Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

And for Our Next TV Magic Trick, a Disappearing Act

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

And for Our Next TV Magic Trick, a Disappearing Act

Article excerpt

When I was a kid, my family had a small reel-to-reel tape recorder - a gift from one of my father's business associates. It was a nice piece of equipment that came in a handsome leather case with a shoulder strap, so I could carry it around with me like a TV newsman.

Around this time - the early 1960s - the old Buster Crabbe "Flash Gordon" serials (which I loved) were running on Saturday morning TV. And one day, I thought to myself, "What if I tape recorded the episodes? Then, I could listen to them any time I wanted to!"

So, yes, I recorded the entire serial. And, I listened to it any time I wanted to.

My tape recorder had become the first VCR!

Well, minus the V, since there was no video. And the C, since there were no cassettes, either.

It was good enough, though. And I was reminded of my almost 50- year-old Flash Gordon tape last Monday when I recorded the NBC show "Smash" on my DVR.

Ah, the joys of modern living!

Isn't it amazing how much has happened in the 50 years since I had to visualize Flash, Dale and Dr. Zarkov in my little Italian brain? First came the Betamax. Then the VCR, with its clunky VHS tapes.

I still have about 17,000 videocassettes in my house - everywhere - even though I no longer have a VCR to play them. Many of these cassettes contain movies I recorded myself. But, I also have a few hundred pre-recorded movies that I bought from video stores, later replacing them with DVD versions.

In 1999, after DVDs had relegated VHS tapes to the scrap heap of history, along came TiVo and a whole new generation of technology that allowed you to record things from your TV and not worry about where to store them. They were all on a hard drive, in a magic box, where they would stay forever and ever.

Or until last Monday night - whichever came first.

About 10:50 p.m. I went into the living room, so I could begin watching "Smash" - without the commercials, which I would fast- forward through.

But, as I soon discovered, my DVR didn't record "Smash." All I had was a dark black screen!

"I missed 'Smash,' " I yelled. Smashing things.

Shortly after 11 p.m. I called my satellite provider and had a long heart-to-heart with a technician named Justine. …

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