When I told the history of DIRECTV DVRs

One of my favorite article series was written all the way back in August, 2014. In three articles, I tackled the history of the DIRECTV DVR starting with the very earliest models and going up to (what was then) the present day.Take a look:

The history of DIRECTV DVRs part 1: Prehistory

The history of DIRECTV DVRs, part 2: From Zero to Hero

The history of DIRECTV DVRs, part 3: The Genie is out of the bottle

It’s funny to think that just 20 years ago the DVR was an incredibly new piece of equipment. It was very limited back in the early days but my, how it grew.

Have we outgrown DVRs?

Satellite DVRs continued to evolve after cable DVRs got very stagnant. Most cable TV DVRs were never really that good but they performed the basic function of letting pause live TV. They generally lacked recording capacity, especially in HD. However, in the 2000s cable TV had the advantage of nearly instant on-demand programming. DIRECTV relies on the customer’s internet service for on-demand. Back then, that meant long wait times. Today, starting an on-demand program is pretty much as fast as playing a recording on a DVR.

That’s led a lot of people to think that we’ve outgrown DVRs since you can get so much programming on demand. Why would you bother to set up recordings when they’re going to be available anyway on demand?

Actually I’ll argue that DVRs are just as important now as they were back then, and for the same reasons.

Your DVR records every channel

Even though a lot of content is available on demand now, a lot more isn’t. You may not be able to get your local news or local daytime programming on demand, for example. Some content simply doesn’t repeat or isn’t available on demand. I’ve noticed that TCM is really bad at putting their live TV selection over to their on-demand channel. If you see it in the guide on TCM and you want it, you’re much better off recording it rather than hoping that you’ll find it in the on-demand selection. Other channels are better, but no channel is perfect.

Your DVR keeps everything more or less forever.

Most on-demand programs expire eventually. Even streaming content goes away or is removed from services. If you want to keep something, if you’re going away for a while or you’re just stockpiling content, a DVR will let you keep something for as long as that DVR still functions. That could be years. I’ve even heard of some early 2006-era DIRECTV DVRs that are still out there working perfectly. On the other hand, on-demand content automatically expires usually within about a month.

DVRs let you pause live TV.

Let’s not forget the first and most impressive use of DVR technology. Prior to 1999, it was impossible to pause live TV. You could record something but you’d need to finish the recording before you watched. Everyone under the age of 40 remembers rushing to the rest room during commercials or telling people to shush during programs. If you missed that line of dialogue, it was gone forever.

With a DVR, you can pause and rewind live TV. This means you don’t have to miss a minute of the action, and in today’s world, that’s a necessity.

History of DIRECTV DVRs part 4?

Come back to the blog tomorrow, you might just find that the 3-part series has a fourth new part, for everything in the last five years. It might be worth reading!

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.