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Television: recording programmes with sky +

How many times have you glanced through the TV guide and seen a programme that would be perfect for next week's lesson? And how often does the lesson pass by before you realise you forgot to set the video recorder? Even if you've mastered programming the video, remembering to set it is another discipline.

There is now a solution to your problem. It's not cheap and you have to be a Sky satellite customer, but a magic silver box called Sky+ means you will never have to miss a programme again.

Recording a programme is as simple as clicking on, say, Maths Mansion in the electronic programme guide for Tuesday morning and pressing the button marked with a red R. Users can set the box to record programmes up to seven days in advance and a clever Series Link feature means every episode of a series can be taped without having to set it each week. Many teachers and librarians will find this invaluable.

Programmes are recorded onto a hard drive that holds up to 20 hours of material. The recordings can then be archived on video, in real-time. The system also makes it easy to record radio programmes. Anyone familiar with Sky will find it a breeze and it won't take non-users long to master.

Sky has been trialling the technology in 16 secondary schools in south-east England with a package of channels relevant to education, including free-to-air channels, BBC 1, Channel 4, specialist documentary and arts channels, and the French language service TV5.

Teachers in the pilot have found the ability to pause a live programme very useful, and many have singled out being able to easily toggle between different parts of a recorded programme by inserting up to 20 bookmarks.

Whether Sky decides to offer a dedicated school service remains to be seen, but for home use Sky+ costs pound;199 plus installation, as well as pound;10 a month on top of the pound;18.50 for the family viewing package that includes everything but the sport and film channels.

That's a lot of money to spend every month on watching television, but it may be well spent if you are a big user of educational programmes.

Sky+ is one of the cleverest pieces of technology I have seen. It may be little more than a glorified video recorder, but it works so well and is very, very easy to use. previews will return in September

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