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Getting Acquainted with TiVo

Until you've seen TiVo in action, you can't quite understand all the hubbub. Isn't a "TiVo" just a glorified VCR? Everybody already has a VCR; nothing new here, move along. Yet people aren't moving along. If they're not buying the thing, they're hearing other people talk about it. And TiVo certainly has abilities worth raving about.

Pausing live TV

Your friends take their seats, the show begins, and, a few minutes later, the pizza man rings the doorbell. Who misses the show to fetch the pizza? With TiVo, nobody misses anything. A press of the TiVo remote's pause button freezes the screen, flicker-free, until you return, pizza in hand.

How does it do that? TiVo never really displays "live TV." TiVo constantly records whatever channel you're watching. Even when you watch "live" TV, you're actually seeing TiVo's recording, which appears onscreen about one second afterthe show reaches everybody else's TV screens. Pressing the Pause button merely freezes the display; TiVo continues to record the show in the background. Push the Pause button again, and TiVo starts playing its recording again, right where you left off.

Controlling your own Instant Replays

Sports fans love watching an "Instant Replay." During a football game, for instance, the network's Instant Replay lets everybody see who dropped the ball, why, and who's now lying on top of it. TiVo borrows the power of Instant Replay from the networks and passes it into your own hands. You can see an Instant Replay of anything you're watching, any time you want.

When something exciting happens onscreen, push the TiVo remote's "Instant Replay" button. TiVo instantly rewinds eight seconds and starts playing, letting you watch the past eight seconds again.

Didn't jump back far enough? Push the Instant Replay button twiceto jump back 16 seconds. If the action happens too fast to see what's going on, push the Pause button, then push the Fast-Forward button to move through the sequence frame by frame.

Putting your television to work

TiVo works as your robotic television manager, constantly scanning upcoming show listings to separate your favorites from the trash. It juggles the recordings to avoid possible overlaps, and it saves the good stuff until you're ready to watch it.

Simply put, TiVo makes you the boss of your television. You're no longer at the mercy of the networks, their rigid scheduling, and their loud commercials. You no longer have to watch "whatever's on" when you sit down. Your TiVo insulates you from the bad aspects of TV, catching only the good.

It's surprisingly easy how TiVo manages your TV viewing. You select names from a list, telling TiVo your favorite show titles, movie titles, actors, directors, or subjects. TiVo scours the show listings for the next two weeks, automatically scheduling and recording shows that match your interests.

Zipping past the commercials

TiVo's remote comes with Fast-Forward and Rewind buttons, just like the ones on a VCR's remote. Unlike a VCR and its slow and awkward tapes, TiVo records everything on its hard drive— just like the one inside a computer.

So you can fast-forward through those intrusive bits of nonsense called commercials much faster. Whenever a commercial begins, press TiVo's Fast-Forward button. When you spot your show playing on the screen, push the Play button. TiVo backs up a bit and begins playing your show from when the commercials stopped.

TiVo's sweet little gifts

After TiVo knows your interests, the friendly box begins leaving you little presents. It works like this: Unless you're recording a weekend marathon of back-to-back Simpsons episodes, TiVo usually has some leftover space on its hard drive. Eager to please, TiVo fills that empty space with shows it thinks you might enjoy, based on the shows that you're currently recording.

TiVo records suggestions only if there's room. If it's already stuffed full with shows you've told it to record, TiVo stifles its urge to record suggestions. And when your hard drive fills up and TiVo needs more room to record your favorite shows, TiVo starts housecleaning by automatically deleting any suggestions to free up space.

Saving shows to VCR or DVD burner

If you and your VCR are inseparable, TiVo teams up with it fairly well. When TiVo records a show that you absolutely must add to your videotape cabinet, choose TiVo's Save to VCR option. When TiVo begins playing back your show for the VCR, neatly displaying the show's name in a black stripe along the bottom, press the VCR's Record button.

Some TiVo models include a built-in DVD recorder, letting you save your shows to a DVD just as easily. TiVo can send shows to a portable DVD burner just as easily as a VCR; TiVo neither knows nor cares that you're connecting a DVD burner instead of a VCR.

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