Cut the cable! DVRs are a scam! I miss my VCR!

Cut the cable! DVRs are a scam! I miss my VCR!

Back in my day we could record any TV program that we wanted to. We had unlimited storage, could watch one channel, record another, pause, rewind, fast forward, skip commercials, and share our recordings with others. We could go into nearly any department store and buy one of these devices. They were called VCRs, and they were wonderful! They were affordable and you could have one in every room. You could program them to record any show, anytime, and even the whole series. You could keep the recordings and the machine forever! Nowadays, they have gone the way of the dinosaur.

The technological world has “improved” and now we have DVRs. Where can you buy a DVR? You can’t — not without a monthly subscription fee. However, you can rent them from the cable company. The great thing about DVRs is they can do everything VCRs could do. Except they lack unlimited storage, and the ability to archive or share your recordings. Not only that, VCRs will no longer record any of today’s programming — the cable companies have rendered them useless.

Back when I was a kid, TVs had 13 channels. We could get past that limit, but you had to rent a special box from the cable company. A few years later, TVs could go that high with their built in tuners, and no more external tuners were needed. You could record shows with your VCRs and watch tons of channels.

However, the cable companies and the media companies were afraid that they were “losing money.” Cable companies started to scramble once clear transmissions so that your high end TVs would no longer be able to view the higher channels without paying a fee.

In order to view those channels you had to rent a tuner from the cable companies — even though a few years earlier, no external device was needed. As a result, VCRs were rendered useless with regards to recording. This isn’t progress, this is going backwards.

So now you need to use a DVR. You can buy them or rent them, but either way, you need to pay a monthly fee to the cable company in order to decode and view those channels. Wanna build your own DVR? There’s mythTV, Elgato has solutions, so does Hauppauge, but guess what? You need to pay a monthly fee for them to work too!

How do we as consumers fight back? Easy! Stop paying for cable tv! Who’s with me? Unfortunately, not enough people.

I for one have had it. We have no cable or satellite TV in our home. We only have Comcast for internet and watch everything online.

The media companies are doing the same nonsense with instant video and music. If you buy music or movies online, you can’t use them on any device you like, they are restricted like the videos on your DVRs.

The Solution

Watch as much as you can online for free at the websites of the various content providers. Install ad blockers on your browser to avoid a lot of the ads. Also, Netflix and Amazon Prime offer many genres of video entertainment. For those few NEW shows that you just can’t watch online — yet (i.e. The newest Doctor Who episodes), I have bought seasons online from iTunes (not ideal, but quick and easy).

When I can though, I buy physical media — CDs, blu-rays, etc. Wanna watch a blu-ray on your computer, phone, etc? Easy! Convert the file to an MKV file — use VLC to play it on a computer. For a mobile device, go from the Blu-Ray to an MKV file and then use Handbrake to convert it. Also, buy the CDs not the digital downloads then rip the CDs to a lossless codec.

Spread the word, encourage your friends and family to support the kinds of technology and media delivery that gives them choices. Cut the cable — fight back!

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