Originally Posted by MrHT
But I don't understand. In the 1990s, recording from TV was so convenient. Just buy a VCR and some blank tapes and you could record all you want without an extra monthly fee. Why are they taking that convenience away from us?
In a word? TiVo
. The TiVo came out and changed all the rules and expectations of home video recording (even though its actual user base is relatively small its impact on the culture has been enormous).
Most people are inherently lazy when it comes to TV recording: they couldn't even cope with setting the clock on a VCR. The TiVo automated the whole deal: you look for your show or movie using the easy on-screen guide, click on it, and your timer is set. For TV series, it even detects reruns and avoids recording them. It integrated seamlessly with cable, becoming the first cable PVR.
Cable and satellite took notice of this and saw a fantastic business opportunity. For years, they'd been trying to pry frugal cable customers off the cheapest "boxless" service tier, so they could charge more for "standard" service with extra channels and open the door for lucrative "On Demand" and Premium services (all of which require some kind of box). The popularity and publicity of TiVo gave them the irresistible lure they'd been dreaming of: put a PVR into the decoder box, and customers will be forced to upgrade their service to a "boxed tier" in order to get the PVR feature. There was an initial tussle with TiVo, but eventually the lawsuits settled down into an uneasy truce. The overwhelming majority of households now do their video recording with a cable/satellite subscription box, most from their provider (the power users still buy a TiVo).
DVD recorders struggled to remain relevant, and during the middle-2000s managed to barely hang on by incorporating a clever but ill-fated "free" knockoff of TiVo called TVGOS. This worked until 2008, when the oft-delayed and massively-dysfunctional American transition from analog to digital TV signals effectively destroyed the DVD recorder market. The FCC mandated insanely expensive dual analog & digital tuners on every recorder too far in advance of the transition, doubling the price of DVD recorders overnight. Cable took advantage of loopholes in the new QAM digital cable specs and flaws in the new recorder tuners to make life a living hell for anyone who wasn't renting a proprietary cable PVR or TiVo. The result was a massive and rapid consumer migration from old vcrs and dvd recorders to the $10/mo cable PVRs.
Originally Posted by MrHT
Ok, just one question. I still have an old VCR and can record from my HD Cable box just fine. So, why would a DVD Recorder be more of a problem??
Setting aside the fact using a $98 direct-to-DVD recorder severely limits your recording time in any case, recording from the cable box and recording from the cable itself
are two different things. Recording from the box is easy, for either VCR or DVD recorder. The only hitch is the channel changing: some decoder boxes have timers, so you can set them to change channels along with the VCR or DVD recorder. Many new boxes don't have timers, or a cable company "software upgrade" deactivates the timer feature. Then you're stuck, because there's usually no way for your recorder to change channels on the box. At that point, since you're already paying for the decoder box, you may as well just pony up the extra fee for the PVR feature and enjoy it.
But most people who ask about cable and DVD recorders *do not* have a decoder box, do not now and do not ever *want* a decoder box, would rather catch an STD than use a decoder box. Such people are on bottom-tier "boxless" cable service plans. In some cities, a VCR (or older pre-digital DVD recorder) still works with "boxless" cable because its "stupid" and doesn't have the computerized digital/analog hybrid tuner of a newer DVD recorder: it only has the old analog tuner, so it completely ignores all the digital tricks the cable company pulls to confuse new DVD recorders. Eventually a VCR or older DVD-R will stop working, because cable companies are rapidly phasing out analog signals altogether now that its four years since the digital transition and almost everyone in America has bought a huge digital LCD or Plasma television. Once analog cable is gone in your area, you'll need a decoder box for any recorder. Remember also, EP/6hr on a VCR with a tube TV looks a hell of a lot better than EP/6hr on a DVD connected to a 32" LCD TV. A DVD recorder can't really record more than one or two shows per night in good quality unless it has a hard disk drive built in, and even then most owners of big flat screens are disappointed at the PQ.
Other trends need to be factored: before DVD was invented, everyone owned a VCR that could record because you couldn't really buy a VHS that "only played" for very much cheaper (the mechanism was the same for both). In the early days, most people recorded TV, but once tape rental stores sprouted on every corner 9 out of 10 people used their VCR as strictly a movie rental player, rarely recording anything. When DVD came out and took off like wildfire, it didn't record at first, yet nobody cared: the video quality of rental movies was now MUCH better, and hardly anyone recorded. Those that did, found TiVo.
After a few years, DVD recorders were introduced, but unlike with tape (which recorded from day one) adding a recording feature to DVD quadrupled
the price of the machine. People viewed DVD recorders as a novelty stunt, esp when early models proved incredibly confusing to use and limited in function compared to the "obsolete" VCR. By the time prices dropped enough to make DVD recorders "affordable," huge flat screens had taken over the living room and suddenly DVD recorders weren't "sharp enough" to record the SuperBowl. The combination of the HDTV boom and the ease of use and cheap rental cost of cable/satellite HDTV-PVRs was the deathblow to advanced DVD recorders.
Today, DVD recorders are only bought by a tiny minority divided into two camps:
1. Those who want to build a library of DVD video recordings, and will tolerate all manner of inconvenience and "standard def" PQ to do it.
2. Those who delude themselves that they can "get over" on their cable company by using a DVD recorder instead of renting the cable PVR. This group is very vocal on various forums, swearing up and down that a DVD recorder works just great for them and crowing about how they're screwing their cable company blind. Its tempting to believe them, and many are indeed successful, but be aware of two key things they often fail to mention: they watch on a 27" tube television that makes everything look great, and probably live in Hooterville, SD where the cable company hasn't joined the 21st century and still provides everyone in town with an uncontaminated analog boxless feed. If you live in Des Moines or Chicago or bought a TV set after 2006, forget it.