Don't Know What You've Got Till It's Gone (...or You've Never Had It)

Published: Wednesday, Feb 20, 2008
Upon hearing news of the proposed merger between satellite radio companies XM and Sirius (for an interesting take on whether this will happen, check out this story), I couldn’t help but think of my own experience with satellite radio and how much I love it. Before I explain, here’s how I see it…

There are two camps of satellite radio listeners: those who love Howard Stern (Sirius) and those who don’t (XM). I fall into the latter category, and I’m glad I made the choice all those years ago when satellite radio was just as misunderstood as Sanjaya Malakar. Over the years, XM has added a 24-hour hockey station (XM 204 – Home Ice) and Major League Baseball to its channel lineup, giving me something to look forward to besides the great uninterrupted music during my 70-minute ride to and from work every day.

Currently, I have two XM subscriptions/radios: one for my car complete with the sports ticker, 30-minute replay, and the “Favorites” feature that tells me when one of my favorite songs/artists is currently playing on another station. My second unit is hooked up to my home theater system, which allows me to listen to the XM feed outside on my “B” speakers (outdoor speakers and the summer…sounds like a future “Downtime” topic…) and turn on contemporary jazz (Channel 71, “Watercolors”), light pop/romance songs for the lady (Channel 23, “The Heart”), or “later” classic rock (Channel 49, “Big Tracks”) and enjoy a fine cigar and a glass of Rosemount Shiraz on my deck (hmmm…cigars and wine…another “Downtime” column!). And sometimes, when I want to bother my annoying neighbor, I throw on Channel 42 (“Liquid Metal”) and crank up the volume. Good times.

The thing is, I’m a gadget hound who was never interested in satellite radio until my dad got it and told me how awesome it was. Now, you have to know that my dad is not the most technologically savvy individual by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s a damn smart fellow and the best Jeopardy! player I’ve ever seen; so, his advice is usually sound. A day later, I had my fi rst XM radio, and I haven’t looked back since.

Simply put, you don’t know how good satellite radio is until you have it. To test myself, I tried listening to the clowns on New York’s 95.5 WPLJ morning show one Friday, and it was like I was back in 2002: They were doing the exact same shtick (“The Friday Morning Blast Off , complete with in-studio audience!”) as they did back then, with the same musical preludes, the same gags, the

same commercials, the same personalities, the same jokes…everything. Th e formula was identical, and the result was also the same: LAME. Hearing the show just confi rmed what I already knew: never again would I go back to free radio. I will gladly pay 12

bucks a month to keep my ears free from the debacle that is AM/FM.

Which brings me to my next “can’t-live-without-it” gadget: TiVo. Much like satellite radio, TiVo is only appreciated if you have it. If you don’t, well, I’m sorry.

Anyway, TiVo brings something to the table that other digital video recorders (DVRs) simply can’t: personality. With everything from the little “TiVo guy,” to the ergonomic and perfectly situated “peanut” remote, to the unmistakable audible “boops” (they’re not beeps, they’re boops) that greet every keypress, TiVo is a welcome part of our home, both upstairs as a hacked 120-hour original Series 1 DirecTiVo unit that integrates with my DirecTV satellite television, and downstairs as the HD TiVo unit, which can record HD broadcasts. Nirvana indeed!

With innovative features like the “Season Pass,” “Wishlists,” and “Suggestions,” my TiVo has become the go-to gadget in my home. Honestly, if I could only keep one piece of tech, TiVo would be it. With three kids, television watching comes at a premium, and with top-notch shows (see my list) only a click away, when an hour can be had on my schedule, the TiVo is my life—and time—saver.

Recoding television through a hard drive is such a simple idea, but I never thought it could be this cool or literally impact my “downtime” as much as it has. When I first brought it home, my wife thought it was just another piece of electronics that I would soon abandon for the next big thing. It wasn’t long before she became even more of a television junkie than she already was, setting up Little Einstein Season Passes for our kids or recording stellar programs like What Not to Wear for herself.

So even if I have to sort through countless “Oxygen” shows or Noggin entertainment, it’s all been worth it. The power of TiVo, indeed.


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