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TV Gets Personal with Digital Recorders

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RALEIGH — Personal television systems allow viewers to exercise more control than ever over what they watch and when.

The new digital recorders fromTiVoand Replay TV allow viewers to manipulate live shows and record them.

The TiVo unit is a digital recorder that ties together television sources: cable, satellite and antenna.

Computer engineer Sean Smith enjoys his TiVo and explains how it works.

"When the phone rings, I simply hit pause. I go about my business, and when I'm ready to start watching the program again, I hit the play button. It resumes right where I left off, and it will continue recording," Smith says.

TiVo stores up to 30 hours of programs in basic video quality. Highest quality gives DVD-like performance.

The personal TV receiver even records and plays at the same time.

The $500 box is very sophisticated.

"They contain a processor, and they use a hard drive very similar to what people have in their PCs, along with something called 'Mpeg' which compresses the video into a digital format and stores it on the hard drive until you decide to play it later," says Smith.

A viewer programs TiVo once, and it automatically records his or her favorite shows any time they are broadcast.

By pressing the "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" button on the remote, a viewer teaches the unit about his or her TV habits.

"It stores that information in your box, and it can then build a profile of what it thinks you like," Smith says.

A $10 monthly fee provides automatically updated and consolidated program listings.

TiVo is sold by online and by Triangle retailers for about $500.

Replay TV is a bit more expensive but does not charge a monthly updating fee. ReplayTV can be ordered online and by phone.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
Joe Frieda, Photographer
Julie Moos, Web Editor

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