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By: Jeff Pasternack


When I was but a wee young lad of 10 or so, I received a Panasonic cassette tape player/recorder as a gift. It was white and had a curved black handle with ridges, black oval buttons protruding up from underneath. I'm reasonably sure that the first tape I owned was Kiss Alive! The unit had a single speaker and used a four C batteries. Almost immediately, I realized that if I put the unit next to a speaker, I could record music and play it later. Granted, its external pinhole microphone was barely acceptable back then, but for me, it was good enough. I would eagerly wait by the radio for an upcoming song and jam down the record button as soon as it started, or even ahead of time in anticipation of what was to come. Especially for Casey Kasem's Top 40. Being able to record that and bring it to school for recess was major social cachet. And while the some might say I was in violation of any number of rules set out by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), someone else might realize that I was a Johnny-come-lately to the world known as time-shifted content.

Yes, that's right, I said time-shifted content. What, pray tell, is that, you ask? In its purest form, time-shifted content can best be described as anything that you hear or view at a time later than the moment of its creation. Obviously, a lot of fun can be had with this definition. But don't believe the latest blatherings of technocrats and digerati: they didn't create it any more than Al Gore created the Internet.

Companies such as TiVO, Apple, Sirius and others are pleased to trumpet their gadgets that time-shift content. As the consumate technopeasant, a sucker for gadgets and an admitted torturer of low-paid employees possessing questionable intelligence who work for high-tech companies and companies that sell high-tech products, I began my research in a very low-tech way: I left the comfy environs of my home and went shopping. During the Christmas rush. Yes, I am an idiot.

With Howard Stern leaving terrestial radio, I wanted to learn more about the Sirius S50, a portable device that allows for the time-shifting of Sirius's content. I adamantly deny dressing up in medieval garb and I did not wear a black cloak over a tunic, pantaloons, knee-high brown suede boots with fringed tassles and a Winchester two-handed sword in a side-slung scabbard. So I visited Best Buy because they are notorious for having pimply-faced kids selling things about which they know nothing. I know, its an easy target and I should be ashamed, but let's continue.

TPR: Well met, Marcus, I seek a gadget that allows for the time-shifting of content.

Marcus: Whoa. How'd you know my name? Oh, my tag, yeah. What uh, do you want? Is that thing real?

TPR: Young man, I am seeking a device that will allow me to time-shift content.

Marcus: You want what? A time machine?

TPR: Sir Marcus, heed my words. I quest for a device that will allow me to time-shift content. I beseech you, show me where it is.

Marcus: You be what? Man, we don't sell time machines. Oh, wait, ha ha, I get it, you want a watch? Is that what you want? Like a Rolex?

TPR: M'lord, if I wanted to shift time, then yes, a watch would be fine. I want to time-shift content.

Marcus: Uh...dude, you're whack. I got work to do.

At this point, it seemed that my, uh, questions, were attracting a bit more attention than I thought necessary and so I left the store, quest unfulfilled. But as I fled the parking lot in a satisfying squeal of rubber, I began to wonder about the minds who would create a phrase such as “time-shifted content.” I bet they coined the various dot-comisms that plagued our lives, like this beauty: if you harness compelling content into value-added vortals, you can monetize digital eyeballs and grow mindshare. Yuck. Perhaps the whole re-naming trend goes back to the days of “New and Improved Tide.” Wouldn't you like to see the results of a test comparing the Tide formulas from 1963 and 2006 and see the difference, if any? Inquiring minds want to know. But I digress.

One of the compelling aspects of the Sirius S50 is the fact that the device is sleek and can store up to 50 hours of time-shifted content. You can transfer your MP3s to the device and you can also download live material from various Sirius broadcasts and replay them later, but you apparently cannot record one channel while listening to another, which is strange. In reading through the many reviews and comments, a few things strike me. First, this unit appears to have been rushed to the market as evidenced by the variety of bugs. Second, a number of long-accepted conventions in entertainment devices have been discarded. For example, on every media recorder I've ever seen, you record something by pressing a button with a red dot. With Internet-related tools, one clicks the heart icon to store it as a favorite. The S50 is counter-intuitive in that the heart icon is the record command. Third, and perhaps most interesting, is that this device is primed for hacking to break free of RIAA limitations. Like TiVO and iPod, I expect there to be web sites that will offer tools for altering the S50's functionality by June, if it even takes that long.

Like many consumers, my bank account has already been demonetized; I can't afford the S50 now. So how can I buy it? Simple. I'll time-shift money by using a credit card.

Jeff Pasternack is the president of Dynamic Consulting Group, a franchise partner of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and author of the TechnoPeasant Review.
If you have questions or comments about this column, please write to him at