Tivo, I love you, now please leave.

Cocaine isn't habit forming. I should know - I've been using it for years. - Tallulah Bankhead


[2003-01-21 12:45Z] CSS-ification. Whee...
[2002-06-19 05:30Z] Spelling corrections, grammar fixes. Added a few links. Inconsequential edits...


I don't remember the story exactly, but as a youth I read a book about an intrepid lad who go around solving mysteries and getting involved in standard Only-In-Book-Land Youth Activities, like dreaming up a get rich quick scheme, fighting a fire or some other somesuch. There was one story in particular that sticks with me, where a jukebox comes to town on a semi and is unloaded at the local hangout. The kids quickly discover that it contains a 45 with a tune that no one can quit humming. Listen to it once and you're hooked. Listen to someone else humming it and you're hooked. The antidote for this is the song on the other side of the record which allows the person to stop. Unfortunately, every so often someone would inadvertantly play the first side again and everyone would be off humming that tune endlessly. The story is resolved when the townspeople load the jukebox on the back of the train that comes through and sends it down the line to parts unknown. (The implication being that this is how it arrived in this town to begin with, something that I picked up right away - kudos to the author for writing it in such a way that the kids can make inferences like this.)

And now, my story...

I have a habit that I picked up from my wife, trolling the 'closeout' sections of stores to see what deals lie there. There's a small electronics store not too far from my house and one day I noticed a Tivo sitting there, marked down well over 50%. A Tivo! (I was well versed about Tivos, being a Linux junkie I try and keep up with all Linux-based consumer devices.) It was just over $100 USD, so I knew that I'd have to, ahem, clear it with my better half before plunking down the dough. She was less than thrilled with the idea, since (A) we already have a VCR and (B) I have brought home many useless and somewhat costly pieces of electronic effluent over the years. (If I had been one of those people who does the 'helpless animal' rescue thing, the house would be populated with rabid badgers, flea-ridden dogs, foul-mouthed parrots and gimpy cats - all of who would have the tendency to randomly attack each other unexpectedly.)

She eventually relented and I hustled down to purchase it and drag it back home. I set it up that night (neglecting to mention the $10 monthly charge) and we gave it a shot. Fun, sure, but it seemed like an expensive gimmick. I programmed it to record her daily shot of Soap Operas and the usual dreck that I enjoy. I had the next few days off, so I tinkered with the settings, figuring out the 'Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down' buttons and went around rating everything that was on.

We left for the weekend and when I came home I found that no only had my shows taped, the Tivo had used it's built-in AI to tape a few shows it thought that I would like, based upon those thumb ratings that I punched in. Not only did the Tivo correctly guess most of the shows that I like to watch, it picked up a few that I didn't even know existed. I watched them. I loved them. It was spooky. Coming home from work was an adventure as Tivo would happily churn away overnight and during the daytime to find and record shows it thought I would like. And I did.

Meanwhile, Sara had quickly assimilated it into her viewing habits, learning how to start watching a show a little late in order to skip all the commercials, using the live TV pause when I needed some help with the baby and generally liking it all the way around. It has passed the "Wife Test", something that I couldn't recall happening in the last few years.

The Tivo completely demolished the way that we watch TV. We could watch one thing while something else was recording, switch over to the other thing while it was still playing and catch up to it in real time. Adding new shows to record was a breeze and watching sports became far more enjoyable.

It took about 5 months before Sara snapped out of it to realize that we were watching a helluva lotta TV. Hours and hours of it per day. Why not? I could hit the recorded program guide at any time and select from about a dozen shows that I really liked. While I was watching that, the Tivo would be happily recording something else that I could watch later.

As soon as she pointed it out, I realized she was right. We were watching a ton of TV (to be fair, this was right after we had the baby and we were spending much more time inside anyways...). I tried to cut back by taking out a bunch of shows that only marginally cared for, but this only freed up more room for the Tivo to guess my likes - and it was damn good at it, too. Besides, this didn't stop me from watching live TV with the Tivo, which was also very appealing. (Not only that, but Sara didn't want to give it up, something which has never happened before. Like I said, spooky.)

It was then that I realized I had my own personal Addictive Tune Jukebox - and I couldn't stop the humming. Lacking a train car to toss it on, I sent a small email to my LUG, offering it for sale at a Very Cheap price. Someone responded, I closed the deal and it was done. We didn't want to, but we knew that we should. I boxed it up and brought it to the next meeting, handing it over with my best Salesman Smile - "You're gonna love it!", I said and truer words have never been spoken. I did my damndest not to hum too much.

M4d pR0pZ, as the script kiddies say, to Tivo, Inc. You have developed a product which will utterly change television as we know it. PVRs will revolutionize the way that the world watches television. If the networks aren't running scared yet, they are fools. And you did it with dash and aplomb, with a wonderful user interface that is easy to use and very advanced at the same time.

Because of all this, I can never allow you into my house again.



I'm a programmer and a father (not necessarily in that order) - in my spare time I serve on the local library board, am president of the local LUG, and I try and explain Free Software to people. (They never get it - I'm terrible at it...) More info? Go up a level to my homepage...

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