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Archive for February 2011

Farewell the original UK Tivo

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One bit of kit I probably won’t be able to keep going much longer

In the midst of my zeal to get more value out of some of my older electronics I’ve just had a setback.

This morning I turned on my Tivo and got this screen:

Tivo UK Series 1 - end of life

No more predictions for me

To be honest, I’ve been expecting this news. There were always going to be two options. Either the hardware was going to expire (something I’d tried to mitigate already 3 years ago by upgrading the hard disc, the only mechanical component), or Tivo itself would turn the system off.

Option two happened first. Yes, I am an early adopter. Tivo launched in Britain in October 2000. But in having my Tivo for something like 8 years, I’m surprised that they waited quite this long.

The thing about Tivo which makes it different from other hard disc recorders is that it depends on a regular download of TV and radio programme data provided by Tivo itself. No EPG data, and the box becomes a dumb VHS device you have to laboriously set for each recording.

Tivo was something that Sky brought in to help navigate their hundreds of satellite channels. But a year later Sky realised it was something they could do themselves and launched the Sky+ box in 2001.

Tivo lingered for a little while but decided to stop selling their device at the start of 2003.

All that time it was actually Sky which maintained the Tivo platform. You never needed a Sky subscription however, Tivo worked perfectly well with Freeview, which is what I used it with. If you had a problem with your subscription it’s  Sky’s call centre you get put through to.

I actually bought a Topfield Freeview Plus recorder a year ago and I have been running the two side by side. I’d been trying to wean myself off Tivo because I knew my hardware didn’t have a future although I still use it on a daily basis. The reason why is significant and it’s something that today’s manufacturers still need to pay attention to.

1) Tivo is really simple to use.

2) The box predicts what I want to watch and if I forget to record something, it normally does it anyway.

And that’s it. That’s what’s kept me using it for 8 years. Many’s the time I’ve been on the train in the morning and while flicking through the free paper realised there was something on TV that night I wanted to watch. Dammit, I’d think. I wish I’d set the recorder.

Imagine my delight when I got home and discovered that this gorgeous box had done it for me! There was always something on TV I wanted to watch. I stopped watching linear TV (and advertisements) the same week, and I’ve never gone back. That knack of prediction is something Freeview and Sky never managed to replicate.

Compared with the Topfield device I have now, even 8 years on, the original Tivo interface is a *lot* easier to use.

I shall miss it.

But Tivo is about to  re-launch on a new platform and want rid of legacies like my old box. Although I imagine that with Tivo now being associated with Virgin Media , Sky don’t want to keep it going any longer. Maybe there are contractual issues. Who knows.

It would be interesting to know how many of the original Thomson Scenium devices are still out there, and what proportion of them are still paying £10 a month for the EPG download (there was also an option to buy a ‘lifetime’ EPG subscription for £300).

I will now have to try and make the best of the last few months of my Tivo’s life. It’s an analogue device so keeping it going beyond digital switchover was another issue on my mind. Getting out of the habit of tagging programmes I like or dislike will be a struggle.

But viewing has moved on. My next TV will be HD, as will the recording box I buy with it. It will have at least 5x the recording space, although the number of TV channels coming into it will stay about the same (I intend staying on Freeview)

My entertainment choice will still change though. My next TV will be able to download directly from the web and playback media from any device within a WiFi radius.

What won’t change is the amount of time I have to be able to watch the damn thing!


Written by Robert

15 February, 2011 at 11:22 pm