Entertainment and computer systems merging

I feel like my wife and I finally have stepped into the twenty-first century of home entertainment. The other day we purchased a TIVO digital video recorder.

For some time now we have subscribed to the DirectTV satellite television service. This has given us access to two or three hundred television channels, the same as those provided by cable service. We chose satellite because our local cable system did not provide high-speed Internet access so there was no reason to use it for television.

Like many households, we had a vhs taping system to record our favorite programs but found this rather limited in recording time as well as difficult to program.

TIVO became an option a few years ago because the cost of recording on computer hard drives came down drastically. And our TIVO has a built in 40 gigabyte hard drive. This made it possible to use computer type systems to record television at a reasonable cost to the consumer. And DirectTV had a special on a home TIVO system.

Within a few days of signing up for TIVO, a DirectTV technician arrived and installed the unit. It connected to our existing satellite dish antenna and replaced our current satellite receiver.

We have been amazed with its features. Of course, there is a one-half inch thick manual and I haven't come anywhere near reading it all. But I am surprised at all I have been able to do. Importantly, our TIVO hard disk will record up to 35 hours of programs, much more than the six hours we could do with vhs tape. And, like a good computer, it is menu driven which makes programming really simple. We can tell it to record a particular program any time it is on the air which it will do while skipping duplicates if they occur. If we miss a bit of dialog we can back up eight seconds, repeat that part and then continue watching without missing any of the program. And there are many more features that I haven't yet discovered.

I mentioned this is our step into the twenty-first century of home entertainment. Actually, we are behind the times. Computer technology is rapidly entering the living room. Microsoft has a Windows XP Media Center Edition that is showing up on newer computers and entertainment devices. Gateway is introducing the FMC-901 Family Room Media Center which is a computer that will replace the TIVO for television recording plus offer all the features of a home computer.

TIVO itself now is offering a Home Media Option that connects a TIVO to the Internet so it can be programmed from wherever there is Internet access. It also will show digital camera images on the television screen. Our unit does not have this option but I am sure we can trade up in the future. In fact, I have been waiting for a TIVO to come out with a unit with a USB connection that can be connected to a home network. Why use their remote control with all the buttons when the unit can be programmed from a computer?

It is very clear that it is natural that entertainment and computer systems merge. The technology is similar and the need is there. We just have taken the first step and we like what we are seeing. We look forward to future advances.

If you would like to hear more about computers and entertainment, or other computer topics, visit "Coffee and Computers" at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. 'C' Street, any Friday morning from 9 a.m. until noon. Bring your questions or just come in and visit.

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.


Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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