You may not have heard much about the digital recorder Tivo, but steel yourself for the hard sell in the run-up to Christmas. Tivo is the latest television recording device and it will delight anyone who has trouble finding a blank video cassette when they need to record their favourite programme.
At first glance Tivo looks as if it could be the perfect answer for those of us who never really got to grips with programming our VCRs. You don't have to set a clock to record a programme; you simply press one button. And sports fans can press the rewind button for an action replay even as Tivo continues to record the event they are watching.
By pressing buttons on the remote control you can tell the machine what type of programmes you like. From the information you supply, it will make recommendations for future viewing.
Of particular interest to schools will be the "season pass" facility and the maximum recording times. The season pass allows you to record every episode of a series, which is great for catching those early-morning schools programmes.
For those fed up with stacks of tapes, the Tivo recorder's capacity to store up to 40 hours of programmes will appeal. If you want to record everything at the highest quality, though, you'll be able to store only around 15 hours of programming. And, just as with the VCR, Tivo owners can fast forward, rewind and pause the picture.
The good news is that Tivo doesn't require a special television set as it is compatible with analogu and digital terrestrial television, digital satellite and analogue cable services. And at 43.5cm wide, 33.5cm deep and 10cm high, it doesn't take up any more space than the traditional VCR.
The drawback is that you have to subscribe to all the applications, including constantly updated listings, which are downloaded via a free phone connection. You'll also still need a VCR or DVD player if you want to watch pre-recorded material.
At the moment, VHS rules in most schools - and for good reason. The recorders are cheap - a mid-range model costs less than pound;200, and if you're brave you can pick up a cheapie from Dixons for pound;69.99 - and tapes cost just a few pounds each.
DVD has many advantages over VHS, including enhanced image quality and storage space for extra features that cannot be included on a video cassette. But, crucially, DVD still fails in one major area - you cannot buy DVD recorders. When DVD recorders are available at a reasonable price, they might find a place in schools.
If the DVD manufacturers take too long to get their act together, they could be superseded by the Tivo recorder, which is available for pound;399. Even with the lifetime subscription of pound;199, a total of pound;600 is still within the boundaries of acceptable cost when you consider how much video recorders cost when they first appeared in the shops.
Tivo is available from major electronic retailers, including Dixons and Currys. It can also be purchased from BSkyB or by calling 08702 41 84 86.