For a long time, the only way people could watch their favorite shows is if they were in their condo with the TV tuned to the right channel when it came on. Then came VCRs, where you could plug a device into your TV, and supposing you could figure out how to program it properly, record television shows to watch later. Now there's a new generation of television recorders known as PVRs or personal video recorders. They're a lot easier to use than the old school VCRs. We'll tell you all about them here so you can decide if you want to buy one.
A PVR is similar to a VCR in that it records what you tell it to, but PVRs record to flash memory or a computer hard drive, not a cassette tape. Some earlier models will even burn the episode onto a re-recordable DVD. The PVR also does not connect the same way to your TV. Instead of using co-axial cables, it will use component audio/video or sometimes even HDMI cables. Therefore they will only work with newer TVs that have the proper ports, not that old thing you found in the basement of your home.
The major advantage to having a PVR instead of VCR in your home comes in the functionality. With a VCR, the user was responsible for knowing the start and end dates and times of the program as well as the channel. Entering the information incorrectly would result in the VCR recording the wrong thing while you're off interviewing painting companies in Mississauga to add some colour to your home. With a PVR, the device is tied in with your digital cable company's guide menu. Therefore you can simply choose the items that you want to have recorded off the schedule.
This is only the most basic feature of the PVR, however. Most people who can afford them have already discovered it's more interesting features. For one thing, it allows you to regularly record the same program, so if you work late every Wednesday, you can set it once to always record Cougar Town. You can also use it to pause and rewind live TV. It does this by recording the feed as it plays to the hard drive and making it accessible right away.
If you want to buy a PVR for your TV, the best way to do so is to go through your cable company. They will generally sell or rent you a device that is already configured to work with their guide and feeds. However, if you won a device in a contest put on by a local business or want to buy your own model at the electronics store, you can set them up yourself.