November 19th, 2003


Gimme Gimme Gimme

I have a Tivo. I have a DVD player. Somewhere between these two I see the heavenly convergence of Video on Demand.

Tivo unlocked me from the shackles of the television. No longer were mealtimes scheduled around what time a television program was going to be shown - television was just magically there whenever I turned it on - dozens of programs plucked from the air as they passed and then held waiting for _me_ to be in the mood to watch. I didn't have to obey the whim of program schedulers - I was a television scheduler myself, with a demographic of one and no market to satisfy but myself. Oh, and occasionally the girlfriend, but you can't have everything.

DVD filled in the other part of the equation - no matter how many channels there are, there isn't enough space to show all the television I might want to watch, and if I've forgotten to record current repeats of first season of The West Wing then even the magic of Tivo can't bring them to me. The magic of DVD, on the other hand, can. I can pluck the shiny disc out of it's box and watch them whenever I like. Once again, TV scheduled for whenever I want it. The selection's higher this way, but so is the cost.

Somewhere in between them is Video-on-Demand. In this ideal future my cable provider runs the Tivo themselves, storing vast warehouses of television in towers of hard drives so large that by standing on top of them one could reach heaven itself. And by choosing from their vast selection I can have whatever television I want delivered to my home, to view at any time. It's not a new dream, but it's only a matter of time. The bandwidth is (almost) there. The storage is (almost) there. If they believed that people would pay for it, it could be done. I'd pay for my tv if I could have it on demand and advert-free. I _do_ pay for my tv - boxes of the West Wing and Buffy and Simpsons. What joy it would be to offload the pain of ownership onto someone else and clear my bulging shelves of the obsolete plastic which lines them.

Some day I will be able to sit at my television and ask it to show me any program in existence without worrying about when it was on or where I could obtain it from. Can't come soon enough.