A day without a DVR

Back in 2013, I decided to live without a DVR. At least, for one day. I wrote:

Knowing that you can’t pause really makes you focus on the TV. I wasn’t inclined to touch my phone, not even once, and I found myself entranced with every moment whether important or not, treasuring it as if it were a sunset I would never again witness. This is how I remember watching television in my youth, I realized. This is how television was meant to be watched.

You can read all my experiences here. Without the ability to pause, I needed to plan things better, perhaps not gulping down massive amounts of fluid before sitting down to watch an hour of entertainment. I came to both love and hate commercial breaks, and I remembered why it was that I was so entranced with a DVR in the first place.

TV the way it was intended

It’s funny, I do love old TV shows but I didn’t always watch them as intended. A lot of times old TV shows are found on streaming apps now, and you don’t see commercial breaks. You also don’t wait an entire week before you watch another episode. That’s how old shows were designed, and if you binge any show made in the 20th century it becomes pretty obvious that there are some flaws in that logic.

As part of that 2013 experiment, though, I got more familiar with the subchannels I had available to me. Watching subchannels, which are almost exclusively available on over-the-air TV, is a lot more like watching old TV. The picture isn’t as clear, there are plenty of commercial breaks, and you get different shows one after another. You don’t watch ten episodes of the same thing straight.

DVR everywhere

Today, of course we have DVRs for our satellite and cable boxes, and some people have put in a simple DVR system for over-the-air TV that lets them pause and record as well. There’s also the concept of the “cloud DVR” which if you think about it, is a way to describe Netflix, Hulu, and that crowd. You have this big selection of programs and you can play and pause them as you choose. Live streaming services like DIRECTV NOW and Sling will let you pause live TV and download from an on demand library. There’s even the option to DVR some programs, depending on the service you have. We take DVR pretty much for granted today, because it’s everywhere.

A time saver, but a stress creator?

The wonderful thing, though, about a life without a DVR, is the sense of serenity. The pace of old television shows was designed for six breaks an hour, and you couldn’t change that. Today we tend to avoid breaks and power through on everything. Sometimes it’s just fun to turn on the TV and see where life takes you. It’s a great opportunity to destress and really get to know the world “in real time.” Honestly, there are so few opportunities we really have to do that, and sometimes… it’s kind of nice.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.