TV: Times, they are a changin'

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Jennifer L. Grubbs

Jennifer L. Grubbs' "I on Life" column appears Tuesdays in the Craig Daily Press. E-mail her at jgrubbs@craigdailypress.com

How many people watch TV the same way they did 15 years ago? How about five years ago? One year ago?

Television and how we watch the shows and movies we love - or tolerate to pass time - are changing constantly.

Only two years ago, I still used VHS tapes and set my VCR to record favorite shows when I would miss the live airing.

If I think back to my childhood, we could only afford basic cable service, about 40 channels total. We had three TV sets, a large, newer one in the living room, a medium one upstairs in the family room that did not have a remote, and a tiny one that still had UHF channel dials, which was my father's when he was in the U.S. Navy.

Those TV sets served us well. In the living room, in the early 1980s, you could be sure that it would be tuned to "Rainbow Bright" or "Thundercats" or "3-2-1-Contact" - at least until 5:30, when Dad got home and the news came on. (But that's also part of where my appreciation for the news came from:)

In the early 1990s, my viewing habits turned to MTV and primetime network shows, such as "My So-Called Life" and "Nothing Sacred."

In the late 1990s, my family got a big, new TV set, the old living room set moved upstairs, and we had new 14-inch TV/VCR combos in the four kids' rooms.

My sister, Heidi, was the master of setting the VCR. She taped shows all the time and compiled extensive collections of entire seasons on videotapes.

In 1999, with my new computer (high school graduation present), I moved from TV toward downloading music. (Once upon a time, I gloried in the wonder of Napster, now I use iTunes, and it's all nice and legal.)

Then, when Heidi graduated and got her computer two years later, she branched out into downloading TV shows - an entire season of "Star Trek: Voyager" fit on just a few DVDs, rather than a tall stack of video tapes!

While these transitions were happening for Heidi and I, we weren't aware of how these new possibilities were changing our TV viewing habits.

Back in Sterling, I didn't think my viewing habits had changed that much. Sure, we had made the transition from a VCR to a DVD-R and then to a DVR. Sure it was now possible to pause live TV. Sure, there now was a guide available at the push of a button to tell me what was on. But it happened slowly enough that it didn't feel like a major change.

When I moved to Craig, I signed up for Bresnan, which was the same service I had in Sterling. Now, even with my crazy, hectic schedule at the paper, which often involves late nights, I know that my shows are recording at home for me to watch whenever I want. And I can watch them on my huge, flat-screen TV that I got at a day-after Thanksgiving door-buster sale (I was there at 4:25 a.m.). But I also can watch my old VHS tapes of movies and shows, or I can watch my DVDs, thanks to a combo DVD/VCR player.

And if I just want to watch TV, but I'm not sure what's on, I can check the on-screen guide, or log onto the Web and visit the for NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX 31, The CW, Food Network, Discovery Channel, HGTV, MTV, AMC, TLC, Disney Channel, Bravo, ESPN, Lifetime, PBS, QVC, VH1, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, The Weather Channel, etc. I can even print out their schedules.

Or, I can click over to he TV Guide Channel (60 on Bresnan), where the listings scroll through every couple minutes.

Or, I can buy TV Guide on newsstands.

Or, I can subscribe to the Craig Daily Press and receive The Sunday Denver Post and request its companion TV Week booklet be delivered to my house Sundays. (That's what my Grandpa Mel always used.)

I know there are plenty of people who already miss the listings being printed in the Daily Press, and taking them out was not an easy decision for us. But it was necessary for our business.

Just like my sister and her VCR-to-downloading transition, or my newfound DVR dependence, the way we watch TV is changing. The Daily Press has to change with the times.

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