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I'm stuck in a DVR time warp, and I like it

Every summer, I start descending the scroll-list of stuff we have recorded on our nearly full DVR.
Every summer, I start descending the scroll-list of stuff we have recorded on our nearly full DVR.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The digital video recorder's hard drive holds about 30 hours of HD-quality programming
  • In a way, all those neglected programs on the DVR are a bit like a time portal
  • DVR lets you marathon through two or three episodes as you might with a DVD set
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Omar L. Gallaga writes about personal technology for the Austin American-Statesman and for the newspaper's tech blog, Digital Savant, and sometimes contributes to NPR's All Tech Considered segment on "All Things Considered."

(CNN) -- Hey, do me a favor. Don't tell me how the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton ends. I haven't watched it yet. I'm assuming the deal was sealed?

Every summer, after most of the TV shows my wife and I watch end their regular-season runs, I start descending the scroll-list of stuff we have recorded on our nearly full DVR.

The digital video recorder's hard drive, which holds about 30 hours of HD-quality programming (much more if it's not HD), is stuffed with old stand-up comedy specials we never watched, never-to-be-deleted cartoons for the kids, a handful of current programs that air in the summer like "Louie" and "Children's Hospital," and some movies we didn't care about enough to rent but which were worth recording when they aired on cable.

But the bulk of what's there right now, in these hot summer months of reruns and reality shows, are very, very old programs that were easy to cast aside in the fall and spring.

I make it my mission to catch up in the summer on a lot of that programming, deleting as I go, clearing up space before our other shows start up again in August and September.

There's that royal wedding, which was recorded in the wee hours of a Friday months ago. I hear it was kind of a big deal. I would hope so: It takes up a whopping six HD hours on our DVR. I'm beginning to have my doubts that it will ever be watched, but I'm also curious about those interesting hats I heard so much about and that kiss on the balcony I missed.

Maybe it's worth experiencing something even if everyone else who gushed over it at the time has moved on.

In that way, all those neglected programs on the DVR are a bit like a time portal, a way of experiencing life as it was (at least on TV) weeks, months or years ago.

Among my DVR's contents are about half a season of "Saturday Night Live." The "Weekend Update" segment, viewed now, reminds me how obsessed the country was with former Delaware Senate candidate Christine O' Donnell. Was it witchcraft everyone was fired up about? The jokes would seem to suggest as much. Huh. I'd forgotten all about that.

And those easy punchlines from last year about Amy Winehouse's drug use don't seem that funny any more. (Were they really funny at the time? I may never know.)

There's three full seasons of "Breaking Bad" on the DVR that I promised myself I'd catch up on before Season 4 started this month. That didn't happen -- I'm still in the middle of Season 2 -- but a pleasant bonus has been imagining how viewers reacted at the time the episodes originally aired.

I can go online and find the Internet record of recaps, reviews and even archived tweets about each episode.

I might miss the thrill of being part of the discussion of a buzzed-about show while it's airing (also on our DVR: the full first seasons of "Game of Thrones" and "Boardwalk Empire"), but I can watch at my own pace, marathoning through two or three episodes at a time, as you might with a DVD set.

For old episodes of shows like "The Office" and "Modern Family," which we let stack up when time was short, there's the pleasure of also seeing commercials for movies that arrived, bombed at the box office, hastily moved on to a DVD afterlife and which we can now probably catch on HBO.

And there are the sometimes-tragic ads for new TV shows that have already been cancelled after a short run. So long, "The Cape" and "Mad Love," shows we never even knew had arrived.

Maybe our household is unusual and other DVR owners don't have such squirrel-like tendencies, storing up a stockpile of TV for the barren months. But given that we're a nation of hoarders (as I learned from another DVR'd show, "Hoarders"), and that about 40.5 million homes have digital video recorders, according to research firm Magnaglobal, I bet we're not that unique.

I bet there are a lot of people reliving the past, time-shifting into another era.

According to a report from the Nielsen Co. from late last year, 88% of DVR owners watch their recorded shows within three days of recording.

That leaves 12% of us who regularly engage in lengthier time warping, reliving the TV past with a sage knowledge of the present. The only downside: The onus is on us to be ever-vigilant in avoiding spoilers for the programs we've yet to watch.

To that end, I would ask that you not reveal who wins Super Bowl XLV.

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