last few years new devices called Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) have hit the marketplace, making it infinitely easier to record hours and hours of your much loved programmes.

Generally the entertainment industry has been threatened by every major technological advance that deals with personal media

Joe Kraus, Digitalconsumer.org
Tivo set the pace a few years ago and is still the market leader.

"Tivo has digital storage built right into it," explained Tivo's Bob Pomiatowski.

"You connect it to your TV, satellite or cable feed and then it knows when all the shows are on."

It has numerous incredibly useful features. It can record all the films starring a specific Hollywood heartthrob, capture an entire sitcom series with one command and be programmed over the internet.

A number of companies are jumping on the PVR bandwagon and adding feature after feature, such as personal music and photo libraries.

No adverts

Recordable DVD machines are also expected to be a big sellers in coming years and may be the final nail in the coffin for VHS.

Video tapes
End of the line for videos?
Sony's GX7 recorder due out in June this year can record 6 hours of video per disk. Other companies are also releasing similar products.

The TV networks are getting very worked up about one feature found in digital video recorders - advertisement skipping. It takes only seconds to speed through a three minute block of ads.

Consumers love it while advertisers hate it. TV network executives are complaining, ironically, that too many people are tuning in just to watch the programmes.

"Generally the entertainment industry has been threatened by every major technological advance that deals with personal media," said Joe Kraus of the consumer website, Digitalconsumer.org.

"Believe it or not, they took the VCR all the way to the Supreme Court in 1984. Fortunately for them they lost because today it provides the largest source of revenue for their business."

TV to go

After a slow year, 2003 may be the year when digital PVRs are adopted by the mass market. But that is sure to fuel the debate between manufacturers and content suppliers.

BROADCAST TIMES
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The TV landscape could soon change forever.

Technology companies are pressing on with new handheld gadgets for downloading and transferring TV shows from PVRs. Microsoft's Media2Go stores seven hours of video, Intel's prototypes store 10 hours and go one step further.

"You can use it anywhere, on the road, in the gym, in the car, hand it to the kids in the back of the minivan. It's supposed to be a truly mobile device," said Bryan Peebler, Development Manager at Intel's Emerging Platform Lab.

"Long term we're working on technology that will allow you to receive the content wirelessly to the device rather than what you have stored from home."

These products are just months away from store shelves.

Commercial TV networks are extremely worried by home based digital recorders but critics have already come up with a solution - make better advertisements.

See also:

01 Oct 02 | Entertainment
22 Mar 01 | Entertainment
22 Aug 02 | Business
09 Apr 01 | Entertainment
17 May 01 | Entertainment
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