There are three main ways of recording TV or watching recorded TV now that HD reigns. VCRs and DVD recorders are a thing of the past and cannot handle HDTV, which is now the norm.
. renting a DVR digital video recorder from a cable provider like Comcast
. buying and renting a recorder from TIVO
. recording on PC with Windows Media Center (the Mac also records HDTV and the iPad plays some TV, though not HD)
You could also more and more just rely on online recorded TV, such as HULU and PBS.
The benefits of recording are that you can watch when you want. You may not want to watch commercials. (In the case of prescribed medicine commercials, I choose to let my doctor make my prescription choices and not watch them.) Or you may want to stop and start live TV to answer a phone call, etc.
The Comcast option is simple. Your simply pay about $15 a month for their very capable HD capable DVR box. Comcast also has on demand TV. You need Comcast service, of course, which can be expensive for full HDTV and a full assortment of HD basic channels.
The TIVO box costs $100+ up front, plus $20 a month for TIVO service. TIVO also now offers access to online TV, and more and more “TV” is moving online, much already pre-recorded. You do not need a computer, though. With TIVO just an internet connection is needed. If that connection is not close to your TV, a $60 wireless box may be needed.
For cheap online TV only, the inexpensive Roku and AppleTV boxes also offer much, online only, most already recorded but usually not in HD yet. The boxes cost $60-100 and there is no blanket monthly fee for the box. There are instead fees for Netflix and other such services, and for some programming, but much is free. You do not need a PC for thse either, but you do need an internet connection at about $25 a month or more. If you have a computer, you probably have that already.
Viewing online on a newer PC also requires internet. To view regular TV channels on a PC you need a box to connect the PC to cable or such a service as cable or SeniorTV or satellite TV. I have found the HDHomerun device at $70+ to be reliable. This device can stream to multiple PCs and even stream multiple channels. (Tech readers: the box even works with Ubuntu 11.4.) Most digital and HDTVs can accept input from a PC.
A fast newer PC can also record HDTV. The recording time is likely to be 10-20 hours as opposed to 35-up for the DVR boxes.
I will be evaluating the new TIVO Premiere box. Meanwhile, I will be using a PC with Windows Media Center for recording without either the upfront or monthly costs. My newer PC also sends to my HDTV.
Your PC and SeniortTV service, plus internet ($$)
PC or Roku or AppleTV for online only, plus internet ($)
Senior TV and TIVO, with or without internet online TV ($$)
Comcast or Cable ($$$)