Artistic Licence SBP column 1/03/09

It’s a Wednesday. The night of my pub music quiz, in which I and several dozen other music nerds will be forming teams with names like Quiz Team Aguilera, The Dandy Know-it-Alls and The Guy Behind Me Looks Just Like Ringo Starr in order to compete against each other for charity. Our team tonight is comprised of five utter music nerds – people who are as confident naming every member of New Kids on the Block as they are of identifying a picture of Super Furry Animals. Personally, I’m feeling nerdy. I’m feeling confident. Game on.

There’s just one problem. I’m also supposed to be reviewing the Brit Awards on television tonight. The award ceremony kicks off at 8pm, the same time as the music quiz. At home, we own a DVD player. But it doesn’t record anything. We don’t have Sky Plus and the Brits are not accessible via the web. I e-mail my sister, who has Sky Plus.

For months now, I’ve been hearing people talk about Sky Plus like it’s a magic device. You can rewind programmes even as they’re recording, apparently. You can skip the adverts. You can probably ask it to order you wine and it would deliver it to your door. This recording the Brits lark should be no sweat. ‘‘It’s on UTV,” I e-mail, explaining the situation. ‘‘UTV?” my sister replies. UTV, it transpires, is the only station Sky Plus doesn’t record. ‘‘But I thought it did everything?” I say.

‘‘No. Could you see if it’s going to be repeated on another channel and then we could record it for you?” she replies. But if it’s repeated, then I could watch . . .Oh never mind.

I scan the office to find someone who owns a recordable DVD player. These devices are meant to be great – and I should know, as I bought my parents one last year. Admittedly, we have never actually used it to record anything – and the one time we thought we might, I realised I had forgotten to buy any DVDs to record with. But still, other people should know about them.

One of my colleagues tells me that she owns a DVD player. Does it record things? She looks puzzled. ‘‘To be honest,” she says, ‘‘even if it could record TV, I have no idea how to work it.” She suggests asking the technology editor for help.

‘‘Do you have a DVD recorder that actually records things?” I enquire. ‘‘No,” he replies. ‘‘They’re useless.” ‘‘Why is it that ten years ago, I could have videoed a programme on my crummy VCR and now I can’t do a thing?” I ask. ‘‘Good question,” he replies cheerfully. ‘‘If I were you, I’d buy a cheap, second hand VCR through a small ad or from adverts.ie.”

So it has come to this: years of technological advances have created a situation where it is harder, rather than easier, for me to record a TV programme. Furthermore, it is also virtually impossible to buy a new VCR. Sod it, I’m still going to the quiz.

We put in a fierce effort, but wind up coming third, hammered by Quiz Team Aguilera and MCD who, it turns out, know a thing or two about music. Personally, I put our less than impeccable performance down to the personal stress engendered by having to locate someone in the Dublin region in under eight hours who owns a workable VCR.

Team Dandy Know-it-Alls were truly the victims of technology. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy a second-hand VCR.

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