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FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, EIGHT
Two New Gadgets Bring Fun Back
You can teach an old dog new tricks!

by Rita Ayers
February 6, 2008

I consider myself unusual in some respects. For example, I am relatively tech-savvy for someone of my generation. As a benchmark, I can tell you that I saw my first calculator my senior year in high school. I was never afraid of experimenting with camcorders, VCR's, computers, Palm Pilots, or anything else that some people found no use for – or at least, they originally thought they would just continue through life without benefit of these innovations.
 
Lately, though, I have found myself clinging to maintaining the status quo. I don't want things to keep changing. I want people to still read and write (without benefit of shorthand like LOL or OMG or IDK – and if you don't know what those are, GREAT!); I want families to hold near and dear to their heart time spent together, even if it is in front of the television. I haven't purchased a "new" gadget for myself in years.
 
Enter Sirius Radio – a surprise side benefit of buying a new vehicle these days. Many automobiles now roll off the assembly line equipped with a satellite radio; Sirius spices things up a bit by providing the first six months free of charge to new car buyers. I figured in six months, I would just cancel when the inevitable postcard came to hit me with the first bill when the freebie expired.   After all, my morning commute is only ten minutes; I rarely bothered to even turn the radio on for such a short time. On longer trips, I usually packed favorite CD's so that I didn't have to attempt to find a strong signal from my moving target. In short, I've never been much of a radio nut anyway.
 
Not only did I not cancel my account when my six months were up, I signed up for a lifetime subscription. There is something for everyone here – talk radio, sports, news, comedy, and music from virtually every imaginable genre, all of which is rarely interrupted by advertising. Sirius has replaced all of our car games from the past (we long ago spotted a car tag from every state). Now, we begin on Channel 5 (music from the 50's) and play Name That Tune. As soon as someone correctly shouts out the name of the tune and/or the artist (one point for each; three points if you get them both), I push the channel button to Channel 6 (which is, as you would guess, music from the 60's) and the game continues at a rapid-fire pace.
 
It might seem that this is unfairly slanted towards the adults, but as we continue up the dial, the odds tip in favor of the youngsters. We have a blast with this game, playing it for short jaunts over to New Orleans or on longer trips the length of our state. In fact, no matter where we go, we still receive all the stations and has proven to be exceptionally reliable in the year I've been listening.
 
While I can't honestly say our little game has made me like the music of today any better, it has opened my eyes and made me really listen to what my kids enjoy. They, in turn, are beginning to develop an appreciation for classic rock 'n roll and get a huge kick out of their father and me singing a favorite at the top of our lungs.  It's brought together family members and friends ranging in age from 12 to - well, way on up there, let's say.
 
Another positive aspect of it has been the comedy networks. I now routinely start my morning off by dropping in on one of the comedy stations (they're way up in the 100's – yep, there are that many stations). I find that I am walking into the school far more often smiling and even stifling a chuckle or two. I liked it so much that I bought a unit for my husband (just the radio, not the whole new car thing); he thoroughly enjoys having ESPN available round the clock, along with being able to hear all the news from his native New Orleans.
 
No, I'm not getting any commission or discount from Sirius for writing this article. I just think the improvements over the old-fashioned static-filled radios of my youth are astounding and worthy of a mention.
 
The second advance that has only recently graced the Ayers household has been TiVo. This is one of those things I would have never purchased for myself, as I quit using my VCR to record live television long ago. It took too much preparation time, and my cabinets were still filled with videos I recorded of 1988 made-for-TV movies that I never got around to watching.
 
But, TiVo ain't your father's VCR. My daughter bought one of these contraptions – a digital video recorder – for Christmas for me this year. It has completely revolutionized the way I watch television.
 
First, as the lovely host of the TiVo tour will tell you, this recorder is smart. It learns what you like and records it for you, even if you didn't specifically find the program in advance and tell it to do so. It is always recording what you are watching, so that if the phone rings and you need to pause it, you can do so. When you come back, you can pick up where you left off without missing a beat. But – should you choose to miss a beat, such as those pesky fourteen minutes of commercials out of every half hour show – you can just zip right through them. I watched the entire Miss America pageant, which was televised live and took two hours to view, in only 70 minutes. What a time-saver!
 
While you do have to pay a monthly fee for TiVo, you do not have to buy tapes, cassettes, blank DVD's, or anything else. There is an internal hard drive that will record 80 hours of programming. You simply delete things once you've viewed them to free up space. Found something you want to keep for eternity? You can transfer it to your home computer via your wireless (or wired, if you insist) network. Very slick.
 
The initial setup of the TiVo was a breeze. Pick a few favorite stations, maybe a couple of favorite shows, and you're done. The machine scours through listings in advance to find shows it thinks you will like and records them for you. If you find that you actually do like it, give the recording a green thumbs-up; if it's not your thing, the red thumbs-down button is the way to go. Siskel and Ebert would have been proud, indeed. These green or red votes serve to teach the TiVo even more about your personal taste, and the recoding selections it make continue to improve over time.
 
Wonder if TiVo has considered making husbands?


About the Author:
Thanks to my husband for the car containing the radio (and I was just kidding about the husbands comment!) and to my daughter for the TiVo.  You guys will keep me from growing old.  To the reading audience who was way ahead of me in getting these thingamajigs - why didn't you drop a note and tell me what I was missing?


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